Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

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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.

 

Authors Don’t Forget To Mention The Title Of Your Book In Interviews

Authors know that broadcast interviews (radio and television) are a critical part of any book promotion campaign.  These interviews allow an author to reach many people who would not hear about a book in any other way.  The interviews help build both the author brand and the book identity.  Yet many authors make one common mistake in interviews – they forget to mention the title of their book.

The whole purpose of the interviews is to get the book name out to potential buyers and get them to purchase the book.  Yes, most interviewers will mention the title when introducing the author and sometimes at the conclusion of the interview.  But authors need to mention the title in some of their answers.  Rather many authors forget this and refer to the book as ‘it’ or ‘my book’.  Listeners and viewers who might have missed the opening of the segment have no idea what book the author is referring to in the interview.   Add to this that if the interviewer doesn’t mention the name of the book at the end of the interview, this part of the audience never learns the book’s name and the promotion was wasted.

At the same time, the author doesn’t want to answer every question by referring to the title of their book.  A good rule of thumb is that for most interviews, the author should refer to the title two times.

Broadcast interviews are essential for successful book promotion.  They reach far more potential buyers then a print interview.  That is why by avoiding a common mistake, authors can maximize on their potential – mention the book title.

Tips For print Interviews

Here are some useful tips for print interviews.

  • Print interviews comprise of newspapers, magazines, and online news resources such as blogs.
  • Are typically done over the telephone or via email.
  • Unlike live radio interviews, if the interviewer stumbles or remembers something they want to add to the interview, they can go back to the answer.
  • Always make sure you have a clear phone line.
  • If you can’t hear a question ask them to repeat it.
  • In print and online interviews, the more that you provide the better as your answers will be edited. So the more information that you provide, the greater the chance you make it into the story.
  • Some print and online stories will be available the next day, some are for future stories that may not appear for several weeks or months.
  • Never ask the reporter or blogger to read back your answers to you.
  • Never demand to see the story beforehand.
  • Always record the interview.

How Authors Can Maximize BookExpo

It’s May and that means BookExpo is weeks away.  BookExpo is the most important publishing industry show in North America. If you are an author, want to be an author, or are even thinking about being an author.  BookExpo is an incredible way to see the publishing industry and make all connections. Representatives from every area of the industry – publishers, book cover designers, editors, distributors, foreign rights agents, literary agents, store book buyers, and media– will either be attending or exhibiting.  It is a chance for many authors to finally have that breakout moment with the media.

So how can an author maximize the BookExpo experience if they are exhibiting:

  1. Don’t cheap out. You’ve already spent tens of thousands (or millions) on your exhibit. Spend a few extra bucks and bring a public relations professional. Your sales team is there to meet buyers, partners and to sell, not handle media walk-bys, demos, interviews, social media posts and press room activities.
  2. Stick to your schedule. Reporters hate it when you decide to cancel or reschedule an interview at the last minute. They’ve already booked other appointments and you’ll risk losing the story. Don’t throw a hand grenade into a schedule that your PR team has spent weeks finalizing. Having a PR pro on-site will solve the inevitable sales meeting or customer drop-by conflicts that pop up.
  3. BYO. Don’t rely on the show’s registered media list; qualify and build your own. Show media lists are notoriously out of date and often incomplete because many Tier 1 media simply don’t pre-register. They decide to attend last-minute. Advance media calls, confirmations the week of the show and reconfirmations during the show will ensure you connect with the right reporters.
  4. Help media cut through the clutter. We’ve landed major national news stories by offering producers and reporters the opportunity to walk the show floor with a client who really ‘gets’ the category and can offer sound data, insights and opinions on what’s hot – and what’s not. Most trade shows are overwhelming, and the 24/7 news cycle makes them even more unmanageable for skinned up editorial staffs.
  5. Brand the press room. If you’re spending a small fortune on an exhibit, why neglect the place where most media gather even if they skip your booth? There are 1001 smart and not always costly ideas for establishing a branded presence in a press room – from supplying a masseur to massage tired feet to sponsoring coffee breaks, note pads or back packs.
  6. Stock the press room. Don’t count on media to find you. Even if it’s just a a humble jump drive, make sure your latest product info is available in the press room. No matter how old-fashioned it sounds – media still congregate in ‘their’ area to talk, post stories and get re-caffeinated, and they will scout out available materials. Even if they missed you on the show floor, there’s a good chance you can get your message in front of them.

Steps On Rebuilding United’s Brand

The past several days have been a public relations nightmare for United Airlines and it does not appear that things will be improving for the embattled airline and its CEO, Oscar Munoz in the near future.  The United saga began when Dr. David Dao was violently dragged off a Chicago, IL to Louisville, KY flight due to the flight being overbooked and room being needed for 4 flight crew.  The entire incident was filmed by other passengers with their smartphones.  Dr. Dao was so badly injured that he will need reconstructive surgery.  Compounding the damage was the tone deaf response from the airline, particularly its CEO, Oscar Munoz, to the incident.  Munoz originally praised United’s employees and blamed Dao for the incident.  After an international furor aroused, fueled on social media and late night television, Munoz apologized to Dao finally and made an appearance on Good Morning America that made him look anything but sincere.

Added to this debacle were fresh news stories of other passengers who had been threatened when United had overbooked flights, allegations that United Airlines was behind negative stories appearing in the media about Dao’s past, and reports that United was considering suing passengers who had recorded the Dao incident.  United is of course facing lawsuits.  The company’s market share has dropped by an estimated billion dollars.  United’s public image is in ruins.

Soon things will get even worse for United.  In the next few weeks, United will announce Munoz’s annual bonus that is expected to be $10 million or more.  The cause for the bonus is raising United’s short term profits.  How did Munoz achieve this? By having the airline sell more tickets for flights than they have seats (overbooking) and refusing to pay passengers enough to voluntarily give up their seats.  The core reasons that led to the crisis United is facing.

So what should United do to begin repairing its image?

  1. Announce that it is deferring Munoz’s bonus.  Or even better, have him announce he is rejecting it or donating it to charity.
  2. Announce that it will discontinue overbooking. Yes, the practice is legal and other airlines do it but this practice is now lethal for United.
  3. Munoz needs to do more interviews apologizing not only to Dao but all customers and announce what steps the airline is taking to assure better customer service.
  4. Announce a companywide customer service training program for all employees.
  5. Take out full page advertisements in leading newspapers across the nation apologizing and announcing again the steps the company is doing to improve the customer experience on all flights.

United needs to realize that the damage its reputation has suffered has been severe.  It isn’t fatal but the longer the company takes in moving forward with its crisis recovery program, the worse its reputation will be.