The Top Three PR Trends For 2018

Two thousand and eighteen is just a matter of weeks away.  Brands are already wondering what will be the top public relations trends for the upcoming year and how they can stay ahead of the curve.

Here are three of what will be the top PR trends for 2018 that brands must be aware of and prepared for:

  1. Brand reputation. More than ever before brand reputation will matter to consumers.  This means not only the cost and quality of a good or service but a brand’s story and its values.  Brands need to capitalize in channels that they directly control  – website, blog, social media – to convey this.  In traditional media stories, brands need to be consistent with the values and story that they tell.  This will earn greater brand loyalty and allow a brand to weather any crisis that might arise.
  2. Brands are going to have to address social and political issues. We live in one of the most polarized political periods in history.  Social media and the 24/7-news cycle magnify this.  While brands in the past have shied away from addressing political and social issues, today’s consumers demand that they do.  This means in 2018, brands will need to take a stand and communicate that stand, making it consistent with the values and reputation that consumers believe the brand stands for.  Avoiding controversial issues will not be tolerated by the consumer.  Brands need to have their messages prepared.
  3. Influencer marketing increases. The power of influencer marketing continues at an accelerated pace.  In 2018, the cost of it will increase, as will its power to sway consumers.  Brands will need a clearly defined strategy to maximize their campaigns and stand out from the competition with influencer marketing.

Two thousand and eighteen will be a fast-paced year.  Knowing the key PR trends and being prepared to use them will allow your brand to make it a profitable year.

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Planning Is Critical To A Successful Public Relations Campaign

Planning is essential for success.  That is especially true when it comes to public relations for it to be truly successful and show a return on investment.  Public relations isn’t about getting non-stop media coverage, rather it is about getting before your target audience (consumers and businesses) in a way that influences them to seek your services or products.  With that as the goal, what should you put into a public relations plan?

  1. A clear defined objective. You should clearly define what the objective of your public relations campaign is.  Are you trying to establish your brand?  Reach potential business contacts?  Reintroduce your brand?  Too often when conducting a public relations campaign, businesses and individuals are not sure what they are seeking to achieve and what will define success.  That is why clearly defining the ultimate result when developing a plan is crucial.
  2. Communication outlets. This means determining what media (traditional and social) are best for you getting the word out.  Sometimes print and LinkedIn are the best outlets.  Other times it could be broadcast with Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.  Knowing the best ways to reach your audience to achieve your objective is vital to the success of the public relations campaign.
  3. Develop a clear timeline and set of responsibilities. The next thing to do is put together a timeline for the campaign. This timeline should include events that the campaign may be connected with, editorial calendar dates of when various media outlets are doing a story on various subjects, dates that you need to begin outreach, as well as a budget, and determining who is responsible for what duties.

Once you have determined these three items for your public relations, you are set to launch the campaign.  But the planning is essential for the success of the campaign.  Without the planning you are driving blind in the world of public relations.

 

What Brands Will Live, What Brands Will Die, Who Will Tell Your Brand Story

In the hit Broadway musical, Hamilton, the final ensemble is called, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.”  It recollects that all the founding fathers were allowed to grow old and tell their stories, save of course for Alexander Hamilton who died young in the famed duel and that it fell to his wife, Eliza to tell his story for another 50 years so he would be remembered and revered for all that he contributed to our nation’s founding (and that without that story he would have been forgotten).  The same lyrics can also apply for brands today.  Today’s consumers expect a brand to do more than just have the best products, services, and prices.  They expect a brand to tell a story.  If a brand doesn’t have a brand story, it will die and be forgotten.  So who tells your brand story and what is it?

Ask yourself what is my brand story.  You may think that you don’t have a brand story but you do.  Your brand story is told by your website, social media, products, and services.  It is the basic DNA of your company.  It tells your vision and values.  It defines what separates you from the competition.  Just as in Hamilton, Eliza told Hamilton’s story, his values, flaws, sacrifice, and what made him so different and special compared to his political rivals, Jefferson and Madison.  The play also clearly defines that George Washington had a unique and special story that established the brand that history remembers him for and separates him from all of his compatriots even still today.

So who should be the chief storyteller of your brand?  As Harry Truman, famously said, “the buck stops here.”, meaning that it should be the owner, CEO, or President of the company who conveys the brand story.  Successful leaders are game changers.  They transform the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, vendors, Wall Street, and the media to act on their strategy, buy the latest product, or provide the latest assessment of their company.  Storytelling is essential to achieve this.  If the CEO or Company President isn’t able or unwilling to tell the brand story, it should be another key officer who is totally familiar with the brand’s DNA and convey the story to all stakeholders – employees, consumers, shareholders, and vendors.  Just as in the play, Eliza Hamilton was uniquely qualified and perhaps the only person possible to convey Hamilton’s story.

In today’s business world, a brand story is essential in the global economy.  Without one, your brand will die.  With one, it will flourish and be remembered.

Crisis Management In The Age Of Harvey Weinstein

It seems like every day a new sexual harassment or assault story is hitting the news out of the entertainment industry, the world of the media, or the political world.  The names of celebrities who have been named keep climbing.  For the organizations that employed these people or were associated with them the question arises, how should they handle the ensuring crisis.  What should their crisis management be?

How an organization responds to such a crisis will have a great impact on its future.  They need to think about all stakeholders in their response – employees, shareholders, vendors, and the public.  At the same time, they should be conducting an internal audit to determine if any other bombshells about to drop.

When responding to an employee’s sexual misconduct, these are tips that organizations need to implement:

  1. Get out in front. When scandals such as we have seen since the Weinstein story broke, an organization cannot wait as far as responding to such a story.  Delay in responding loses several news cycles and the social media onslaught that arises.  It creates the image of complicity with the behavior or worse guilt.
  2. Show how the company is handling the situation internally. Just condemning despicable and perhaps criminal behavior by an employee is not enough.  The organization must show and demonstrate how they are ensuring that such behavior will not occur again by any employee and how they are investigating internally to see if this was an isolated case or if other employees were involved.
  3. Don’t ignore social media. Social media drives narratives.  We have seen this especially in the sexual harassment cases that are dominating the news.  Often the stories break on social media first.  Make sure that your organization is monitoring social media and if an employee is caught in such a story, that you address the social media world in your responses.  Too often this overlooked.

The sexual harassment and assault stories show no signs of abating.  Hopefully this will lead to a change in personal conduct.  But for businesses, as these allegations continue, it is essential that they know how to address such actions by members of their organization.

Equifax: An Epic PR Failure

Equifax’s crisis communications strategy dealing with its security hack has been an epic fail.  And the credit reporting giant continues to make the situation worse.

The story of the security hack at Equifax is well known.  The breach lasted from mid-May through July of this year with hackers obtaining the personal information of 143 million people. This information included people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, driver’s license numbers. Compounding the problems for Equifax three officers of the company sold stock shares worth a combined $1.8 million just before the breach was detected.

Successful crisis communications requires:

  1. Being proactive. In this Equifax failed as they waited 6 weeks before revealing the hack.  This delay has raised questions of why did they wait and raised suspicions of a cover up.  This was worsened by the revelation that company officers had sold stock just prior to the detection.  Had the company got out in front of the story, particularly during the slow news period of August, it would have earned kudos for being honest and would have drawn less coverage than it is now when reporters and the public are back from vacation.
  2. When a crisis hits, it is essential to be transparent which means getting the good and the bad out.  Again, Equifax failed.  The full story has been coming out slowly with each day a new revelation.  The latest is that Equifax did not implement a security patch in March that could have prevented the hack.
  3. During a crisis, it is critical to show empathy towards those who have been affected. Equifax has done the opposite.  Rather than getting its CEO out as the face of the company who could express empathy and apologize for what has happened, the company has hidden behind press releases.  Its offerings to help victims have fallen far short and appear in the fine print designed to avoid litigation.  The company and its employees have been tone deaf.  This goes all the way to employees in the company’s call centers who have been reported to be rude and flippant to consumers.
  4. Social media. Social media drives narratives. Equifax seems to have overlooked this fact.  It was acting on social media as no crisis was at hand, immortalized by its infamous tweet the day the scandal hit of “Happy Friday”.
  5. No Solution. The final aspect of successful crisis communications is a solution on how an issue will never happen again.  In this too, Equifax has failed.

So, what should the company do now?

  1. Get all the information out immediately. No more slow drip.
  2. Have the CEO become the face of the company, offer a sincere apology and address all stakeholders – consumers, vendors, policymakers, stockholders, and employees.
  3. Offer a solution on moving forward.

Equifax has failed crisis management 101.  Until it takes corrective measures the company will continue to suffer and offer an example of what not to do during a crisis.

 

Crisis Communications Done Right: Rick Scott and Hurricane Irma

So often in crisis management we observe what individuals and brands do wrong and that receives most of the coverage.  Very seldom do we talk about things being done right.  So, this article is about doing crisis management the right way.  Florida Governor Rick Scott’s crisis management deserves praise and is something brands should study.

So what did he do right?

  1.   Governor Scott’s message was simple and direct during the crisis and he stayed on message throughout – people needed to evacuate from the oncoming storm and the storm was devastating.  Every interview or press conference he gave, he worked in his message and never deviated.  Often during a crisis and the media frenzy, spokespersons will forget their message or convolute it.  Governor Scott never did.
  2. Included all stakeholders. A common mistake in crisis communications is forgetting one of the stakeholders.  Governor Scott never did.  His stakeholders were the citizens of Florida, county and city leaders, the federal government, and state employees.  Governor Scott included all of these in his various communications and schedule.  He conveyed what was expected and needed.  A schedule released from the Governor’s office showed just how much time he spent in making sure that all stakeholders were addressed from interviews and press conferences to the public; to phone calls with policymakers; to concise and clear instructions for state workers.  This type of inclusion led many (particularly individuals who are normally critical of Governor Scott) to praise him.
  3. Social media. Often during a crisis, even a natural disaster, social media is overlooked as a means to communicate or does not have the message that is being conveyed on traditional media outlets.  To his credit, Governor Scott and his communications team made sure that the same message that they were communicating through traditional media was being communicated via social media.  They realized that even though they were saturating the airwaves, that many people get their information via Twitter or Facebook.
  4. Plan Forward. Throughout Hurricane Irma and now in its aftermath, Governor Scott communicated that there was a plan moving forward to rebuild and restore the areas that were affected.  A key to successful crisis management isn’t just communicating about the crisis but offering a vision forward after the crisis has passed.

Hurricane Irma was a devastating catastrophe.  Avoiding an even greater tragedy is due in no small part to Rick Scott’s deft crisis management.  Business leaders would do well to study his crisis communications handling.

The Benefits Of Public Relations

Whether you are a corporate leader, author, entertainer, athlete, or seeking to influence public policy, you know that you need public relations.  Yet despite this, many people are uncertain of what the benefits of public relations are.

First you have to understand what public relations is.  A basic definition of what public relations does for companies, authors, entertainers, athletes, organizations, and brands is it shapes and molds their public image. It utilizes the right strategies to allow for you to be heard and seen, through media outlets.

So, what are the benefits of public relations?

  1. Target market.  A well-crafted and orchestrated public relations campaign targets the media and events that your target market utilizes.  If you are a toy company making board games, a public relations campaign will target the media that people who like board games read, watch, or listen too.  The campaign will also target trade shows and events that will give your product the maximum exposure, as well as, obtain celebrity endorsements that will carry weight with consumers.  If you are a romance author, public relations will allow you to reach readers who purchase romance books through media interviews, book reviews, book signings, and speaking engagements.
  2.  Businesses, authors, celebrities, brands and any organization conduct public relations not just to promote something but to build a better image. Effective public relations allows your brand to attain a positive image both online and offline, which benefits you for the long haul and brands your image in the public’s consciousness.
  3.   Public relations such as a media interview, review, or media profile, carries weight with the public.  It is seen as a third party (the media outlet) endorsement.  The public knows that such media mentions are not paid for by the company, unlike an advertisement.  Studies show that consumers give a media mention over 7 times the credibility they do an advertisement.
  4. Public relations is more cost efficient than advertising.  The rates for public relations along with the results it produces, are between 30% to 50% better than doing advertising.
  5. Lead Generation. The media placement from public relations is long lasting.  This is especially true with Google, company and media outlets websites.  While you will see the greatest number of leads after the media mention appears, the leads continue long after as people find the media story online during searches.

The benefits of public relations are immense.  It is long lasting with the impact felt long after the initial campaign.