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June 2012 Premier Issue

In This Issue: Apple’s Marketing Magic: Brilliant Ideas to Borrow from Steve Jobs Epic PR Fails: Belvedere Vodka F**ks Self Over Agency’s Date Rape Ad Netflix to Customers: Up Yours—Why Phony Corporate Apologies Backfire

THE DECLINE OF TRUST in Corporate America Stephen M.R. Covey & Greg Link on Rebuilding the ROI of Trust

Are you trending on TV? Becoming the focus of broadcast coverage, whether internally or by happenstance, can turn your day upside down. The CEO who didn't know you existed suddenly starts texting you for updates. Marketing wants to see the coverage. Your phones, Twitter feed and sales team are abuzz about your newfound stardom. With Critical Mention as your broadcast intelligence platform, you know where you are appearing - in real time. Coverage can be viewed, edited and shared without skipping a beat. So you'll have plenty of time to text the CEO for a raise.

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Click Here Call +1.212.398.1141 or email Š2012 Critical Mention All rights reserved

Welcome Then jump right into our premier issue! It’s the only monthly online e-magazine dedicated to sharing what’s new and what’s working to grow your business using PR and integrated marketing communications. Each issue reaches thousands of business professionals. You’ll find plenty of advice, tips and more—ranging from our exclusive interview with Stephen M.R. Covey and Greg Link on the value of trust to a nearly a dozen articles showing you how you can win more positive press, publicity and marketing value. The best part? The digital magazine is just one part of our .BIZ Marketplace...check out:

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Brian Pittman

.BIZ Builder...Vol I, Issue I June 2012 Published by: Editor-In-Chief Brian Pittman Chief Creative Officer / Designer Todd Fabacher Publisher Fay Shapiro Chief Strategist Bruce Merchant

Contributors .BIZ Channel Partners • Agile Engagement: From PR Newswire • Critical Now: From Critical Mention • Marketing Nightmares: From BigFrontier Communications Group .BIZ Bloggers • Hiring Hub - Marie Raperto • IR Therefore I Am - Gene Marbach • Social Media Zone - Vick Flaugher • The Pulse • Great Marcom Minds .BIZ Blog Contributors

• Mark Faust, Echelon Management • Ann Voorhees Baker, Publicity • Laura Alvarado, O’Neill & Associates • Evan Weisel, Welz & Weisel • Scott Harris, Mustang Marketing • James Lukaszewski, The Lukaszewski Group, LLC 222 East 34th Street Suite 1201 New York, NY 10016 View our Media & Sales Kit







{ 18 - 22 }

HOT News Trends:

Trust Inc.: The Decline of Trust in

Six Top “News You Can Use” Headlines of the

Corporate America - And How to Fix It


(an Exclusive Interview with Stephen M.R. Covey and Greg Link)

{ 9 - 11 }

{ 24 - 25 }

Appleʼs Magical Marketing Prowess:

Trust or Bust: Edelmanʼs Trust Barometer

3 Brilliant Ideas to Borrow from Steve Jobs

Shows Trust in Media Trumps Trust in CEOs And What to Do About It

{ 12 - 13 }

{ 26 - 30 }

OWS Infograph: Occupy Wall Street Is

PR Primer: Everything You Need to Know

Back - Is Your Corporate Reputation Ready?

to Successfully Pitch the Press

{ 14 - 16 }

{ 32 }

Marketing Nightmares Channel:

Great Marcom Minds: Cause Marketing

Belvedere Vodka F**ks Self Over Agencyʼs Date Rape Ad

Works: Tideʼs “Loads of Hope” Program Is a Good Model for Companies

{ 34 - 35 } .Biz Marketplace Advice: RFP FAQ for Businesses: How Do I Create a Strong RFP for Stellar Agency Work?

CONTENTS { 37 - 42 }

{ 58 - 61 }

Cool Tools: 10 Favorite Social Media

Critical Now Channel: Local News

Tools for Business

Beyond 6 and 11 - How Business Can Benefit

{ 44- 47 }

{ 62 - 64 }

.Biz Marketplace Advice: Six Must

IR Therefore I Am: Learning from Honest

Have Qualities to Look for When Hiring a PR

Abe: Six Leadership Lessons from a Model Communicator


{ 50- 52 }

{ 66 - 68 }

Say Hello to the New Marketing Mix:

Social Media Zone: 10 Social Media

Why PRʼs Role Is Increasing In Todayʼs Economy

Must-Doʼs for the Rest of 2012

{ 53 - 56 }

{ 70 - 71 }

Agile Engagement Channel: Why

Hiring Hub: Difficult Conversations: 5

Arenʼt Businesses Listening to Target Markets Online - Why It Matters & How Itʼs Done

Steps to Help You Manage Them at Work and Beyond

{ 72 - 76 } Netflix to Customers: Up Yours! Why Phony Corporate Apologies Backfire





HOT News Trends CEO Reputation Greatly Impacts Consumer Images of Companies, Weber Shandwick Survey Finds MarketWatch

Two-thirds (66% ) of consumers say their perceptions of CEOs affect their opinions of company reputations, according to Weber Shandwickʼs “The Company Behind the Brand: In Reputation We Trust - CEO Spotlight” research report. Execs, like consumers, also do not overlook the importance of a leaderʼs reputation – they attribute 49% of a companyʼs overall reputation to the CEOʼs reputation. Executive leadership is critical to burnishing the overall reputation of organizations today, particularly when it is estimated that a large 60% of a companyʼs market value is attributed to its reputation. The report explores the importance of executive leadership and communications to helping reverse the tides of waning trust in companies.

Report Reveals 60% of Companies Say Social Media Marketing Improves Customer Service Brafton

A report from thinkJar and Sword Ciboodle found that 60% of companies in the U.S. and the U.K. are using social in part to improve their customer service. In addition, 60% of companies polled are using both Facebook and Twitter to answer questions from customers and address feedback. A full 85% use at least one of the two channels. Larger companies that field a substantial number of queries from customers have found that social can help alleviate the strain of call centers or other parts of the business dedicated to customer service. And 40% said they have been using social media marketing as part of customer service for at least two years, while 53% said they have implemented it in the last two years.

2012 Media Survey: Journalists Expect to See Online Newsrooms on Company Websites Social PR Scoops

TEKGROUP released the results of a national survey highlighting the importance of creating a content rich and up-to-date online newsroom. Close to 100% journalists said online newsrooms are a must. More than 50% of journalists said they are visiting your online newsroom once a week and 64% on a monthly basis, that number should motivate company newsmakers to deliver fresh content and package it in a way that is organized as well as user-and social media friendly....


Mobile Marketing Boosts Profit for 84% of Small Businesses Business 2 Community

A study conducted by (Network Solutionsʼ parent company) among 500 small business owners showed an overwhelmingly positive response to mobile marketing. of those surveyed, 84% saw an increase in new business activity after engaging in mobile marketing, and 69% “somewhat or strongly agreed that “mobile marketing is key to my small business growth in the next five years.” The top two reasons business owners invest in mobile marketing, according to the study, are: to provide better service to existing customers and to attract more local customers. The study also found that 61% of small businesses are not currently promoting their business through mobile search.

Google+ a Ghost Town as Brands Decamp for Pinterest Ad Age

Google+ launched brand pages six months ago. But rather than challenge Facebook and Twitter for mindshare, Google is a distant fourth to Pinterest, with its “pin it” button now appearing alongside Facebook, Twitter and email buttons on prime web real-estate such as eBay and Amazon product pages. Even the platformʼs “best” brands havenʼt put a ton of effort into building out the pages. Nissan was lauded late last year for having one of the best new Google+ brand pages. But its content is pulled from Facebook. “The bottom line was that it was pretty bleak in its traffic,” said Brandon Kleinman, director of social media and strategy at TBWA/Chiat/Day. Consensus is that Google+ is an empty city where the masses go to set up a profile but seldom return.

CEOs Gone Wild: Rise of Corporate America Scandals Tied to Perceived Lighter Corporate Governance CNBC

Four years after the financial crisis exploded and resulted in a regulatory clampdown, bad behavior is back in corporate boardrooms and C-suites, generating embarrassing headlines and posing the threat of even more rules. Whether itʼs resume-padding at Yahoo, improper relations with female subordinates at Best Buy or questionable loan dealings at Chesapeake Energy, several high-profile CEOs have helped bring back memories of PR scandals past that destroyed companies and hammered investors. For some experts on corporate governance, the rise in scandal comes as executives mistakenly think the coast is clear after the increased corporate oversight following the credit implosion in 2008. 7

Apple始s Magical Marketing Prowess:

3 Brilliant Ideas to Borrow from Steve Jobs By Mark Faust, Founder, Echelon Management 9

team. People don’t come into their positions and say, “Here is what I’ve learned in B-school” or “This is how we did it at my other company” they innovate solutions to compensation, motivation, customer responsiveness, financing, inventory…you name it, they innovate it.

No doubt about it: Apple is the brand of the decade. Even after the passing of Steve Jobs, Apple retains an emotional connection with consumers. So what is the magic behind the companyʼs marketing prowess? As a growth consultant and executive coach, Iʼve worked with Apple as a client and have some insight on these questions.

Every brain at Apple has a Jobsian ability to see the greatest constraints of the process over which they are responsible. Just like classic innovation strategy, they prioritize the top constraints to growth. They always have the top two or three opportunities prioritized for improvement. Next, the Jobsians facilitate a team-wide cooperativeness around generating a great quantity of ideas/solutions and the leader or a solutions team prioritizes ideas for action and standardizes improvements in rapid fashion.

For starters, Apple uses three key strategies that any business leader or marketing professional can implement. These strategies were borne out of Steve Jobsʼ relentless pursuit of innovation. They are: 1. “Innovating Beyond Product,” 2. “Service Impression Management,” and 3. “Brand Experience.” Letʼs explore each of these and review some takeaways for helping to grow your own business:

Is anything about this innovation process really new, or distinctly Apple? No. Peter Drucker penned this process down a half century ago and warned us that it isn’t about the personality at the top, but the character and belief that there has got to be a better way…and most importantly that the key is your implementation of the simple, scientific process, of identification, prioritization, collection and implementation; i.e., innovation.

Strategy 1: Innovating Beyond Product A plethora of print exists around Apple’s innovative products, but what is just as important yet infrequently discussed is Apple’s strategy of applying the principles of innovation into every other aspect of the business. I’ve worked with Apple as a client, I’ve interviewed dozens of execs and dozens of their larger customers and distributive channels and what struck me as the theme that is so often missed by the media is that Apple innovates on business and management as much as they do on product.

Strategy 2: Service Impression Management The second Apple strategy that you can employ in your company is continuous improvement in Service Impression Management. The fact is that your service can stink, but with excellent management of the process,

Jobs’ attitude of “There has got to be a better way” permeates every facet of his


communication, honesty and focus on the customer you can still out impress the competition. You probably have more service challenges at your company than you would like, and while someone needs to focus on reducing those challenges, take a note from Apple and innovate on how you can turn every service disappointment into an opportunity to lock your customers into a relationship for life.

experience when interacting with your company? How can you create themes and commonalities amongst these top touch points? Create commonalities around sounds, color, shapes, quality of voice, emotion, and every modality you can identify. Set up innovation teams to improve and meld these touch points into hooks that connect to other high quality experiences. If you apply the science of innovation to all areas of your business the fact is that you can probably create millions of dollars of value for only tens of thousands of investment. I consistently see our clients go through transformations that improve their bottom line when they apply principles that Steve Jobs and Apple apply in business. Send us a note or give us a call and we will send you our book that is a Presidents List of Innovation Ideas and Opportunities for Growth.

The fact is that managing the impression around service quality is more important than the competitive advantage or disadvantage that your service quality actually has. While Apple doesn’t tolerate poor service, they do leverage the Service Impression as a manageable process and as a part of their brand experience. You should set up teams to analyze and innovate all the possible service impression points that your customers have. Focus on where your team can create moments of wow, even when they may be around your handling of a complaint process. You don’t have to be the best service provider, but you do have to make the best impression.

The Apple magic isn’t Jobs or anything else that can’t be duplicated; it is the process of innovating ALL of the business, not just the product. What top areas of your business need innovation in order for you to grow?

Strategy 3: Brand

View on CommPRO


Mark Faust is the founder of Echelon Management. A growth consultant, executive coach and national speaker, he is the author of “Growth or Bust: Proven Turnaround Strategies to Grow Your Business” and can be reached at

You’ve walked into the Apple store and called service support and you notice a certain consistency around every aspect of the experience. From the color of their t-shirts, to the tone and confidence of their voice, there is a uniqueness and quality that makes you feel good. It’s all been said a half dozen ways from here to Sunday, the question is, what are the top two-dozen touches that your customers 11

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y p Tweets are actually INCREASING

IBM始s approach to its 100th Anniversary is an example of aligning CSR with business goals.

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November 22, 2011 to May 22, 2012

69.7 million Total Media Mentions

Occupy is not going away. Quite the opposite, considering the elections will give OWS a boost. It continues to grab traditional media headlines and gain support online—with OWS related tweets actually increasing since last November to 271,7333 tweets a day about OWS, according to recent Sysomos data.

...and so are traditional Media Mentions.

This means corporations who may be targeted must now add OWS contingencies to their corporate crisis communications plans.

Consider Wells Fargo. When OWS hit it on Oct. 11, 2011, its positive sentiment rating was 55%. It now has a 85% favorable sentiment in social and traditional media. Watch Videos

Belvedere Vodka F**ks Self Over Agency’s Date Rape Ad By Steve Lundin, Chief Hunter and Gatherer, BIGfrontier Communications Group, Author, Marketing Nightmares


Need proof that corporate trust, reputation and revenues are interconnected? Look no further than this classic example of another corporate reputation gone south.

played of “who hid the salami” is indicative of the backbone most agencies display when it comes to owning up: nonexistent. It didn’t take long for Omnicom Group’s Arnell, Belvedere’s Agency of record, to make it clear through an Ad Age statement that they “did not do that ad.” Hmm – one less person of interest in the “investigation.” The New York Observer asked the question: “Who is responsible for Belvedere Vodka’s sexist ad?” And then answered it with the theory that all signs point to Last Exit, Belvedere’s digital marketing Agency of Record. Last Exit couldn’t even gasp out a “no comment” on the issue, in step with Mission Public Relations, Belvedere Vodka’s PR agency. 

Poor Belvedere Vodka – they learned the hard way that while sex sells, rape doesn’t, when they green lighted an ad that ran in March featuring a woman being choked because she wouldn’t “go down smoothly” on a (presumably) vodka lovin’ kinda guy. The backlash against this ad was predictable – and fodder for a week of discussion by all the advertising pundits and “correctness watchdogs” who were offended – outraged – insulted – demeaned – dismayed and disgusted; everything but what the ad intended: amused. But that’s not the issue here – offensive ads get published every week. The issue is where the ire-fueled public spotlight always seems to fall: on the client who paid for the ad and not the agency that thunk it up.

Mission not only wouldn’t confirm if Last Exit was involved – but whether or not any of its Agencies were involved; given enough time they might even deny that Belvedere itself was involved. Maybe the whole thing was an April Fool’s joke by a competing vodka company.

True to form, within minutes (or was it seconds) of the Twitter and media outburst over the ad, Belvedere Vodka yanked the offender and fell on its sword for a very public evisceration. Company President Charles Gibb stated, “It should never have happened…I am currently investigating the matter to determine how this happened and to be sure it never does so again.” 

Well, nothing loosens a stiff upper lip faster than a lawsuit – and to make matters even more interesting, the creative geniuses (aliens maybe – at this point) behind the crime misappropriated the “forced sex” photo used in the ad. The image was lifted from a video that actress Alicyn Packard and her boyfriend posted on “Funny or Die” under their Strictly Viral Productions channel.

Investigation? How about asking the CMO which of the Agencies thought the ad up and the CFO how much it cost? You don’t need CSI here – this should be the shortest investigation in history.  But it’s not, because the shell game being

Try and make it through video, anti-viral is a more appropriate description. The only thing forced in Strictly Viral’s 15

production was the humor: In the year it had been posted it received a 53% rating – with 14 die votes. It’s quite possible that it was actually seen by less than 30 people until the incident; this puts it in the realm of not so funny, antiviral, and virtually un-watchable. I would imagine that most of its views (outside of friends and family) probably came from the publicity raised by its misuse. As a matter of fact – that may be the only reason to watch it  (spoiler alert) – you have to wait to the end to catch the “rape” scene.

the agency skulks around in the background – waiting to peddle their stellar services to the next willing victim. Sometimes, they are flushed, like Asian Longhorn Carp, to the surface, and the world gets a quick peek at their scaly backs and pasty, quivering underbellies. Agencies tend to shy away from the light of day, preferring to practice their arts in a dark corner – rising only to trumpet success while keeping a shovel handy for the failures. Whoever penned and published the Belvedere blunder could probably garner a brief modicum of respect were they to stand up and take the public lashing, giving the client a respite from the whipping block, before heading into court.  If the  lawsuit actually moves forward, and isn’t settled behind closed doors, we may get to witness a discussion of the aftermath of a marketing disaster as told by all participants involved.  A carnival like that should be run live on the “Daily Show,” with commentary by an appropriate expert. I nominate Homer Simpson, only he would be on an equal plane with all the parties involved.

The lawsuit charges “infliction of emotional distress,” (wait a second  – that’s the viewers) along with image thievery. Alicyn will probably receive more publicity for her 53% funny work by virtue of someone else turning it into what she couldn’t: viral. She should send Mission PR and the currently anonymous Agency a thank you check from her settlement with Belvedere. It’s good karma to remember those who helped you on your way to the top. While no Agency is named in the lawsuit, it’s just a matter of time before an attorney deposes someone at Belvedere who will finally give up the name of the culprit. But why hasn’t this “media criminal” turned him/her/themselves in? The heat from the witch/man/creative hunt is just going to build – can wanted signs on the USPS site be long in coming?

View on CommPRO Steve Lundin is the chief hunter and gatherer of BIGfrontier Communications Group, a Chicago based media strategy firm. His new book, “Marketing Nightmares,” is slated for publication in October 2012.

At the core of every marketing nightmare is a marketing person/team – either inhouse or out-house, who sold someone with a checkbook on an idea. Invariably, it’s the client that takes the bullet while 16

TRUSTED Click through to learn why reliable media measurement is the path to trusted insight. Sign up NOW and save 10% on each story analyzed, as a reader.

TRUST INC. The Decline of Trust in Corporate America – and How to Fix it! An exclusive interview with Stephen M.R. Covey and Greg Link, by Brian Pittman

Can you put a dollar value on trust? Can lack of trust sink a business? Is Corporate America facing a decline in trust? Absolutely, asserts Stephen M.R. Covey, recently featured in Trust Across America’s “Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior” list. “Lack of trust kills a company’s productivity, perception and profits,” says the co-founder of CoveyLink Worldwide and son of Stephen R. Covey, author of the Seven Habits series.


“A perfect example is Enron, which lost its market value and reputation due to misdeeds that led to public distrust in the company,” adds Covey, co-author of “The Speed of Trust” and “Smart Trust” with Greg Link, his partner at CoveyLink.

Stephen: A command-and-control approach, for starters. It leads to decreased speed and increased costs, as well as less energized, engaged and happy people. Ironically, it also leads to less control. But when an organization creates a high-trust culture, it becomes self-monitoring and reinforcing of trust, weeding out violators, and can become a more effective form of “control” than additional rules and policies.

Here, the two discuss the declining state of trust in Corporate America in general, and share how businesses can rebuild, protect and promote their valuable reputations as the economy turns around:

Which brands have high-trust corporate cultures?

Is this apparent decline of trust a legitimate concern for business?

Stephen: Warren Buffett of BerkshireHathaway operates on a premise of “deserved trust,” which allows for faster deals at less cost, and helps them operate at a higher efficiency—with what two Stanford professors called “the lowest ratio of corporate overhead to investor capital among all corporations.”  

Greg: It should be the primary concern for any business owner today. Take a look at the Edelman Trust Barometer and you’ll see we are experiencing the lowest level of trust in the 11 years since it started. Last year, there was a 20% drop in the level of trust Americans had in business!

Tony Hsieh, of Zappos, operates with trust, both with customers (free shipping) and employees (no call center scripts). They grew from $0 to $1 billion in revenue in the same decade that everybody else had bankruptcies and problems. I asked how he did it. He said: “I trusted my employees and my customers.” He wrote a book called “Delivering Happiness” that illuminates how he developed a high-trust culture. My tip to all business owners is to read the book and apply those principles.

The financial crisis was a big contributor. Before that, the Enron crisis kicked the century off wrong. Corporate malfeasance became a big part of the news and it hasn’t gotten better. Madoff and more recent examples of fraud and misuse all of have conspired to create a heightened crisis in trust. The result is a fear-based economy. Consumer confidence drives the economy—and that’s driven by trust. To rebuild that trust, we must focus on changes within our corporate cultures.

Similarly, Nordstrom’s policy and procedures manual is a post card. One side offers one simple rule: “Use your best judgment.” That high-trust culture translates to happy customers who

What fuels low-trust corporate cultures?   19

reward them with the highest customer satisfaction scores in the industry.

In the old days, you could squelch bad news. For example, you might withhold facts from the press in a product recall. That doesn’t work anymore. Social media and the Internet are holding leaders accountable. This is illustrated by “The Arab Spring.” That dynamic is happening in organizations where customers and employees have information and can communicate instantly with companies. That’s part of what’s driving the “voice of the customer” movement.

Pierre Omidyar founded eBay on the premise that people are good, enabling them to create a business in which buyers and sellers have learned they can trust a complete stranger. Leaders from Google, SAS Institute, Southwest Airlines, Virginia Mason Medical Center, W. L. Gore, IBM, Whole Foods, Four Seasons and other businesses also operate on the explicit premise of trust with employees and customers.

Can you give me an example? Greg: The “United Broke My Guitar” YouTube video is an example. He kept asking United to pay his claim, then he wrote the song and it has seen almost 12 million hits.

How do customers reward these companies? Greg: They vote with their wallets. If you’re not practicing trustworthy business and embracing CSR ideas, you’re in trouble. We found 91% have refused to do business with a company they don’t trust. Also in our book is a stat showing 87% of people have sought out a company they trust. They’re looking for reasons to believe in your business.

To keep this in perspective, that is over one million more than the population of Greece.

The game has changed for the better and social media has given people a voice by which they can express who they want to buy from (businesses they trust) and who they don’t want to buy from.

Can social media help build that bridge to trust? Greg: Social media is a dramatic driver of this behavior of seeking out trustworthy businesses. The business mindset in the past was informed by a military command-and-control mindset. Despite all of the examples of “release style” management where you empower and trust people, many tend to revert to command-and-control and try to withhold information. You see that when companies face crises.

What have been PR and marketing’s role in all this? Greg: In the past, senior execs and communications departments worked hard to manage the story and all communications. It was all overly controlled. Nothing is more detrimental to a brand than getting caught managing information. For example, it wasn’t the


Watergate break-in that cost Nixon, it was the cover-up.

PepsiCo and Amex are taking the charge on this. They’re good examples.

Not many businesses are dealing with break-ins and cover-ups. No, but when you abuse your employees and customers, the communications department is on its heels in damage control trying to spin bad news and mitigate it. Bad news spread faster than good news. This is the downside of social media for communicators. We saw it with the FedEx Christmas delivery video, in which an employee threw a packaged computer monitor over a customer’s fence. That video saw 8+ million views.

But we all have a responsibility in business to help create and communicate credibility, which will help build trust in business overall.

How exactly do we do that? Stephen: Building trust comes down to your credibility and your behavior, as Greg said. In the book, we identified five actions shared by high trust leaders. One is extending trust to others. The first job of any leader is to inspire trust. The second job is to extend trust. Leaders need to be smart about it, because there is risk in trusting. But there is also risk in not trusting—in fact, not trusting is often the greater risk. What we call “Smart Trust” helps us find the sweet spot and develop the judgment of how to wisely extend trust in a low-trust world.  Greg: Let me add some more detail. Here’s a snapshot from the book outlining steps for building trust:

This reinforces why it’s important to respond with open communications—as FedEx did with its YouTube apology.

1. Build a platform of personal credibility. It all starts with YOU. Behave in trustworthy ways. Talk straight. Be transparent with employees, customers, external communities and beyond. If you build a platform of personal credibility, you become a model of trust for others.

Why is CSR is becoming increasingly important? Greg: Communications doesn’t drive

behavior. Instead, behavior drives communications. Recently, there has been a push for businesses to be more of a corporate citizen. People are more aware now of environmental, employee and other abuses. The expectation of behaving in trustworthy ways is spreading, and CSR is becoming the repository for that. Companies like

2. Influence stakeholders to take the same stand. The best way to influence others is to make the economic case for trust and social responsibility. We cite a Watson Wyatt study in the book that reveals: High trust companies 21

How does this apply to small businesses and entrepreneurs?

outperform low trust companies in total return to shareholders by THREE times.

Greg: The only difference is the segmentation of roles. With small businesses, you are the corporate communications department and marketing and operations and the CEO. But the same principles apply.

Also, in the last 13 years of Fortune’s “Great Places to Work” listings, 67% of the criteria to get listed involves employee and customer surveys tied to trust. In that time, Fortune’s “Best Places to Work” have outperformed the market by 286%.

Can you give an example of an entrepreneurial company that practices “High Trust”?

3. Declare and then act on your intent. You build trust when you tell stakeholders what you intend to do and then do it—versus just issuing a PR statement. So declare you’re committed and then behave consistently to that declaration.

Greg: An example is Zane’s Bikes, which had $13 million in sales. He did it by trusting customers. He doesn’t ask for ID when people tested bikes. He said, “I trust you.” Sure, there is a risk to trust. That’s why we call it “Smart Trust.” The risk for Zane’s Bikes is he loses five bikes a year. But he sells 5,000. Again, the same principles apply regardless of business size:

Too many PR statements tie themselves to CSR, for example, when there are actually no programs in the company to support them.

✓Believe in trust ✓Start with yourself ✓Declare your intent ✓Do what you say ✓Lead by extending trust

How can we contribute to what the book calls a “Renaissance of Trust”? Greg: It starts individually as business owners and managers. The more companies behave in CSR ways, the more confidence people will have in doing business with them. That can help create a “Renaissance of Trust” globally. This can be challenging when you consider other business cultures. For example, in India, it can be customary to pay bribes. You have to draw a line in places like that and not pay them. Ultimately, it comes down to avoiding “spin” and instead “behaving out” in high trust ways.

These steps apply to CEOs, corporate communicators, small business owners and even politicians. Follow these actions and you will build—and rebuild— trust. View on CommPRO

Brian Pittman is a partner at, where he focuses on editorial and content issues while helping to build the community.


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Trust or Bust

Survey Shows Trust in the Media Trumps Trust in CEOs - And What to Do About It Edelman earlier this year released the global findings from the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer – the firm’s annual trust and credibility survey. The results show an overall decline in trust globally, with steep declines in the levels of trust in government and business. Incredibly, trust in the media topped trust in all other institutions except NGOs, and the media was actually the ONLY institution to see an increase in trust. So what does this mean to you? Sure, business experienced generally less severe declines in trust, but has its own hurdles to clear – notably that CEO credibility declined 38 percent, its biggest drop to date. The good news is a rise in credibility and trust of regular employees, at its greatest increase since 2004. The lessons for businesses: • Don’t rely on your CEO to be the only face of your organization, particularly during times of crisis. • Instead, look for ways to activate your employees and connect them with customers and the community via ambassador programs, social media, featuring them in media and ad content, and engaging them more deeply. • Work to rebuild trust in the CEO through candid, meaningful dialogue via internal communications. 24

Credibility returns to low of 2009

Business: from license to operate to license to lead

Source: The Edelman Trust Barometer. Methodology: Online survey in 25 countries. 30,000+ respondents. Ages 18+. College-educated In top 25% of household income per age group in each country report significant media consumption and engagement in business news and public policy. Informed publics were surveyed online.

PR Primer Everything You Need to Successfully Pitch the Press

By Ann Voorhees Baker, CEO, Publicity Pros


Media relations doesn’t always have to be the purview of seasoned PR veterans. There are basics that any business owner can review to help drive publicity. Much of media relations best practices are based on common sense, but the rapidly and constantly changing nature of online publicity demands periodic reassessment. Here’s Part 1 of “A Review of Media Relations Basics.” Newbies will find tips and tricks that they may not have learned yet. Old timers can check their known skills and practices against this review, and possibly pick up some new info or exorcise some bad habits along the way:

services, and perhaps industry-specific websites or e-list services, as well. Requests from the press go out via tools like Profnet and HARO (Help a Reporter Out). A request is likely to generate many more fit-the-bill responses than the reporter needs. In fact, on some of these services, we occasionally see a request summary appear for a second time one or two days after it was first posted, with the notation “FULL STOP” added. Meaning, “Everybody, enough! Stop sending me information. I’ve got what I need!”

Proof and rehearse your media pitch at least once. Consider setting it aside and then revisiting it later before sending it.

FIRST THING FIRST: DEADLINES Honoring deadlines is something we learned about with grade school homework assignments, but in the world of publicity, the rule of thumb is slightly different: Never stick to a deadline – BEAT it. Beat the heck out of it!

So it’s not only important to be on topic, courteous, concise, and provide the right information or expertise that the reporter’s looking for – it’s also important not to be the twentieth person to do so. A reporter will stop searching after he’s found what he seeks. All others who follow, even though they might have submitted on point and before deadline, will lose out because they weren’t the first to hit the mark.

Just like everything else in this world, competition for publicity gets stronger every day – and avenues of communication multiply and broaden. Whereas a reporter in the old days used to put out a few phone calls to find sources, now he posts his search on private services that PR firms scan multiple times a day, plus public online

So be smart and be quick. As soon as you possibly can, after you get notified of a PR opportunity, send your pitch on to the reporter. The early bird gets the worm, and a whole flock of birds is swooping down behind you at all times, so strive to be not just early, but first.

Use sites like ProfNet and Help a Reporter Out (HARO) to be a source for stories reporters are working on.


And do not submit after the deadline, even if you have your own seemingly very legitimate reason for submitting late. It’s just bad form to send in a pitch after a stated deadline. Plus, you sound apologetic no matter how you couch your excuse. You’re likely to annoy the heck out of the reporter, and bottom line – you’re being disrespectful of his time and process. Not a good way to build a good relationship. Better luck next time. Let this one go.

Here are five quick tricks of the trade to make sure your pitch is letter perfect: 1. Make sure your spellcheck function is turned on, even if you feel you don’t need it, and force yourself to look over the draft for those wiggly red and green underlines. Fix the errors highlighted for you. 2. If you know you tend to miss errors when they’re on a computer monitor, print out your pitch on paper and proof the paper copy. 3. Read the pitch aloud when proofing. 4. A good practice is to proof and correct the pitch once, then set it aside and do some other work for 10 or 15 minutes. Then proof again. You’ll be more likely to see errors with your fresh eye. 5. If spelling, grammar, or punctuation are not your strong suits, ask someone else to proof your pitch before you send it off.

AND NOW, THE PITCH ... PROOFREADING IS A MUST So, ideally, you’ve found a great opportunity for yourself or one of your clients, you’re way ahead of the stated deadline, and now you’re sitting down to write out your fabulous pitch. But before you hit ‘send,’ make sher you’ve checked it owt. Jarring, isn’t it? When you see a glaring typo, it really distracts you – and let’s be honest, it colors your opinion of the writer, does it not?

GIVE YOUR PITCH SOME PUNCH What about making your letter-perfect pitch stand out among all the others? One way is to tell a story, not just relay facts. Here’s an example of a storytelling pitch that caught one editor’s eye:

Typos and misspellings and grammatical errors are common, human mistakes, not the biggest deals in the world, but when you’re sending a pitch to a journalist, you should do everything in your power to avoid them. Your pitch is like your resume, business card, or the sign on the front of your office; it’s your first face and your first attempt at making a good impression. On top of that, you’re sending your pitch to a journalist, by definition a wordsmith more likely to notice these errors. Do take the time to proof your pitch before it goes out.

“She strode into his office, extracted a document from the files on her arm, and wafted it onto his desk, her elegantly manicured fingers trailing across the paper. Looking down at the folders and papers strewn over his desk, she curved her lips in an everso-subtle, glossy red smirk, one 28

eyebrow raised just a touch. Languidly she raised her gaze and met his eyes.

The pitch went on to describe a scene where a surveyor, on a job, had stepped around a city corner and into the middle of a dope deal. He went instantly from working to trying to talk his way out of being shot. This was the beginning of a pitch about an engineering firm’s safety training for its urban surveyors.

He drew in his breath. No! He couldn’t take it anymore! He swept his arm violently across the desktop. Papers, files, notebook, phone – all crashed onto the floor. “Alexis!” he hissed, rising up out of his seat, nostrils flaring, heart pounding. He reached for her, grabbed her by the arms. He shook her. “Alexis! I can’t stand it even for one more minute!”

One way to make your pitch stand out is to tell a story, not just relay the facts. This is called a “narrative pitch.” If you can write about a real person or incident to highlight your product or service, go ahead and tell your story, like a story. Just get the subject’s permission first, or change the names to protect the innocent!

His mouth inches from hers, he stared straight into her eyes. “Alexis… Alexis. No more paper, for the love of God! No! More! PAPER!!” This was a lead-in for a pitch about a professional organizer. It told the story of one client, an exec who couldn’t stand the mess on his desk and in his office anymore. One day he snapped. After his outburst, he called the organizer and is now happily efficient and nearly paperfree.

BE HONEST In an effort to be interesting or eye catching, sometimes publicity professionals kinda-sorta end up stretching the truth. Don’t get caught in this trap! Repeat the following mantra: I am what I yam and that’s all that I yam. That’s what Popeye the Sailor Man used to sing. He wasn’t handsome, rich or glitzy, but he was honest and true and strong and whaddaya know, he was the star of the show! And – he always ate his spinach! (I know, anyone younger than a Boomer is scratching her head, asking,

Here’s another example, a one-liner that told a story in a heartbeat, and caught a reporter’s interest: “The lone surveyor stared down the barrel of a gun.”


what the? Popeye the Sailor Man was a cartoon character of the 50’s.)

crowd” came to your store opening, or that you are a “leading expert” in your field? Can you back this up? If a reporter were to ask you “Really? How many attended your opening, exactly?” or. “So how many books have you written on your topic?” Could you answer with the truth and still feel OK about your claim? If so, fine. But if honestly you’d feel a little ashamed, then tone it down a bit.

Even though the running joke is that PR is all about spin, remember that it should spin the truth and nothing else. Popeye’s mantra was and is a good one – don’t try to be what you’re not, don’t posture, and do be proud of who and what you actually, really are. Good for life, and yes, good for morally powering your PR activities at all times.

• Use the sweat test. Lawyers employ this when crafting their arguments for an appeal: If saying it makes you sweat, it’s a no go. People won’t believe you if they can see Nixonian beads of perspiration popping out on your upper lip.

Remember this cardinal rule when you’re drafting a PR pitch and it’s threatening to slide down the slippery slope from positive optimism to positive bull. Don’t cross the line and pretend to be more or different from what you really are. Even though the running joke is that PR is all about spin, always remember that it should spin the truth, not anything else. Here are some good ways to test your pitch to make sure that a positive spin doesn’t turn into a “Twisting of the Truth”:

Editor’s Note: There are more tips in Part 2 and Part 3. View on CommPRO

• Look for absolutes in your pitch: Do you say words like “best” or “first” or “most popular?” If so, ask yourself if you can back up your claim. If so, fine. If not, substitute a more truthful word.

Ann Voorhees Baker is CEO of Publicity Pros, specialists in “All Things Publicity” for small business. For more information about Publicity Pros, contact or visit http://

• Look for overly enthusiastic adjectives: Do you say that a “huge



Cause Marketing Works:

Tide’s "Loads of Hope" Program a Good Model for Companies By Lisa Williams President, MEDIA Forte Marketing

If you’re looking for wider reach, online engagement and positive brand building, then cause marketing efforts can be a great way to complement your wider branding program. For example, one campaign we like here at MEDIA Forte Marketing is the Tide “Loads of Hope” campaign, in which Tide representatives and employees go into communities—such as those with Hurricane Katrina victims or wherever there have been disasters —and do people’s laundry. They also give a dollar every time a Tide bottle is sold to that particular cause. In addition, they sell T-shirts and donate 100% of the proceeds. The end result for Tide, and for your business if you 32

follow a similar approach, is a campaign that helps a major brand do well by doing good—and if the program has a robust online presence, it will also contribute greatly to your search engine marketing initiatives. Click through to see how Tide is pulling this campaign together on its microsite here. The campaign is also doing a great job in social media, with over 2.6 million Facebook likes here and over 94,000 talking about Tide and the program at any given moment online. View on CommPRO

RFP FAQ for Business: How Do I Create a Strong RFP for Agency Work?

By Laura Alvarado, Director of Marketing, O’Neill and Associates

A request for proposal, or RFP, is a document drawn up by a company that wants a product or service and outlines the specific criteria it is looking for. As a result, the company will receive proposals from vendors or firms that are interested in the work.

exercise will help inform the components and language in your RFP. Feel free to share your objectives within the RFP, as well. 2. Organization is key It is imperative that you lay out the components of your RFP in a logical and understandable way. For example, if you are looking for public relations support, digital marketing implementation and graphic design help, outline the specifics of each in three separate sections. The benefit to a well-organized RFP is receiving well-organized proposals. This way, you can truly compare apples to apples and the selection process will be a lot less stressful. Sections of your RFP should include:

Sending out an RFP for communications or public relations work can be a great way for organizations to find a firm that can address these needs expertly and cost-efficiently. However, if it is not done correctly, a company may miss the opportunity an RFP presents – finding the best fit and most qualified agency to get the job done. Following these eight simple steps will allow your company to put together a strong RFP that will yield fruitful results:

Introduction – Explain why you are publishing the RFP and what you hope to accomplish.

1. Know your needs Before you begin putting together your RFP, figure out what your company wants to accomplish and how an agency can help. List your business goals and lay out how you see a communications program furthering those goals. This

Qualifications – Lay out your specified criteria for the firm and its expertise.


time when it comes to evaluating the submitted proposals.

Scope of Services – Be clear and realistic about what you need (public relations, social media, etc.).

6. Know your budget Many companies do not feel comfortable stating their budget in their RFPs. Even so, you need to keep your budget in mind when compiling your RFP, and be aware of the “going rate” for communications services. If you cannot afford “everything but the kitchen sink,” don’t ask for it. Make sure you are being realistic with your request and set priorities. If you ask for more than you can afford, be prepared for sticker shock and be ready to sacrifice certain line items.

Process – Share the steps you will take in the selection process and the timeline you will follow. 3. Be concise When it comes to RFPs, the shorter the better. Be explicit and direct with what you are asking for. Include enough background and explanation for clarification purposes. If an agency is doing its due diligence, it will dig deeper into your company history, philosophy, products and services and anything else it needs to know to submit a comprehensive proposal.

7. Be rational In addition to keeping your budget in mind when detailing the strategic scope in your RFP, be aware of your current resources, you staff availability and timeline limitations. For example, if you ask for media training services for your senior staff, make sure they have time in their schedules.

4. Set realistic timelines The larger the scope of services you are requesting, the more time an agency will need to respond. If possible, give agencies at least three weeks to submit their proposals. Also, give yourself enough time to thoughtfully evaluate each proposal that comes in. If you have a hard and fast start date, work backwards and figure out the best time to issue your RFP.

8. Be available Make sure you include your contact info. If an agency is considering your RFP, it is likely they will have questions.

5. Be explicit with your selection criteria Decide internally what the winning agency will look like. In the RFP, share the criteria that is not negotiable. For example, if you want an agency that has proven successes with national public relations campaigns for nonprofit organizations, say so. This way, you can automatically exclude companies who do not fit the qualifications and save

View on CommPRO Laura Alvarado is director of marketing at O’Neill and Associates, led by former Massachusetts Lt. Governor Thomas P. O’Neill III, and serves clients in energy, financial services, transportation, healthcare, hospitality, education, technology and real estate development.


By Vicki Flaugher, Social Media Zone

COOL TOOLS 10 Stellar Social Media Tools for Business We all love our online gadgets and tools. Some help us breeze through the day. Some help us look like social media superstars, whether weʼre marketers, entrepreneurs or business execs. Some are just plain fun. Practical or not, tools help.

We selected tools due to their convenience and novelty. We like how they streamline social media efforts and so will you .

We scoured the Web and asked our friends and colleagues about their favorite social media tools—especially those that help businesses with their marketing and communication needs. We took the work we know you need to do in these areas and looked for ways to make that easier. We added in some sassy alternatives, focusing on affordability and usability. And finally, we

looked at a few of these online resources through the lens of the Sysomos MAP listening tool to monitor some of the online buzz about them. We think work should be efficient AND fun—and these tools will certainly do the trick to help you grow your business and online buzz."


1. SlideRocket

Make Your Presentations Take Off PowerPoint presentations can get dull. Not only do dull presentations lack impact in the boardroom—but they also get no traction online. Enter, SlideRocket. The presentations you share on social media and at your next meeting will never be the same. SlideRocket in an online tool with free and premium pricing that makes presentations more engaging. We like its ability to embed social media feeds and Web information into presentations. It’s also mobile-compatible and hosts a library of professional templates. If you haven’t already, maybe it’s time to take a ride on Slide Rocket.

2. Dropbox Manage Your Files on the Go Working on the go can be challenging. We all like to be un-tethered from our desktop, but working in the cloud isn’t a “dream” yet. Security concerns can drive the legal team crazy. Meet the solution: Dropbox. It handles big files, a variety of media types, and can be accessed from just about anywhere with an Internet connection. It’s compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, iPad, iPhone, Android and BlackBerry. You can be social by inviting team members, clients and others to access files through the secure site to a permissioncontrolled folder. For working on the go, Dropbox rocks!


3. Sprout Social

Get It All Together

Multiple accounts with multiple people working them can be a logistical nightmare. It’s one thing to be able to monitor mentions in social, but what about rolling that out to an actionable client lead management system? Sprout Social includes features such as dashboard analytics, scheduling, management, mobile, location check-ins and CRM. You can schedule updates, assign tasks, add contacts. With a 98% favorable sentiment rating, Sprout Social will help you get it together.

4. Socialize Your Stuff

Social Media Meets Direct Marketing Ever wish it were easier to send social media blurbs, posts and updates out to your email list? Socialize Your Stuff offers different ways of socializing your stuff. You can push Facebook updates to your email list. You can create and manage social content. You can run group promotions and you can use your email list to drive social interactions. Finally, you can allow resellers, franchises, independent consultants, or internal sales people to select and then publish your end-user content to their email lists and social media accounts. Pretty powerful stuff, if you ask us.


5. Loop Lingo

Monetizing Communication Every pro is faced with the social media ROI question. Loop Lingo just might be the tool you need to present a stronger bottomline correlation to the C-suite. Loop Lingo lets you offer point-of-sale incentives to customers who share your message via their social media networks. You can integrate your e-commerce functions with your campaigns, on either a product-byproduct basis or a multi-product program. You can track your success with a few easy clicks of a button. Do you think your client or CEO can appreciate that kind of lingo? We certainly think so.


Online Twitter Newspaper with Global Appeal Want to broaden your social media footprint and thought leadership? will allow you to create an online pub based on a specific Twitter user, #hashtag, or Twitter list.’s are generated daily, with entries pulled from sources you select. It’s an easy way to compile corporate Twitter accounts, aggregate hashtag conversations, and become a goto aggregator of industry information.


7. Letter Pop

Social Media Created Newsletter For hardworking pros tasked with publishing massive amounts of information, Letter Pop can help ease the strain. It lets you create beautiful newsletters by importing social media content, laying out the content via easy-to-use templates, and then publishing the final result to your social networks. It’s a drag-and-drop, clickand-edit content machine that’s hard not to fall in love with at first look. It’s easy to use and the results look great, too—so what’s not to love? You can even enable comments on your publication, transforming it into an additional engagement vehicle for your fans.

8. Kwanzoo

Catchy Campaigns via Social Channels Kwanzoo helps you put the “wow” into audience engagement. If you’re looking for an affordable and easy option for creating high quality creative, polls, surveys and more, then Kwanzoo lets you create multiplatform campaigns that can be deployed on a website, blog or affiliate site, or even a mobile landing page. It creates code to run on an ad network. Your campaign can be installed as a new tab on a Facebook page or as an email template and supporting landing page. Add in the analytical tools for tracking your ROI success and it’s hard to imagine a more engaging way to put the sales back into your communications.


9. Recipe for Success You know blasting out the same thing across social channels isn’t ideal. But you also face restrictions on how much time to allocate to social media. Consider, which stands for “If This Then That.” It lets you create recipes for blurb publication that keep your stream fresh across channels. Simply set up sequences you prefer and they launch automatically once triggers and tasks are performed. Channels served include dozens of the big social channels.

10. Feed Rinse

Sorting Out the Noise Channels As professionals, we all read a lot of media. We scour the latest industry news, keep up to date on what our competitors are doing, and set up feeds for our own media mentions. As a result, our RSS feed management system gets overloaded. Enter Feed Rinse. A better, more targeted choice than less filtered options (like Google Reader), Feed Rinse can load feeds, set up filters, “wash” the feeds, and then export them. You can share these feeds on your site or for your own enjoyment on your mobile device. It takes the noise out and lets you take action worth taking based on updates that matter. We like that.

View on CommPRO 42

Six Must Have Qualities to Look for When Hiring a PR Firm By Evan Weisel, Principal & Co-Founder, Welz & Weisel Communications

Companies hire a public relations firm for all kinds of reasons: to build brand recognition, create awareness for its products and services, help with messaging and positioning within target markets, and ultimately build programs that drive leads to support the sales force (whether direct or indirect). In addition, many organizations just do not have the time to implement and execute a comprehensive public relations program in-house and need to turn to

outside counsel to add or supplement what is already being done. So, as you get serious about reviewing prospects for the job, what do you look for? You will likely get proposals from dozens of contenders that claim they are the best choice. So how do you differentiate among public relations firms? The decision should come down to whether the agency exhibits strong grounding with respect to six, essential qualities:


1. Retention

not get caught up in a numbers game. Too many firms still commit to X number of briefings and articles, X number of press releases, and X number of…well anything. What happens in this scenario is the firm is not focused on attaining results that align with the overall company objectives or have a positive impact on the business.

You don’t hire employees expecting them to stay less than a year. So why would you want to bring on a firm that can’t keep a client for any longer? Let’s face it: If a firm has a history of accounts that turn over within 12 months that is a negative “churn and burn” rate you don’t want. What you need is a long-term, strategic partner, not a firm that promises the moon to prospective clients in hopes of landing them and then promptly drops the ball. Clients may not stick around for decades – agreements end for many reasons that have nothing to do with performance issues. But, you do certainly want to see continuity within the client roster, as opposed to a revolving-door situation.

Are there enough senior members working on your account, or is the agency attempting to assign junior members after the account win? Instead they are determined to hit the promised numbers, regardless if it helps your business or not. Ultimately, a solid and respected public relations firm will deliver impactful results that help your organization’s brand and bottom line – both in numbers and quality.

3. Staff Get to know the public relations team members who will work your account. Are there enough senior members on board? Or, is the firm attempting to assign mainly junior members to you? While we employ many junior staffers at our firm, they’re part of a team managed by seasoned professionals, who came to us with proven track records. Watch out for the “Bait and switch” – meaning ask for the team that will work on the account to be in the pitch meeting. Too often in our industry firm’s bring in senior talent and replace them with junior staffers.

2. Results In the end, it’s all about results. However, seek results that are both quantifiable and qualitative, with demonstrated ROI. Getting ink and visibility in places that your customers do not read or visit is worthless. The value for a company is visibility in front of the right audience – prospective buyers. One of my pet peeves is promising a certain number of articles, awards or speaking slots. Do 45

Insist before signing on with a firm that all or most team members meet with you to gain insight into their backgrounds, especially related to your industry sector. Another important detail to ask prospective firms: How long do people stay at the firm? You certainly don’t want a constant flow of new team members working on your campaigns that cost extra time and money to bring them up to speed on your account.

messaging strategy for your business category.

An agency worth its retainer should offer a broad range of services these days.

5. Services Any agency worth its retainer should offer a broad range of services. No one can afford to be one dimensional in today’s environment so the best candidate should demonstrate strong performance levels in deploying integrated programs that include traditional public relations (press releases, media pitches, award nominations, guest editorials, etc.), social-media strategies, content development, and thought leadership activities.

4. Track Record/ Experience Does the public relations firm have experience serving clients within your industry? Do they know your market sector (consumer, technology, healthcare, etc.)? Don’t be fooled with a proposal around the false idea that “Public Relations rules apply across the board, regardless of a client’s particular industry sector …” because every sector is very different and this type of thinking only leads to a cookie-cutter approach, or worse, not getting results. For example, if your company is looking to sell into the government, does the firm you are looking to hire understand the nuances of this very unique sector?

A public relations campaign can take shape in the form of Twitter feeds, blogs, podcasts, webinars, white papers, bylined articles, case studies, contests, trade show appearances, speaking engagements and/or mega-media events, among other formats. All require a public relations professional who understands how to integrate these multiple platforms.

Think about it: When you’re going out to eat, do you pick restaurants that have Thai, Mexican and Italian food on the menu? I hope not. That would speak to a kitchen attempting to please too many diverging palates. Similarly, every industry sector is totally different so expertise in your industry is valuable. Hire public relations professionals who really understand how to execute a

It is important to note that it is not enough for a PR person to know how to utilize both traditional and digital media. A true professional can skillfully weave the right messaging within so the resulting media reporting is on-point and elevates corporate executives quoted as high-profile experts/thought leaders. Any young public relations firm employee 46

can send a tweet, for example but it takes a combination of written-word skills and modern-media savvy to transform the tweet into an outlet for optimal messaging.

competitors. If you hear a firm say, “We can manage the conflict of interest issue as we will employ an entirely separate team for your company,” that simply will not work well for your needs. It indicates that the contender public relations firm is willing to compromise working in the best interest of its clients simply for expanding its own revenue base.

6. Creativity We like to point out that most public relations firms offer the same basic core services. What separates great firms from good firms is creativity – coming up with programs that are memorable and set your company apart. The biggest “hits” we have generated for our clients through the years have come from proactive, thought-provoking campaigns that we created from scratch. Have the agency provide examples and case studies of their creative programs.

It’s not easy to find the right firm but we can agree that these are six traits to consider before signing on the dotted line. View on CommPRO

I also have one additional point to the six listed above which is to be sure to screen the client roster for competitive conflicts. Obviously, you should never hire a public relations firm already committed to supporting one of your top

Evan Weisel is co-founder/principal at Welz & Weisel Communications, a leading tech PR agency. Follow the firm on Twitter: @W2Comm.


View On


Say Hello to the New Marketing Mix:

Why PR’s Role Is Increasing In Today’s Economy By Scott Harris, President and CEO, Mustang Marketing


The business world has, by and large, responded to the recent recession with renewed enthusiasm and grit. Many business owners have taken an “it’s not over ‘til it’s over” attitude and doing whatever it takes to keep their company afloat and, in many cases, successful. As acceptance that things have changed permanently has grown, optimism for the future becomes more widespread. Strong companies have maintained or embraced this more aggressive approach, looking to all the newest ways to make and save money while conducting good business.

from economic instability, tightening their budgets, being careful with their money and what is attached to the company name, and investing only in mediums that practically guarantee a solid return on investment (ROI).

PR, when blended with an overall marketing plan, is the most cost-effective marketing format there is. PR, when blended with an overall marketing campaign, is the most cost-effective marketing format there is. Ads and direct mail pieces are easier to control – no third party (e.g., editors) judging the value of your work and deciding if it will run or not. PR doesn’t come with the same costs, but typically comes with more credibility. Studies show that most of us trust editorial (which is where PR is classified) more than we do “ads.” Ads are often (maybe too often) about hype and catch phrases – all designed to grab attention. PR, of course, does the same thing, but often comes as more of a reward – a published press release for a company’s new hire or 30th anniversary, or an editorial space because a good article was written, or getting called for a quote because you’ve proven yourself a reputable source.

The social media boom has been great for some businesses, but it’s not always the latest developments that can bring your company back to a successful trajectory. Public relations, or PR, though often overlooked, is a huge facet of marketing that has seen itself move higher on the priority list. The recent economic decline marked, in my opinion, a paradigm shift in American business. This isn’t merely a slump we are recovering from, but a directional shift that requires a change in perspective and attitude. It is this change that brings PR to a new, more significant and more crucial forefront. As president and owner of a marketing company for the past 25 years, I have always believed in the power of PR, and do feel that its role has only become more powerful in the last three years. This is not because the rules of PR have changed – in fact, the approaches, goals and overall value of PR have stayed virtually the same. The difference comes from the business owners, still shaken

PR also captures attention in a way that advertising does not – it creates content where ads are ignored, tuned out, deleted or dismissed under the knowledge that it’s “paid media” by the very company being advertised. Yes, PR can be bought, but it generally comes from a third-party source: a newspaper, 51

magazine, radio or TV station, etc. It is not immediately connected to the company itself, giving the piece far greater authority – and audience. Quite simply, the tendency is to believe PR and doubt ads. When a company is actively and consistently visible through various positive PR measures, it creates an image of trustworthiness and legitimacy (this works the same way with negative PR pieces, as felt recently through BP, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, etc.). This translates to name recognition in your audience, and reliability to editors who will return to you for column opportunities or article quotes. There are limitations, however. PR is not “free marketing” and does not create a direct call-to-action – it is not a sell piece. And it can’t magically wash away big mistakes and it does work independently of, or instead of, a good comprehensive marketing campaign. As I said, good PR is often the result of good company work.

PR has the power to reach people in a way ads both cannot and do not, and today, when the name of the game more than ever before is ROI, PR has the solid track record. When handled correctly – that is, when a company gets consistent, positive media attention and not simply one flashy frontpage space a year – the result is trust and authority, two characteristics most business owners would love to gain in their audience. This has always been true of PR, but it has never been more necessary on such a widespread level. The economy has demanded a lot of change in the way business owners run their companies – take comfort in the fact that this is a good change. View on CommPRO Scott Harris is CEO of Mustang Marketing, a marketing, advertising and communications firm based in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Why Aren’t Businesses Listening to Their Target Markets? Here’s Why It Matters & How to Do It By Sarah Skerik, VP, Social Media, PR Newswire, for the Agile Engagement Channel

Content is the cornerstone of today’s communications strategies, but if the content is off the mark or isn’t seen by the intended audiences, your efforts were for naught. That’s why we consider listening, targeting and distribution to be key fundamentals for a truly agile approach to communications. Today, we’re going to dig into listening. Listening is truly the foundation of agile engagement – and it’s essential for ANY business seeking attract, engage and retain customers and brand followers online.

opportunity for communicators, businesses and brands in general.

The Benefits of Listening Let’s say you monitor social channels for discussion about “PR” and “social media.” The screen above is a grab from our monitoring dashboard that shows the popular subtopics within that broader discussion. If we’re tuned into what our audiences are saying and what questions they’re asking, we should be able to influence the direction these conversations take. And, of course, “tuning in” really means listening. But listening is a pretty broad term, so let’s break it down a bit.

Here at PR Newswire, we use the term “Social Echo” to describe the way messages reverberate around and are amplified by our audiences. As messages enter the stream of conversations, they’re shared by people in networks, sparking other discussions. And today, social conversations can make or break brands and products. Buzz is a powerful thing. But that’s not the only

First, it’s imperative that communicators and businesses in general understand what audiences 53

are talking about, and what questions they ask. Doing so will enable you to communicate in their context. Failing to do so means you run the risk of being the corporate equivalent of “that guy” with the demonstrated knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Identifying hot-button issues and recurring industry complaints is another important exercise. In addition to identifying opportunities for the brand to be the hero, doing this on an ongoing basis helps you to either avoid risky areas or meet them head on and mitigate the risks, depending upon whatever is appropriate for the objective. It reduces surprise. Listening will also reveal to you the language uses – the keywords your audiences use when discussing you segment and services – enabling you to literally be on the same page, which also delivers search benefits.

Where to Listen Twitter – In addition for specific mentions, keep an eye peeled for discussions around new and established hash tags for your sector. Making lists of key influencers

can make Twitter more manageable, as can a social media monitoring dashboard (like our own PR Newswire Media Monitoring service).

Read our new white paper, “Earned Media, Evolved,” discussing how the transformed media landscape presents new opportunities for businesses they work with to earn media.

Forums and discussion groups – Discussion groups on places like LinkedIn and Quora are fantastic focus groups to which you should pay attention. You may also find discussion groups hosted by leading publications or industry groups.

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Search engines – Okay, it’s not truly listening per se, but paying attention to what results surface for the keywords your organization has selected is a good way to keep tabs on competitors, influencers and fastmoving issues in your space.

Sarah Skerik is the VP of Social Media at PR Newswire. She tweets and blogs about digital PR, social media and search. (Free ebook.)


Local News Beyond 6 and 11 How Businesses Can Benefit By David Armon, President, Critical Mention, for the “Critical Now� Channel

The economic environment has mandated that newsrooms operate as lean, mean news reporting machines. That has meant fewer feet, cameras and microphones on the street for many print and broadcast news organizations. At the same time, those lucky journalists still drawing a paycheck are responsible for generating an even larger amount of content in a multitude of formats. Understanding how these outlets are using innovative digital technologies can assist businesses of all sizes as they search for ways to tell their story and attract new customers. Here’s an overview of what you need to know as a business leader to grow you visibility and bottom line via the press these days:


live college basketball games and full seasons of “Mad Men” on-demand.


Today, more than ever, broadcasters must reach their audiences using all means possible. In the digital age, information travels fast and consumers are no longer waiting for the six o-clock news to stay on top of their topics of interest; they demand immediate access to information.

Devices like Apple TV, Roku and game consoles have made it possible for any television set to receive content from Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, Hulu, HBO GO and dozens of lesser known cloudbased sources of programming. Manufacturers like Sony are also incorporating GoogleTV technology so consumers can watch YouTube from their own couch.

Every successful broadcast news operation is engaging with viewers using Twitter and the station’s web site. These additional channels – along with social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+ and Pinterest – will be crucial for these local brands to remain relevant as audiences move away from broadcast television.

Those shopping for a new television can find so-called IPTV sets for less than $400. Right out of the box, these TVs connect to wireless networks and are preloaded with just about every social network and video platform. Everything, that is, except for local network affiliates that have dominated for decades.

Why are TV news operations rushing online at such a fast pace? The answer: Survival. Deloitte reported in January that nine million Americans have either pulled out their cable TV or are planning to yank cable.

As if the fragmentation involving the living room isn’t worrisome enough for executives at traditional media companies, consumers are now using tablets and smart phones to bypass both their web browser and TV set. More than half of U.S. mobile phone owners have watched video on their devices, reports comScore.


As consumers stop relying primarily on cable and satellite platforms to deliver programming, they appear willing to sacrifice those familiar talking heads who deliver their local news, weather and sports. Local news audiences will be impacted dramatically as consumers opt for myriad Internet-connected devices delivering everything from inanebut-popular stupid pet trick videos to

One segment of traditional media relishing these developments is print. For years, the newspaper industry was the poster child for changing information consumption habits. Print executives readily acknowledged that names in the obituaries mirrored their circulation lists. But print is adapting quickly, and in a way that threatens broadcasters. 59

Newspapers like the News-Herald in suburban Cleveland; the Time-News in Erie, Pa., and the Saratogian in northern New York are taking advantage of lower video production, bandwidth, production and delivery costs and creating video programming that leverages their status as a recognized – and many times the most sometimes the most trusted – media brand in their respective markets.

more than 800 digital and print products in 18 states serving 57 million customers per month.

What is expected from Digital First is an ambitious line-up of live video news to web browsers and mobile devices. No word yet on whether your local newspaper will schedule their daily webcast at 6 or 11.

It was the News-Herald, not local network affiliates, providing long-form coverage of a church vigil for victims of a school shooting in Chardon, Ohio. Weeks earlier, when a McDonald’s was robbed, the News-Herald had the first video from the scene, including interviews with those in the eatery when it was hit.


Many of us in business want to showcase our products, people and events in the media. Too often, we jump to conclusions about Story A being right for TV while Story B is destined for print.

We’ve been watching the evolution of newspapers into Americas next broadcasters. Starting with the distribution of $150 Flip camcorders during a weekly editorial meeting, reporters were asked to conduct business as usual – concentrating on print stories – and then do a quick oncamera interview about the person they just interviewed.

The paradigm shift toward all media outlets operating in real-time, engaging with their audiences on social media platforms, and generating online video presents more opportunity, and a few threats.

Positive aspects:

The videos were a hit. Advertisers showed their support by sponsoring newspaper web sites. Reporters liked their new-found fame. News sources started thinking about print differently.

The early success of online video for newspapers sparked creation of Digital First Media, headed by CEO John Paton and including MediaNews Group and Journal Register Company. Together, this journalism powerhouse contains

• •


The chance to score two hits – a print story that spikes attention for a day and an archived video piece that can live on for weeks, months and even years. Content that is eminently more sharable than something immortalized in ink and paper. Ability to showcase aesthetics – products, locations, events, colors,

people, culture – that don’t lend themselves easily to words. Additional outlet for companyproduced b-roll (background video shot by a business and provided to news outlets to illustrate a story). Excuse to meet additional news executives at local outlets and trades. Knowing the goals of the digital editor and rules of engagement will help secure coverage and avoid missteps.

without producers, editors and tech support teams to assist novice reporters with their new multimedia gear. Obtaining precise measurement data for audience size and impact will be an added complication for many PR professionals. View on CommPRO David Armon is the president of Critical Mention, and a selfdescribed “media exec embracing disruptive technology and the social web.” Follow him on Twitter: @daveyarmon. This article originally ran in the “Critical Now” Channel on

Complications abound, too: •

Executives who might not hesitate to be a source for a print reporter can get cold feet when the Flip comes out. Formal on-camera media training will be de rigueur prior to all interviews, not just the visit by 60 Minutes. Learning curves are steep for costconscious media organizations


Be Like Honest Abe Six Leadership Lessons from a Model Communicator By Gene Marbach, Group VP, Makovsky & Co., Blogger, IR Therefore I Am 62

(and, of course, without the aid of PowerPoint).

Regardless of your particular discipline, I believe that there’s much about communications – applicable to today – that we can learn from Mr. Lincoln:

2. Listening How often do we forget that listening is an important part of the communications process? Clearly, Mr. Lincoln was a listener and this trait informed his opinions and shaped his understanding of the people he was elected to govern. He spent hours sitting and talking with people, asking questions and getting to know others. He talked with soldiers, widows of fallen soldiers, common people and more. Although known as a great storyteller, he was also known to take the time to hear complaints from people and listen to their stories. It’s hard for leaders of significant importance to take the time to slow down and listen, but it’s critically important.

1. Getting to the Point The Gettysburg Address is one of the most famous speeches ever delivered. It consisted of 10 sentences and took a little more than two minutes to deliver (by way of comparison, President Obama’s recent State of the Union address lasted well over an hour including the applause breaks).  In the time he spoke, Lincoln invoked the principles of human equality as set forth by the Declaration of Independence and redefined the Civil War as a struggle not merely for the Union, but as “a new birth of freedom” that would bring true equality to all of its citizens, and that would also create a unified nation. 

3. Crisis Communications

All of President Lincoln’s hopes to end the Civil War and the entire future of his presidency and, for that matter, the entire nation, rested on his shoulders at that moment. Yet he did not allow the importance of the moment to complicate his message, and that speaks volumes about Lincoln’s gift as a communicator.

Given that Mr. Lincoln presided over a war torn country, he came to be an expert at crisis communications. More than telling the public why the war was worth fighting, he gave them a sense of hope during a time when hundreds of thousands were dying in the Civil War. And he gave Americans a sense of purpose, that it was their duty to honor the dead by ensuring government “of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

By now, it is widely known that Mr. Lincoln labored mightily with this speech as opposed to the commonly-held belief that it was hurriedly written on the back of envelop in ten minutes. In choosing his words carefully, Mr. Lincoln delivered his messages cogently and succinctly


Lincoln absorbed the biggest ideas and also studied the very best communicators that he could find.

4. Learning President Lincoln’s skills as a communicator were shaped by what he read and, by all accounts, he was a voracious reader. He absorbed the biggest ideas and studied the best communicators he could find. As a youngster, he steeped himself in books such as biographies of George Washington, selections from Cicero, Demosthenes, Franklin, and passages from Hamlet, Falstaff, and Henry V.

snapped as he toured Richmond after it fell, much to the consternation of his protectors who feared sniper activity. As we know, photos tell stories, reinforce positions and “humanize” events. There is indeed much we can learn from President Lincoln, one of our greatest presidents and a great communicator. Read some of the biographies written about him. Read some of his speeches and writings as well as the books he read. Of course, learn to be a better listener. You’ll become a better communicator and advisor, and those are critical skills for any business leader today.

5. Knowing the Value of Gesture The day after General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865, the streets were thronged with people celebrating. Crowds serenaded President Lincoln throughout the day. Knowing that he had a nation to heal and a people to unite, President Lincoln offered a gesture of reconciliation and instructed the band to play “Dixie,” which was adopted as the Confederate anthem, and commented that it was “one of the best tunes I have ever heard.”

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Gene Marbach is Group VP at Makovsky & Co., and chief blogger on IR Therefore I Am. He has nearly 30 years of experience in investor relations, corporate communications, and journalism. He has counseled clients on corporate positioning, media relations, public relations, initial public offerings, crisis communications, litigation publicity and employee communications.

6. Pictures Are Worth 1,000 Words Mr. Lincoln was perhaps the most photographed president of his era. He was often photographed while visiting Union troops and his picture was


Social Media Must-Do’s for 2012 #1 Add SEO keywords to your SM blurbs #2 Add social media icons to your website #3Create and announce a “Moon” plan #4Product more original content #5 Get mobile - video, video, video #6 Drop 3rd person bulls$#%ht #7 Partner more #8 Show up daily #9 Include everyone, no exceptions #10 Do it, do it, do By Vicki Flaugher, Social Media Zone Here at, we’re striving to integrate the marketing disciplines to help businesses grow. Our audience includes tens of thousands in PR, corporate communications, marketing, advertising, social media and, increasingly, general business. We feel there is a great conversation to be had at the intersection of all that, especially with social media.

Social media – Twitter, YouTube, your blog, Pinterest, Google Plus, Slideshare, LinkedIn, Facebook and all the other mainstays – are either huge search engines or are included in search parameters for the mainstay search engines. Adding more keywords to your social media blurbs helps people find you. Use them. Use words that talk about your company values, customer pain points, your solution, the niche you serve and beyond. Go here to find out how many people each month are searching the terms you want to focus on. Message me if you need help.

Regardless of which of these sectors you find yourself in, here are ten relevant social media must-do’s for 2012. Apply what you see here and share it with whoever is responsible at your business for driving real results online ... So without further ado, let’s get creative and have fun doing it!

Must-do #2 – Add your social media icons to all pages of your website

Must-do #1 – Add SEO keywords to your social media blurbs

I have researched the web for several white papers and found huge worldwide


companies who have not yet bothered to add their social media icons to their website. If this is your company, fix it.

Get seen. Get followed. Get social. Start here: If you haven’t added ALL of your social media icons to your home page yet, you might as well be invisible. Do it. Now.

Add your Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Slideshare icons where they are large enough, conspicuous, and easily accessible. Do it NOW.

Must-do #3 – Create and announce a “we’re going to the Moon” plan The U.S. went to the moon because the President set the goal, called both industry and the citizenry to action, and would not take no for an answer.

Videos are already mobile compatible, they are fun, they add a face to your brand, and are inexpensive to produce. Plus, videos get shared.

Follow this example with your social media implementation. Include everyone and set the bar high. Talk about it a lot and add it to everyone’s performance evaluation. This work won’t do itself. Lead!

Must-do #6 – Drop all 3rd person bulls$##%^ht

Great social media requires the personal touch. Change all your bios on your website (and all your social media profiles) to be 1st person point of view.

Must-do #4 – Produce more original content

Not convinced that’s “professional” enough? Let me ask you then – would you consider it professional to introduce yourself in the 3rd person at a business cocktail party? Of course not, so don’t do it on social (…uh….if your answer is yes, you have bigger problems than I can solve here…).

Find your voice and your company voice and start producing more content. That means posting blogs by your top exes. That means publishing op-eds in your favorite paper or trade publication, including That means doing radio interviews, podcasts, and even, yes, building a Twitter following by Tweeting news and views. Thought leadership is not typically gained by regurgitating quotes and RSS news feeds.

Must-do #7 – Partner more

Reach across all boundaries – divisions, departments, suppliers, media, bloggers, companies competitors, customers, complainers, detractors, up and down the ladder.

Be interesting. Be unique. Be quotable. ‘Nuff said.

Must-do #5 – Get mobile (think video, video, video)

Openness is a cultural value and it pays off in social. Be more social, share more often, and partner with more (and different) types of people.

Let’s face it: It is going to be expensive to rework your website for mobile. Do it anyway (research the stats and you’ll agree) ... but in the meantime, do videos.

Must-do #8 – Show up daily 67

Yes, consistency helps. It helps your readers integrate you into their personal work rhythms. It keeps the expectation reinforced in you and your staff. It spins out lots of searchable content.

You have to own and live social. Yes, you’ll make flubs – this is a new territory after all – but everyone makes mistakes. Who cares? The home town kid who does good is a classic story. People love it when you’re real – be real. Do it, do it, do it!!

If you ignore your friends, they will go away. They will think you don’t care about them. Is that your company message? OK, then, don’t do that – show up every day.

Make Your Own List

The remainder of 2012 is looking like a banner year as social media adoption begins to fight its way out of the dip and zoom up the J curve of acceptance. Facebook’s recent IPO is the obvious sign of this, but there are thousands more. Unless your company’s brand includes being a laggard, you really aren’t in the position to delay this anymore. Social is a knob, not a switch. Start now, start small, but start. You won’t regret it.

Must-do #9 – Include everyone, no exceptions

Finding the social media fanatics in your company and in your world is a good idea. It’s an even better idea for you to find the shy fans too. Not everyone is confident to put their hand up as a leader, but they often have cool stuff to say. Find a way that everyone can participate.

View on CommPRO Vicki Flaugher is the "Social Media Zone" blogger at She also blogs at SmartWoman Guides and was featured in a Forbes “Top 10 Women Social Media Influencers.” Follow her on Twitter: @smartwoman.

Must-do #10 – do it, do it, do it… do it, already!

Make the commitment to social. This stuff is not going away. Make it clear that social media is now your way of doing business, not just the latest fad the insane marketing freaks are forcing on the employees.


Difficult Conversations: 5 Steps to Help You Manage Them at Work and Beyond

By Marie Raperto, Blogger, The Hiring Hub, CEO, Cantor Integrated Marketing Staffing 70

Difficult conversations occur in every facet of business. We can have an issue with an employee, a client, or even a colleague. Here are some steps that will make these tough talks easier for you — whether you’re an employee, HR director, manager or simply someone who needs to air important matters with a peer: Prepare and rehearse Prior to the conversation, know what your purpose is for having this conversation. Also know: What you want to accomplish, what you would like the outcome to be and what your attitude is and how it may influence the conversation. Sometimes, it helps to practice. Ask a mentor or HR person to help you rehearse. It can help you feel more comfortable about the process, but it can also bring up issues you hadn’t thought about. Your approach is key As important as what you’ll say is how it’s said. Create a calm atmosphere so the issue can be discussed. Stay on topic, as rehearsed. Don’t be accusatory We’ve all heard the saying that there are three sides to every story: ours, your and then the truth. You want an open meeting so all points can be discussed and

everybody feels that their side of the story has been heard. State your position If you’re having this conversation, you have a position. Let the other person know what it is, make sure they understand your views. But remember not to diminish their opinion/ position. Reach an outcome Hopefully, through conversation, the situation can be explained and each party will understand what happened. You can then identify steps to correct the situation. If you can’t resolve the issue, work out the next steps, such as another meeting, more inquiry, etc. Conversations like these are necessary to resolve situations. They are a part of working together in business. So remember to be candid and honest. Listen and respect the other party. Hopefully, even if the situation can’t be remedied, the working relationship will survive and even grow so the conversation can continue.

View on CommPRO Marie Raperto is chief blogger for The Hiring Hub on, and CEO of Cantor Integrated Marketing Staffing.

Netflix to Customers:

Up Yours

Why Phony Corporate Apologies Backfire By James E. Lukaszewski, Founder, The Lukaszewski Group


As I read Netflix CEO Reid Hastings’ letter last year to customers, in what appeared to be an apology for the price increase mess (this Economist article does a good job summing up the whole PR nightmare), my expectations were met immediately with absolute disappointment, then disbelief.

When will these business types begin to understand the two crucial ingredients of the relationship with all constituencies? Namely that: • Trust is based on providing information before the potential victims need it. Netflix intentionally failed here. • A sincere apology is actually the atomic energy of empathy, and can prevent or at least moderate the creation of critics and victims, while detoxifying bad news.

Rebuilding trust is based on providing information before upset customers or potential victims ask.

Here was a smart guy who shot a huge torpedo into the guts of his company, watched it blow up, and, along with many others, and was still assessing the damages. So, he decided that what his departing customers need to hear, rather than an apology, was a bunch of management school gibberish that fails to answer two big questions: “What were they thinking?” And, “Do they really care, anyway?”

A credible apology has five principal components: 1. An admission that harm was done through the actions of the perpetrator. 2. The perpetrator explains and shows evidence of understanding the nature of the harm caused. 3. The perpetrator’s statement of profound regret, remorse, and recognition contains some of the lessons the perpetrator has learned that will help avoid similar harmful circumstances in the future. 4. The perpetrator humbly asks for forgiveness from all affected. 5. The perpetrator voluntarily imposes some serious penance for the benefit of those adversely affected, and may even invite in outside oversight to ensure that appropriate measures have been taken to resolve the matter, and prevent future mistakes.

Instead of apologizing (although Hastings uses the word three times), working to mollify both the thousands who left, and the thousands who would leave, he wrote a letter that essentially says, “I love myself. I am really really smart and you should love me, too. Let me count the ways for you.” What follows is the mantra of American business today: Never apologize, never, never, never. If you want to look like a sissy, apologize. If you want to look weak, apologize. If you want to look like a cave-in to the lesser mortals, apologize. Want to look utterly silly in front of your business school buddies, apologize. If you’re a coward, apologize.

Instead, in what has become the classic style of business faux apology, Hastings did the following:


Failure to apologize properly destroys corporate trust and leaves more questions than answers.

• Attempted to explain what the company was doing and why. The question is: “Why we should care?” • He talked about what was “not their intent” by explaining that in fact all this turmoil was their intent, “It wouldn’t have changed the price increase, but it (telling you about it) would have been the right thing to do.” What on earth does this mean? • He talked about himself throughout the entire letter, which was supposed to be, one presumes, to help customers adjust to the company’s screw-up. Mr. Hastings used “I” a dozen times. What incredible arrogance. • He continued his devastating customer discussion by mentioning that there will be two websites and to make it more complicated for customers these sites will be separate and incompatible. Why didn’t he just say that they want their

DVD customers to take a hike to the thousands of little red one-dollar machines on every street corner? • He pulled the same stunt so many business perpetrators do by issuing, what amounts to a fourth phony apology at the end of the letter, “…And to apologize again to those members, both current and former, who felt we treated them thoughtlessly.” Thoughtlessly? The company’s action caused tens of thousands of families to sacrifice a small but crucial personal pleasure due to the yet to be plausibly explained greed of his company.


quickly and permanently stained. Yes, permanently—the consequences of this will always be included in stories, discussions, and analyses of this company.

Failure to apologize effectively always leaves far more questions than answers. Yet, did Hastings respectfully invite additional inquiries and promise additional explanations?

The lesson: Bad news ripens badly. And this story and this product will still be decaying for a while.

His last sentence said it all: “The Qwikster and Netflix teams will work hard to regain your trust. [How? By splitting the service in two and making everything more complicated and expensive?] We know it will not be overnight. [How many more arrogant screw-ups do you have in store?] Actions speak louder than words. [Tell us about it.] But words help people to understand actions.” [Maybe it’s time to take an empathy course, probably at a small school in Minnesota. You won’t find it in any business school curriculum.]

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James E. Lukaszewski is the funder of The Lukaszewski Group, where he advises, coaches, and counsels the men and women who run very large corporations and organizations through extraordinary problems and critical high-profile circumstances. He is listed in Corporate Legal Times as one of “28 Experts to Call When All Hell Breaks Loose,” and in PR Week as one of 22 “crunch-time counselors who should be on the speed dial in a crisis.”

Translation: “Up yours; strong message [i.e., we only care about ourselves] to follow.” Rarely in the annals of a successful consumer franchise can its legacy be so

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