Worst PR Technology Nightmares

As we’ve pointed out, PR pros use many tech tools to do their jobs on a daily basis. Most are used for internal and external communications, and they work well. Yet an accidental keystroke or a slip of the mouse can produce mortifying results. If anything, technology tools allow mistakes to travel faster and further then ever before. Here are some of the worst technology “horror stories” experienced by our team or by colleagues who wish to remain anonymous.

Video killed the audio star

Videoconferencing is indispensable for most businesses, but it’s not to be undertaken carelessly. A team member’s spouse was under the impression that his Zoom meeting with European colleagues was solely an audio connection. Because he feared running late for another appointment, he began to change his clothes as the conversation dragged on. Thankfully, he was warned by a startled meeting participant before he finished disrobing. Imagine being caught on video au naturelle as the boss talks about the quarterly P&L. As his spouse has warned us ever since, pay close attention to the screen icons and make good use of the mute button.

Use caution with calendar apps

Our calendars get cluttered when staff use their personal appointments to let coworkers know when they’ll be out of the office. But the funniest calendar slip-up happened to a friend of ours. She was annoyed with her high-powered spouse’s heavy work and travel schedule. They rarely saw one another and after two weeks, she was determined to send a message. She scheduled ‘have sex’ on his iCal to ensure he knew he was missed at home. But she sent it to his work calendar by mistake. At his company, all the admins share schedules for the department heads they work for, so all the assistants in his unit received the invitation. Embarrassing, maybe, but kind of sweet.

When Google Docs rats you out

What could wrong with something as ordinary as Google Docs? It’s a shared application, so the answer is, plenty. They’re great for collaboration, but when documents are inactive for a while, it’s easy to forget who else is in the mix. When editing a document originating with the client, or where they share access, it’s obviously best to keep snarky comments private. When a client or colleague rejoins the editing process, he may not be receptive to such, um, “candid feedback.” (See my colleague Matt and I having fun in this worst-case dramatization.)

Epic dial-in fail

In PR, voice calls are routinely used for client meetings and media interviews. Everybody experiences a wonky dial-in now and then, but some rise above the rest. Someone on our team had set up a highly-anticipated call between a client and a key journalist. The phone interview went swimmingly until an uninvited guest joined the call, signaled by the familiar “ding.” When another “ding” interrupted the interview, followed by several more, things became awkward. Each time, our colleague had to pause the interview to tell the mystery guests that they were on the wrong call. The dings seemed endless, leaving the client incredulous and the PR host horrified, though the reporter thought it was hilarious. Turns out another colleague had booked a call on the same line by mistake — with five celebrity chefs, another client, and two PR people. The takeaways: never double book a conference line. Also, celebrity chefs are divas.

Reply all 

Email is the PR pro’s best friend, but for many people, the group emails are out of control. A few of us have had the age-old experience of hitting “Reply All” to an email when we meant to respond to only one person. Our founder Dorothy confesses that she has twice sent a note meant only for the agency account team to a client by mistake in response to a client email. Fortunately, one was a neutral message and the other was urging the team on to better results, so there were no repercussions. But it’s worth remembering that the best rule for digital comms is to never put anything in an email or text that you wouldn’t want the world to see. Save the sensitive topics or personal critiques for face-to-face or phone meetings. Yet, if you’re wondering how to “un-send” an email see this C|Net article.

7 Must-Have PR Tech Tools

 

Web 2.0 has made the daily nuts and bolts of public relations work unrecognizable from a decade ago. Now, every public relations team needs reliable tech tools for media monitoring, instant messaging, task management, and media-list building, just to name a few. PR people routinely use apps for document design like BeFunky, the industry standard software Cision, and a wire distribution platform like PR Newswire. Some in our agency swear by sanity-preserving apps that have nothing to do with daily business, like Spotify and Calm (for meditation, which we still aspire to!) Apps and web tools come and go like Silicon Valley startups, and the choices can feel endless. Here’s our must-have list.

7 great tools for the tech PR workshop

Wunderlist

Crenshaw partner Chris Harihar swears that Wunderlist is the next best thing to having an assistant (insider tip: PR people do not typically have dedicated assistants). Wunderlist is pleasing to the eyes, and more user-friendly than Outlook’s “tasks” bar. It’s synced across all devices so it’s readily available to check at all hours of the night (insider tip: PR people work nights). Plus, it allows you to separate work lists from others like travel, chores – whatever the user deems necessary to keep life from spinning into chaos. You can toggle seamlessly your grocery list and the Q4 PR plan. Also, if you’re collaborating on a project with a coworker – as we always are – we can share lists using the app.

Mailtester

Cision’s media contact information should never been taken as gospel, since journalists, outlets, and email addresses are constantly in flux. PR pros can verify a reporter’s email address quickly by typing it into the single bar on the website www.mailtester.com. If the contact is elusive but you know the domain, you can test address combinations. Most domains allow access for this type of testing, although a few do not. Mailtester or one of the similar apps like EmailHunter is a lifesaver for most PR people.

Techmeme

Techmeme is a favorite news aggregator website for tech PR people. Every pro has her go-to channel for tracking news developments in technology. A quick glance at Techmeme.com or its e-newsletter brings you up to speed on trending conversations from outlets like The Verge, ArsTechnica, and Financial Times – as well as a list of upcoming tech conferences and events. Our own account supervisor Erica Schain says it’s the best place to get a summary in real time of what’s trending across the tech blogs, offering a bird’s eye view of what reporters are writing about. As a bonus, Techmeme launched its own podcast earlier this year, hoping to duplicate the roaring success of The New York Times Daily, a top podcast since 2017.

BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo remains a go-to tool to assist PR pros in keeping track of who’s writing about what topics, and the resulting social engagement from each placement. This tool is key for sniffing out gaps in the narrative that allow PR pros to find the right story angle to pitch. BuzzSumo pro plans allow one to identify influencers’ shared content, find backlink opportunities, and monitor brands and competitors’ content. A quick search returns a list of influencers on any given topic, along with several telling statistics, including domain authority and share percentage. Cost ranges from $79-$499 per month.

Slack

While heavy hitters like Microsoft (Yammer) are racing to develop applications to compete with Slack, and competitors like BaseCamp and Trello offer solid alternatives, it remains the best option for the Crenshaw Communications team for internal collaboration. We have separate channels set up for each client, and we can swiftly share links, images, and documents. Like many companies, we even have a dedicated channel for non work-related chat, where we might share a ridiculous pop culture story or gossip. Though Slack hasn’t yet unclogged email inboxes, it helps us make things happen faster — an absolute must in the world of New York tech PR.

UberConference

Remote voice and video communication are critical to PR work, from client meetings to media interviews. Every PR agency needs a versatile solution for meetings. UberConference allows for easy connections without pin codes and app downloads, and can be integrated with tools like Slack and LinkedIn. With the UberConference Business upgrade ($15/month), participants from 50 countries can call in. Further, the cloud software allows meeting participants to collaborate on documents during the call. Clearly, one of the great advantages of technology is its improvement of collaboration not only in PR, but all industries.

Survata

We encourage clients to tell data-driven stories that are mediaworthy and verifiable. Survata is an affordable market research company that advises on and executes surveys using its network of publishers and partnerships with research panels. An SMB can conduct market research with unlimited survey questions at a reasonable cost. We’ve found it a useful resource among the many options for customers surveys and newsmaking B2B opinion research.

How PR Can Boost Lead Generation

Public relations isn’t just for publicity, awareness, and reputation management. A company’s sales and marketing teams should consider PR as a lead-generation tool that can work in tandem with business development and paid advertising. Here are some things to consider when planning your next campaign.

PR as a lead generation machine

Earned media boosts SEO

If a CEO offers expert commentary – or a byline or guest blog post in a key media outlet, that content can earn valuable visibility and leadership positioning for the organization. What’s more, if the piece contains a link back to the company, it will boost its search ranking. PR content should be optimized for SEO, complete with thoughtful keyword placement and inbound link accumulation. But it’s not just about links anymore. Prominent brand mentions that don’t contain links can also drive higher search placement because Google sees them as implied links. Effective PR campaigns that drive earned media visibility maximize the impact of all media placements in a variety of ways, resulting in a 1 + 1 = 3 boost in SEO rankings that encourage desirable referral traffic. If you’re a PR pro needing a refresher, check out our earlier post on what PR people should know about SEO.

PR aids business development

Big wins in earned media can help elevate a brand into the consideration set of a customer who’s in the market. A brand’s own content and that of retail partners certainly help here, but features and reviews offer a credibility that can move a customer closer to conversion. Earned media mentions not only build brand awareness and credibility, but can display a company’s differentiation — another way media placements can reinforce lead generation.

Sponsored events join online and offline PR

A well-attended public relations event such as a discussion panel can generate leads through digital traffic and in-person attendance. Key media, industry colleagues, experts, and prospective customers are all target attendees. The event – and the company – may be promoted through mentions in the event’s collateral, and panelists’ and moderator’s communications, like social media and company website news pages – setting up opportunities for referrals. Plus, a solid company sponsored panel event will yield PR/marketing content such as video, media coverage, blog posts, social posts; and its discussion can be repurposed as bylines or white papers.

Public speaking can generate leads

Industry awards and conference speaking engagements are plum opportunities for an executive to earn respect and visibility from powerful industry peers – and build leads. A prominent conference may have big brand sponsors, which increase its visibility and domain authority. But the real leads come from the fact that conferences are often giant multi-day networking events during which a company has a stage for displaying its offerings and its expertise. Sometimes a key brand client will join up with the thought leader to talk about the company’s innovative services, conferring an added degree of prestige to the speaking engagement. Building relationships with like-minded colleagues, big brands, industry legends, analysts, and media can be key to stimulating new business opportunities.

If you write it, leads will come

Today, it’s all about quality content in both marketing and PR. A company’s best thought leaders should be writing as much as possible for use on owned media. Churning out optimized press releases, blog posts, LinkedIn posts, videos, white papers, and even business books can contribute to search rankings — while also helping to position a company as a knowledgeable authority. But PR writers should take care not to get keyword-obsessed. Quality and relevance have never been more important, given the sheer volume of content out there. The results can prove exponential, given that this content can be reused, repurposed, promoted on social channels – and yes, parlayed into earned media wins.

Customers are the best salespeople

Once a lead has converted, you have another potent PR and marketing tool: success. Customer reviews become case studies, and satisfied customers tend to spread the good word. Especially for B2B companies, case study testimonials are another trusted third-party endorsement that can be a lead generator — and perhaps even a closer. Marquee clients will often be glad to write a glowing testimonial – which the PR team will publish on the website, in blog posts, and on social channels. Not only that, but a key client can be tapped for inclusion in most PR tactics, from earned media, to bylined content, to prospect education and speaking opportunities where big brands are featured and “vendors” are frowned upon.

Mom’s Wisdom Makes Good PR Advice

good PR advice
Who knew that when mom was dispensing her pearls of wisdom that she was preparing you for a public relations career? In case you never noticed, moms generally handle PR duties for families. They’re the most concerned with public perception, social responsibility, and community relations. The truth is, our moms’ teachings apply to virtually every aspect of life. In honor of Mother’s Day, we celebrate how some of mom’s classic guidance makes for sound PR advice.

“Mom-splaining” maxims make best PR practices

“One day you’ll thank me.” It’s a phrase every child has heard and none have believed. But mom has her eyes on the future, so she doles out tough love. Like a seasoned PR pro, she sees the big picture and is more concerned with long-term outcomes than immediate rewards. Like a top-flight PR team, a good mom is never a yes-man. It’s no good for the client or the PR firm if the client insists on a poorly conceived tactic or activity. The PR team must be trusted advisors  – the type that have the confidence to tell you what you don’t want to hear, but need to know. Check out this post to find out how to tell a client they’re wrong.

mom's advice best PR advice
“Always use sunscreen.” The glare of media attention can burn if you’re not careful. It’s all about thinking ahead and being prepared. Whether your PR team secures a keynote speaker gig at a conference or a TV interview for your CEO, media and message training are key. Going into an interview with no knowledge of the reporter or outlet can end in disaster, especially in a corporate crisis. PR pros don’t make a move without slathering on plenty of research and careful consideration. For a deep dive on media training, see our earlier post.

mom's good PR advice
“Sit up straight. Learn to behave.” Mom knows a bad reputation will follow you wherever you go, whether deserved or not. She’s also aware that a negative image has more far-reaching ramifications than mere embarrassing whispers in the hallway. She wants you to conduct yourself in a manner befitting a good citizen in order to get jobs, have friends, and fit in. Similarly, corporate reputation is no longer an abstract concern for businesses; today, it’s likely to impact their market cap. There’s an actual and measurable dollar value represented by corporate reputation. Finally, mom’s advice to “be yourself” is her way of championing authenticity – another powerful force in corporate PR.

good PR advice“Play well together and share.” Kids usually need to be taught that chores are easier when shared, and some never learn to share their toys with good grace. But life is a collaboration, and that includes working in public relations. A lot of PR fingerprints can be found on a single piece of client work. When we get a client win, no one player deserves to stand on the podium. It’s a team sport, and teammates should share the toil, the glory, and, when things go awry, the blame. Mom knew that sharing wasn’t just about generosity for its own sake; it’s a work and life skill, as in this post about six steps to better media relations.

good PR advice
“Honesty is the best policy.” If you have a sibling, you likely blamed them at some point for something you did. Sometimes it might even work — for a while. But ultimately, the lie probably got you worse punishment than the deed. The same honesty a PR pro uses to push back is useful in admitting when he’s wrong. Honesty and transparency are themes in all aspects of good corporate communications. Truth earns trust, whether in media relations, coworker connections, or client partnerships. A quintessential rule of crisis communications is a swift and sincere admission of responsibility, followed by a make-good. When your mom taught you to fess up, she was preparing you for a career where transparency plays a role.

As the brilliant 2014 video PR campaign by American Greetings demonstrated, the job of mother is the world’s toughest job. Without her lessons on wearing sunscreen and not entering the pool after eating, PR would be a tougher job. Happy Mother’s Day 2018!

Hidden PR Tips In 5 Top Movies

Almost Famous (2000) — Media Relations

It’s the 1970s, and the mid-level rock band Stillwater is poised to make its Rolling Stone magazine debut. The iconic publication sends a 15 year-old reporter to travel with the band to write an in-depth piece. Initially, the musicians consider the music critic “the enemy” and refer to him by exactly those words. Both the inexperienced reporter and the naïve band members make the media relations mistake of getting too close to be objective. Of course, the band wants the article to portray them as musical geniuses – great PR! Instead, the journalist writes a warts-and-all article about the band – which the lead singer promptly disputes, making the reporter look bad. Eventually, the lead singer redeems himself and confirms the story — and Stillwater ends up on the cover of Rolling Stone. It’s good to have connections to the press — just don’t go on tour with them.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) – PR-Driven Promotion

At the confluence of advertising, marketing, and public relations was the genius stunt by the fictional Wonka Corporation to release golden tickets hidden inside their popular candy bars throughout England. The winners were granted a tour of the highly secretive chocolate factory and a lifetime supply of chocolate bars. Of course, sales skyrocketed and kids jammed candy stores clamoring for Wonka bars. Brilliant! It became a much talked about event; it was fun; and fit right in with the ethos of the Wonka brand. Media coverage of the golden ticket winners’ arrival at the factory gate was stellar. It’s a classic “chained product” stunt like the famous P&G anniversary promotion that put 2 million cubic zirconias – and 500 real diamonds – in packages of Spic and Span detergent. When a product promotion leads with a great idea, it tends to generate enough news coverage to sell the campaign.

Jerry McGuire (1996) – Reputation Management

NFL player Rod Tidwell, played by Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr., was known as an underachieving receiver with a big ego and mouth to match. His bad reputation prevented him from getting paid well and being able to support his family. Agent Jerry McGuire (Tom Cruise) accompanies Tidwell to the NFL draft despite the fact that Tidwell, as a league member, doesn’t need to be there. McGuire recognizes the draft as public event offering plenty of PR opportunity – including a chance for Tidwell to massage his poor image with a “walk-through” – an apology tour of light TV interviews. In the end, Tidwell’s best reputation move turns out to be on the playing field, where he works harder, plays better, and talks less –all with the cameras rolling. Sometimes a brand’s best PR move is to back up its claims with actions.

PR Crisis in movies
Buena Vista Pictures (1995)

Crimson Tide (1995) — Crisis Planning

How is a submarine thriller a study in PR? When it’s a crisis communications nightmare about the highest of high-stakes events: a nuclear attack. Plus, communications technology plays a crucial role in the plot.

A submarine captain played by Gene Hackman receives two messages – the first (EAM) “emergency action message” says to get ready to launch; the second says to launch missiles on Russia. However, the communications system is damaged, leaving the message fragmented: “subject: nuclear missile laun…” Regulations state that both the commander and the XO (Denzel Washington) must concur on the order to launch their nukes — a critical aspect of the plan. But Denzel’s XO refuses to launch until they see the full message. Hackman’s character, fearful of leaving the U.S. defenseless, orders the missiles launched. It turns out that the second message was a ceasefire order. What follows is a leadership struggle as Denzel’s character tries to have the order retracted.

The Crimson Tide takes us through all Norman R. Augustine’s six stages of crisis. The Navy had taken steps to foresee and manage a crisis event, starting with a full audit of the possibilities, and it has clear chain-of-command and concurrence policies, as seen in a crisis drill. Yet despite the procedures, preparation drills, and continual updates to internal stakeholders (the crew), the plan proves inadequate because it hinges on a compromise between two officers who cannot agree. In most time-urgent crisis situations, a clear chain of command works better than consensus.

The Godfather, Part II (1974) –  Government Relations

Michael Corleone moves his family to Nevada as part of a larger reputation management initiative to establish the enterprise as a legitimate business. In the sprawling opening scene, the Senator from Nevada accepts a large cash donation to a public university from Corleone at his son’s confirmation party. This solid public affairs maneuver would position the family as philanthropists and a socially responsible business. It would also curry favor with the government, easing approval of its gaming license. Of course, things don’t go as planned, since the Senator intends to “squeeze” the Corleones for more money. Soon afterward he is caught with a dead prostitute. It’s clear that public officials can be as corrupt as crime families, so one should be careful with whom you engage in government relations. Lesson learned!