Saying Goodbye, Good Job And Good Luck!

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In every public relations office there comes that point in the summer where the interns have nailed it – all humming and clicking along on their account work, really blossoming into great researchers, writers, media experts. And then, boom, they have to leave and go back to school or other pursuits. We reached that point with most of our interns yesterday and had a sweet send-off. We wish Matt, Pat, Azizza and Adam great success in each of their endeavors!

 

PR And “Conventional” Wisdom

The public relations community watches U.S. political conventions a little differently than average viewers. Sure, we look for the highs and lows, gaffes and guffaws. But mostly those who toil at PR agencies or in corporate communications like to spot lessons that can be translated to the work we do for clients. The past two weeks’ worth of convention coverage offers a stark contrast in how to appeal to the electorate and plenty of punditry on what works and what doesn’t. Here’s our hot take.

When it comes to media events, cover the details

Both conventions had their mishaps, but the GOP convention mistakes were mostly avoidable, primarily through lack of planning and attention to key details. We’ve already covered the Melania Trump speech scandal (why did no one check it?), and the unnecessary media distraction that followed. But what about Ted Cruz’s failure to endorse the candidate?  What kind of negotiating skills does it show that he was given a primetime slot with no promise of support? The Democrats had their problems, too, particularly the visuals of Sanders delegates with their mouths taped shut in protest, and the booing of respected party speakers. But because things outside of your control will inevitably happen, it pays to nail the details that can be managed in advance. The goal of any communications event to to avoid distraction and focus on a simple message.

Go beyond the base

Selling your candidate – or product – is often done through effective third-party spokespersons, a time-honored public relations strategy. Yet in this context, effective doesn’t simply mean a good delivery. The best surrogates make the case by reaching beyond a candidate’s base. The RNC tapped speakers to articulate Trump’s stance on hot-button issues and amp the fervor of fans and delegates, but was there even one surrogate who tried to appeal to wavering Democrats or undecideds? That role seemed to belong to daughter Ivanka, who showcased a remarkably smooth delivery of a far gentler message. Yet, the content of her speech was almost jarring because it diverged so sharply from that of others, and it contrasted even more with her father’s address immediately after. I’d also argue that a speaker whose last name isn’t Trump might have done more with that calmer rhetoric.

Contrast the GOP surrogate choice with that of the Democrats this week. With his strong appeal on behalf of a party that he technically doesn’t belong to, Independent Mike Bloomberg spoke directly to undecided voters, including so-called “Business Conservatives,” with an appeal to elect a Democrat. It was an unusual moment for a convention, and the media responded.

Boldface names draw fickle viewers

This is America, the birthplace of celebrity obsession, and the candidate who wants to drive appeal beyond political junkies leverages names with strong and loyal fan bases of their own.  Though not everyone loved every celebrity equally, and some were criticized on social media, the blue party has always had an advantage when it comes to A-listers.  The big names drive viewership and web engagement in real time, and post-event coverage increases exponentially. They also offer bragging rights to top donors and delegates, so here the Democrats win.

Steal some thunder with social

Deft social media usage offers the opposing party a way to disrupt the goings-on and grab attention in real time. The master of this, of course, is Trump. His call for Russia to access Clinton emails may have been an example of his shoot-from-the-hip style, but we think he said it to win the news cycle at a time when the DNC was dominating it. While Trump’s comment was over the top (and probably not endorsed by his communications staff), we do advocate for smart and creative use of social media to tweak competitors, “newsjack” a breaking event, or simply stay in front of customers in the absence of hard news.

Let visuals do the talking

Whether video or still images, visuals pack a visceral punch that talking heads can’t. While both campaigns employed videos to win over hearts and minds, it’s hard to compete with the Clinton campaign’s use of Donald Trump’s own words. And the visual image of Hillary Clinton “breaking through” the panel that contained a montage of every president in U.S. history made for strong social sharing.

A positive story wins the day

Or does it? We won’t know until November. But in a typical brand campaign, an optimistic message is ultimately more appealing than a takedown. In fact, the classic “hero’s journey” archetype is at the heart of many successful storytelling campaigns. We wouldn’t likely advise a client to constantly bash a competitor in the hope of converting customers.

The 2016, election, of course, isn’t a typical brand campaign. It’s not even a typical election.  It’s a PR and marketing campaign like no other in history, and the “lessons learned” have only just begun to emerge.

7 Ways To Avoid PR Disaster By Email

In public relations, among other lines of work, things move fast, and rapid-fire communications is the only way to keep up. As a consequence, we’ve probably all said things in emails or texts that we shouldn’t have, or contacted the wrong person by mistake. I once sent an email about how to handle a somewhat finicky client intended for staff to the client herself. (Luckily it was limited to neutral information, but I always look twice now before pressing send.)

These mistakes are nearly always embarrassing and occasionally hilarious, adding to a social cottage industry around autocorrect fails, typos, and errant texts. But sometimes the results are serious.  The most recent casualty is Democratic National Committee chairwoman Deborah Wasserman Schultz, who resigned after a wikileaks dump of hacked DNC emails showed she favored Clinton.

The DNC dump was the result of a hack, not human error, yet it’s a scary reminder of what we email on a regular basis. Just last month, an attorney helping former NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel fight domestic violence charges thought he was sending a text to his co-counsel when he expressed concerns that Manziel was back on drugs and his plea deal could be jeopardized. He sent the text instead to an Associated Press reporter. Oof.

Yet something similar happened to Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks earlier this year. She meant to email an RNC researcher about Clinton oppo research and instead sent the missive to a Politico reporter with the same last name. Blame autofill.
Such public mistakes are rare, but they show that we’d all be better off if we used email and texting more judiciously. The best advice, of course, is the adage that you should send something you wouldn’t want to see posted or published. Here are some other practical ways to minimize the risk of an email or text disaster.

Don’t use reply all. I almost never use it outside of internal emails. It’s worth the extra keystrokes to hit reply and manually add anyone else as a cc. Of course this isn’t practical when responding to large groups, but why reply back to a large group anyway? There’s nearly always a better way to weigh in.

Check out delay send. It’s worth activating a delay send email feature (offered by most providers), even if the delay is for just a few minutes. It’s also useful to build in a pause of several hours when sending non-urgent work-related emails late at night or over a weekend, so staff don’t feel unduly pressured. Some PR agency people like to send late-night client emails to show their dedication, but in many circumstances it can come off as unprofessional. And those emails are the most likely to be buried by the next morning.

Never use bcc in email. To me, it’s always risky, because if the person being blind copied doesn’t look carefully, he could respond openly and embarrass the sender. Take the extra step and forward instead.

Don’t reply in the heat of the moment. Replying emotionally is tempting, but it’s never a good idea. If you must, go ahead and draft that email, but save it instead of sending. Wait 24 hours and then send if you still feel you must. Like Marijane, I have a draft folder full of unsent emails, and most are better left that way.

Organize and separate sensitive contacts. It’s helpful to use a system that separates important or sensitive contacts like a boss, in-law, or ex-significant-other. Or, you can use an app that delays or requires an extra step for only those contacts for both emailing and texting.

Check out “unsend” apps. Most people know that gmail offers a delay function that lets you catch errant emails within a few minutes after sending. But there are also apps that work to “undo” accidental (or inebriated) texts and even remove them from the recipient’s phone.

Don’t use work email for personal stuff. And if you do, delete it from both your inbox and your sent folder (which few people think about), and be sure to empty your trash folder. Any employer who has gone through an ex-staffer’s emails after his departure can tell you there’s always something that you wish you had never seen. (At my previous agency, the IT manager found a digital trail of kinky porn and explicit emails about other staffers on a fired employee’s desktop. I still feel uncomfortable when I run into this person.)

So, what do you do, when, despite best efforts, the bad email or text goes out anyway? Typically we have two choices: convey a swift and sincere apology; or, laugh about it. For most email disasters, the best remedy involves a bit of both.

6 Ways PR Is Using Snapchat

As a field full of creatives and forward thinkers, it’s no wonder tech and consumer public relations agencies have embraced newer social media platforms. Snapchat, the platform best known for sharing disappearing images, has become a social media giant since its founding four years ago. A favorite among millennials, Snapchat boasts 150 million daily users by some accounts, surpassing Twitter’s daily user count, and was recently valued at $18 billion after raising $1.8 billion in cash earlier this year.

It’s no wonder organizations and brands of every kind are investing serious creative capital in Snapchat to broaden their PR reach and supplement traditional media programs. Here are six ways they’re doing it.

Creative Messaging. In a fitting pairing, the World Wildlife Fund used Snapchat to launch its award-winning #LastSelfie campaign. It showed animals on the endangered species list and implored fans to not “let this be my #LastSelfie,” before the image disappeared after a few seconds. Targeted at millennials, the campaign was wildly popular and earned pickup on other social media channels and eventually traditional print media as well — a great example of form following function.

Previews and Behind-the-scenes Peeks. The HBO series Girls, the icon of millennial women, is well known for using Snapchat to offer previews and teasers, as in the Lena Dunham takeover of its channel to release the much-anticipated trailer for its fifth season. Hipster eyeglass maker Warby Parker hosts insider chats with its founders via Snapchat, and NARS, the cosmetics brand, has used Snapchat to offer sneak peeks of new products. As with other platforms, Snapchats previews are heavily cross promoted, as brands let Instagram and Twitter followers know, for example, to head over to Snapchat for the exclusive.

Deals and Discounts. Some brands know millennials tend to love a good deal almost as much as they love Snapchat. 16 Handles, the NYC-based frozen yogurt shop, rewards fans with discount every time they share a snap of themselves eating their yogurt, and is among the many brands to share promo codes and other offers via Snap. For retailers, it’s become clear that Snapchat is yet another way to reach out to young fans with special deals.

Tips and Insights. Even B2B marketers are deep into the weeds with Snapchat. Hubspot launched its Snapchat channel this March, and, for the uninitiated, shared this helpful tutorial on how to get started in Snapchat.

Influencer Partnerships. McDonald’s became one of the first mega-brands to join Snapchat in 2014, and it did so with a super-sized partnership with NBA star Lebron James, who shot a promotional video for the fast food chain. Since then companies have learned that Snapchat, with its video chat feature, is particularly effective for driving engagement with celebrity-loving Generation Y through influencer partnerships.

Politics and Public Awareness.  No platform goes untapped during a Presidential election, and this year is no exception. Hillary Clinton’s campaign recently used Snapchat to frame rival Donald Trump’s quotes about the 2008 housing crisis, and numerous polls of how students feel about the election have taken place via Snapchat. But the medium is also being used for issues-based campaigns as well: soap brand Dove, recently hosted a two-hour conversation for women with psychologists and other experts about self esteem and self image, and reported that its Story “Snaps” were viewed 130,000 times.

A Journalist’s POV: 3 Questions From A PR Agency

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Whether you work in B2B tech or consumer public relations, most would agree that the advent of Profnet and HARO as online “connectors” of reporters and good stories has been a boon to the industry. While the goal is to get a reporter to include your company or product in a story, sometimes you get lucky and the reporter turns into more than a business contact.

We feel that way about George Jones, digital producer with the Raycom corporate news hub, which provides multimedia content for the websites of about 60 TV stationsthat Raycom Media owns and partners with throughout the country. A working journalist since high school with experience in broadcast, print and digital, George is a terrific reporter and not just because he sums up his personality this way — Likes: Dark chocolate, baseball. Dislikes: Pokemon Go.

We asked George to answer three questions, the answers to which provide insight into the mind of a busy journalist, sifting through myriad PR inquiries searching for the next great story.

What trends are you seeing in the news business that the PR industry ought to know about? Two years ago, our analytics told us people were on their local TV stations’ websites at the same time they were watching the news broadcasts. Now, they’re not even bothering to turn on the TV. If you don’t have a strong digital presence (doesn’t matter if you’re a PR pro or a roofing contractor) it’s going to be difficult for people to take you seriously. And don’t forget the cat videos! Haha! That’s my code name for any story that doesn’t require too much brain power. It’s cool that you’re pitching me a product that’s going to save the world, but don’t be afraid to put something whimsical in the pipeline. Our audience eats it up, and it’s a good mental break from the stuff I normally cover. People are visual. That’s always been true, but the way we’re able to present visual storytelling (which we have explored in previous posts) is much better. With that great idea pitch, think about something I can use to supplement my story, preferably data

How can people grab your attention in an email? As long as the subject line isn’t bludgeoning grammar and there’s some reference to an issue that interests me, I’ll take a look. A good idea is a good idea, regardless of someone’s ability to phrase it. Having said that, more people should do their homework. A simple search of someone’s name plus the company they work for provides a pretty accurate snapshot of the things they cover. Also, most journalists post their interests on social media. Some of the best pitches I’ve received have had keywords from the headline of a story I’ve written with the idea of, “Hey, maybe another angle to consider” — automatic hook! I know you’re probably not going to waste my time because you’ve already invested some time of your own. Plus, I don’t know everything, so suggestions on advancing my story or rounding out my coverage are appreciated.

What mistakes should PR professionals avoid? One of the biggest mistakes PR people make is thinking their sense of urgency is the same as mine. A good number of pitches I get are for stories that are not time-sensitive from a news standpoint, so telling me I have to jump on this right now sends me into shutdown mode. Be prepared to hear “no” a lot. Matter of fact, be prepared for no response at all. The follow-up contact is important to me, specifically the way they follow up. If someone I don’t have an established relationship with follows an email with another email, I’m thinking, “Yeah, this may be kind of weak.” But, sometimes try phoning! The phone is becoming the dodo bird, and I don’t like that.

PR Tips For Moving Past A Public Mistake

This week the Trump campaign and the Republican National Convention reminded the PR community —  and everyone else — of the perils of mishandling a public mistake. Within an hour of what should have been the high point of a shaky first day for the RNC, the campaign was in full damage control mode. Melania Trump’s primetime address, which had been carefully orchestrated to “humanize” her husband, was found to contain language lifted from Michelle Obama’s 2008 DNC speech.

It didn’t take long for social media to erupt in flames. Twitter featured damning videos of Ms. Trump and Ms. Obama speaking side-by-side, using nearly identical language. Mocking hashtags like #FamousMelaniaTrumpQuotes featuring iconic historical quotes were everywhere. Speech-gate quickly trickled up to “traditional” press, dominating the news cycle on Tuesday.

The mistake was bizarre and the resulting coverage inevitable. But what made it infinitely worse was the campaign’s response, led by Paul Manafort. Manafort insisted – despite visual evidence – that there was no plagiarism and that the accusations were dreamed up by a jealous Hillary Clinton. That lasted about 32 hours, until today, when the Trump organization released a statement from a previously unknown writer who took responsibility for the mistake. The statement extended the story, but now that a (somewhat) more coherent explanation is out, it will probably be put to rest,  unless there is more to the saga.

Freakish as it was, the entire episode is instructive. It’s a pretty fair guide for what not to do if you break a rule or make a public mistake. Here’s what they should have done instead, and how it applies to other situations.

Rule one: Acknowledge the mistake. In this case, the failure to admit error was probably driven by Trump himself, but a PR heavyweight like Manafort should have known better than to deny the obvious. Claiming the similarity was a coincidence didn’t just destroy the campaign’s credibility. It also made the press mad, feeding their determination to get satisfaction. Check out a visibly frustrated Chris Cuomo’s interview with Manafort here. It’s seven minutes of a truly extraordinary tug-of-war that Manafort is just not going to win.

Rule two: Where necessary, explain. Reasons aren’t always required, and some mistakes are compounded by complicated explanations, which can sound like excuses. But in this case, a semi-feasible rationale was required. It wouldn’t have been hard. All the campaign had to say was something like, “As an aide was helping Ms. Trump polish her remarks, some language from the writer’s notes on previous convention speeches were inadvertently included in the final draft.” Maybe not 100% airtight, maybe not even true, but good enough to offer respectable cover.

Rule three: Apologize. Make it sincere, credible, and unselfish. Focus on the damage done or persons offended, not on the one who committed the error. Again, Trump is not a guy to issue a mea culpa, but the reluctance to do so here drove the story into overtime. People make mistakes, and the public loves to forgive. In this case, where the real victim was Melania Trump and not her husband, it would have been PR-savvy (and shown common sense) to include a brief expression of regret to the public explanation of how the speech contained material not original to the writers.

Rule four: Accept blame. Don’t point fingers, deflect, or try to blame someone else. Acceptance of responsibility is the foundation of a sincere apology. Contrary to what some may think, it’s a sign of strength, not weakness. Manafort’s attempts to connect the mini-scandal to Hillary Clinton just weren’t credible. They infuriated the media and gave the Clinton campaign fresh material to include in their fundraising emails.

Rule five: Fix the problem.  In most cases a business or individual will announce a fix as a way of assuring that the error won’t recur. The company recalls its faulty product, settles a lawsuit, or changes its policy. Maybe the celebrity checks into rehab to receive treatment. In the case of speech-gate, this isn’t vital because a fresh mistake would only harm the campaign, not the public. But the Trump team would do themselves a favor by adding  more communications infrastructure, including the typical vetting process that should accompany any public remarks.

Overall, the Trump campaign’s handling of the situation, from the speech itself, to the stonewalling and spinning and eventual admission of a problem, reeks of an amateur operation. In politics, as in PR, it pays to have professionals on the job when the stakes are high.

7 Tips For Curating The Best PR Content

It’s no secret content is king when it comes to PR campaigns, but what are the basic rules for curating a body of content that will have the most impact on your business or brand? Curated content can include original content — written and visual pieces created by you — contributed pieces, or, most commonly, content that’s gathered from around the web. Some would argue curated collections are how most people discover content today, so curating is a valuable skill for any PR professional.

Here are some of the basic rules for maximizing your content curation practices.

Basic SEO optimization is a must. It doesn’t take a technical genius to understand basic optimization these days, so it’s crucial to build SEO in at the foundation level of all content. Quality and relevance are more important than sheer volume, as we covered recently in this post, so taking the time to produce high quality content should always be the first priority.

Content should be relevant and valuable. The best curated content is personal for the reader or viewer, so know who your target audience is and only share what’s relevant to them. Start with asking what questions those audiences face, and develop categories that address those challenges. Value also comes from consistency; your voice as a content curator becomes more credible with consistent sharing, so establish a schedule that works, and stick with it.

Add your own perspective. Framing the content you’ve selected helps add more value for viewers by telling them why they should care. It also helps establish you as an expert source for great content they’re unlikely to discover elsewhere — something that keeps readers coming back for more.

Make good use of visuals. It’s hard to overemphasize this point. Some stats show people are 80 percent more likely to read content that’s paired with colorful visuals. Don’t neglect visual appeal by letting graphics get sloppy. Again, investing in quality here can go a long way. There’s also a trove of online resources — many of them free — for stock photos and graphics to tap into, eliminating many hurdles to using strong visuals.

Use all your distribution channels. These days it’s less likely for content to be discovered organically. With so many distribution platforms in use, it’s important to be aggressive and systematic in spreading content appropriately on all. Find out what strategies work best on each platform, as they’re not all the same, and develop a system for sharing on each.

Take advantage of tools for curating. Finding great content to share is a snap when you’re plugged into tools that do most of the heavy lifting for you. The top two on this list, Pocket and Twitter Lists, are also our top choices for basic online tools that help find and catalogue the best content that’s most relevant to our work.

Create opportunities to engage. Make it very easy for readers to engage with the content being shared. Sometimes a simple call to action or invitation to share opinions is all that’s needed to get a conversation started.

Don’t Let Breaking News Steal Your Thunder

When PR agency professionals plan a product launch or news announcement, we do it with close attention to detail. In most cases there’s sufficient lead time to schedule each element carefully. A top priority is to steer clear of previously planned events that could conceivably steal our PR thunder. Even if the news isn’t directly relevant, we avoid happenings likely to trigger cascading stories that could fight with our news, like the Olympic Games opening, Election Day, or big pop culture events. (Pity the gaming launch that tried to compete with Pokémon Go this week!)
But breaking news, by definition, isn’t planned.  What can you do when sudden news threatens to preempt your story?

Top Ways To Plan Against Breaking News

You can’t plan for breaking news and in a worst-case scenario, there’s nothing to be done after the fact. Truly catastrophic events like the terrorist attack on 9/11 or key events during the 2007 financial crash, have ramifications that make PR considerations recede in comparison. (I seem to recall a major client press event scheduled on October 1, 2001 at the World Trade Center, but even weeks later it was a sad footnote to the larger crisis.)

Fortunately for all of us, such disasters are rare. But there are other breaking news events that PR professionals dread. We live in fear of sudden government resignations, a celebrity scandal or untimely passing, or – in tech PR especially — a surprise Apple product launch. Journalists are instantly reassigned, interview opportunities dissolve, and your story is suddenly yesterday’s news.

How does a communications professional manage the risk of breaking news? Here are a few ways:

Don’t stage events unless truly warranted.  The CEO may like the idea, but as a rationale for creating a media event, the bar should be high, and good PR practitioners should push it even higher. Unless it’s a category-creating product launch or the announcement of a celebrity business partnership, formal press conferences are often not necessary. A theatrical product unveiling works best within a trade show that offers a captive audience of working journalists, like CES. Outside of a conference or bigger event, it’s wise to offer as much flexibility as possible in terms of time and materials. We like “drop-in” demo days for new products where media and bloggers can come by at a time of their choosing to cover a product launch. Low-risk, high-reward.

Always have a Plan B. Even if it’s just a careful phasing of the launch program elements, good PR people people learn early on never to put all their eggs in a media event basket. As noted, apart from events like a breakthrough drug announcement or a product launch to rival the iPhone, an overreliance on event theatrics is risky at best. Smart communicators phase a launch program by building in executive interviews, influencer endorsement campaigns, and content distribution elements in case event coverage is light due to breaking news.

Go with it.  Once, during a government shutdown that drew wall-to-wall media coverage, we supplied pillows from a mattress company client for members of Congress who had vowed to sleep in their offices. It generated some fun and unexpected media coverage. More recently, our client was working on an app for the Apple Watch and we were able to own part of the technology conversation around the Apple ecosystem that resulted from the product launch. But this was only possible because much of the Apple Watch information has been leaked, and developers were in the know.

If you can latch your news onto a larger story in a timely and seamless way, it’s a winner. But newsjacking only works when there’s a natural connection to your news. In most cases it’s difficult to link a news announcement to a breaking story outside of your industry.

Remember the media exclusive. In tech PR many communicators will offer a major reporter first crack at a newsworthy story. These “exclusives” are typically planned to break the day of a splashy product launch and they’re often a win-win because the journalist gets first-access and the company often gets a more in-depth story than it would otherwise. A media exclusive can also serve as a kind of insurance policy if it’s a busy launch season, and it’s applicable to any vertical business category.

Budget for paid content as well as earned media. If organic media opportunities are wiped out by a breaking news event, paid content can serve as a fallback. That’s one reason why every PR professional working today is learning branded content techniques and is familiar with content distribution tools and tactics that can sometimes salvage a big launch when you need it most.

5 Winning PR Strategies For Nonprofits

Today’s B2B and B2C public relations firms take special pride in projects that allow them to do well and “do good.” This is particularly true when a team works for a nonprofit that is tackling a persistent social problem or seeking the cure for a disease. Most would think this work would be easy; who can say no to a group offering food for the hungry or helping defeat cancer?  But the fight for philanthropic share of voice is a fierce one, so smart strategies and tactics are needed.

Numbers tell the story. Just like seasoned corporations and tech start-ups, nonprofits need to illustrate their story with compelling data that demonstrates the results of their efforts. For our client the NHP Foundation, a provider of affordable housing and resident services, this translates into specifics like how many housing units a new acquisition provides or how much money is going into renovating an existing development. These kind of stats can paint an irresistible picture for a journalist looking to tell a great story with social impact.

Partner with like-minded organizations. There are many opportunities to join forces with similarly missioned but non-competitive groups to help spread an organization’s message. For example, on behalf of a wearable pain device client, we sought a partnership with the quasi-medical organization the NY Society For Pain Management and sponsored a successful panel discussion focused on the opiate addiction crisis. We have also formed editorial partnerships with organizations like Kaiser Health, which does in-depth health reporting. Most recently we began exploring a relationship between affordable housing client the NHP Foundation and the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, the nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to immersive journalism about economic struggle, founded by author and social activist Barbara Ehrenreich, who is devoted to creating content to spread awareness about inequality in America.

Work with an exec who “gets it.” Many in the nonprofit world wear several hats and find themselves adding PR liaison to the bottom of a long list of tasks. Work with that individual to make it easy for them to provide story fodder, access to execs, data and simple brainstorming. These individuals often hold the key to great untold stories, if you can find the best way to work with them to facilitate. Crack the code on that and you will find yourself with a wealth of PR opportunities for any nonprofit.

Attract boldfaced names if you can. But don’t count on their involvement as a sure thing or a task they will take on, gratis. Celebrities and influencers are bombarded by requests to speak on behalf of great causes every day. So, while their stamp of approval may go a long way to engage a potential donor base, their impact may also be diluted by having their likeness attached to several different organizations or brands. Often it works best to begin by offering support to a cause that your “dream” celebrity is already involved with and work to seed and nurture a relationship before seeking a formalized spokesperson arrangement.

Leverage leadership expertise. The top nonprofits are run the same way as top for-profit businesses, with smart management and efficient systems, but often much tighter budgets. The CEO of a well-run nonprofit is therefore in an ideal situation to impart thought leadership via bylines, conferences and positions on panels – not just in the philanthropic world, but more importantly, outside of their industry. The creative PR strategist will find these kinds of opportunities for nonprofit leaders opening new doors for potential media, donors and partners.

5 Ways To Keep Your PR Cool

The summer heat here in the Northeast has us thinking about the instances when it’s crucial to keep your PR cool. The scenarios are numerous — it could be in the midst of a live TV segment that’s going awry, a much-anticipated launch event where things aren’t working out the way you planned, or any number of small grievances that threaten to get you and your public relations team hot under the collar. Here are some of our favorite recommendations for keeping your cool when things get tough.

Improvise. Every public relations rock star has been known to pull tricks out of her back pocket on the fly. When things aren’t going as planned, be prepared to improvise. This happened to us a few years back, when a celebrity headliner failed to appear for a launch event due to unforeseen delays. Our team members were able to quickly tap into contacts who found a suitable high-profile replacement speaker, within hours. Participants at the event, including media, were none the wiser about the last-minute substitution.

Take a moment. A classic anger management technique, taking a few moments to hold one’s tongue and take a few deep breaths, does wonders for cooling down and wising up under pressure. A CEO of a technology startup we worked with used this technique during a live panel discussion when faced with an aggressive question about a hot-button issue. We had prepared in advance, but the atmosphere was tense. Our CEO took a moment to repeat the question, confirm that she understood what was being asked, and then provided a thoughtful, fact-based response. A question that was meant to fluster ended up showing off her savvy and cool: a PR win in that moment.

Recast the issue. That leads to another tactic, reframing the question or issue. When faced with irksome or irrelevant questions from media or others, it’s okay to disagree with the premise of what’s being asked. Reporters try to be fair, but they aren’t always objective, and often a clear opinion comes through in the phrasing of a question. If the tone is way off based on your own understanding of the issue, politely state your disagreement and offer a better explanation for how the issue should be perceived.

Bury the story. This isn’t so much a way to keep cool, as a way to avoid making a heated situation worse. Unfortunately it’s not uncommon for a story or social media thread to raise some negative or accusatory matters. If the story is relatively contained, sometimes it’s best to let it “go away on its own,” as we like to say. Get very aggressive in generating positive pieces that will bury the story, pushing it farther down the pipe, and all may be soon forgotten.

Channel the energy. When appropriate, after collecting oneself and returning to a calmer state, it’s useful to focus the energy generated by an upsetting event into something productive. It could be a blog piece on the very issue that was raised. A successful business owner we worked who happened to be a Muslim of Pakistani descent was occasionally the target of false accusations driven by ignorance. He penned several blog posts on the larger issue of stereotyping, offered ways to build greater understanding and awareness, and helped not only defuse the situation, but move the conversation forward in a way that was beneficial. It also happened to burnish his reputation as a leader — always a PR plus.