Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Milestones - 100 Days

I've always wondered why presidents seem fixated on their "first 100 days." I don't have an answer why 100 is a magic number, other than the fact that it's a nice, round, somewhat big number.

Why not 30 days? Or 90? That would make sense; it's a quarter - a measure used in business.

When I start working with a new client, I often get asked, "How long until we see results?" My advice never wavers. When it comes to a public relations campaign, you'll know if it's working within the first 60 - 90 days. If, in that time, there's no movement in terms of media interest, you're either (1) doing something wrong or (2) there's just no story.

At all costs, I avoid guaranteeing anything in terms of media coverage. My feeling is that any PR pro who guarantees hits is up to no good. You can have an incredible story, seemingly perfectly timed, with every piece in place, but then something bigger breaks and you're toast.

Just ask President Obama. His 100th day is tomorrow and, in all likelihood it will be overshadowed by swine flu.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Great PR Challenge - Telling your story in the face of tragedy

I use an online backup service called Mozy. Every once in a while, my files are automatically backed up and I don't ever have to think of it. This service was incredibly helpful when I upgraded to a new laptop and had to migrate tons of files.

What does this have to do with PR?

As a Mozy customer, I get the company newsletter, the most recent featured a piece about USAir flight 1549 that landed in the Hudson Rover. The newsletter briefly told the story of two passengers on the flight, one of whom backed up to thumb drives and the other to Mozy.

Both men had been backing up regularly. The difference is Jorgenson backed up online with Mozy, and Wiley backed up his two computers to thumb drives. Jorgensen retrieved his data back from Mozy, but Wiley lost 250 GB of his employer's information. The stories were detailed in USA Today and ComputerWorld.

Knowing how - and when - to tell your story is even more important than actually having a story to tell. Kudos to Mozy on doing it well.

The role of marketing during a recession

Nancy Koehn, a professor at Harvard Business School, says, "So [one lesson in downturns] is market, market. Don't cut back on marketing."

You can read the whole interview here.

Of course, I'm not going to disagree. I'll keep telling anyone who'll listen that they have to keep talking to their customers, prospects, employees, etc. Even when business is in the toilet. Maybe not every element of marketing is important, but the key is to communicate.

A colleague of mine pointed out that she's seen public relations budgets staying more or less the same with advertising plummeting. Why? The later costs a whole lot more.

Keep talking to the people you need to reach. Keep feeding them relevant information and they will reward you. Of that, I'm certain.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Waking Up Canadian

Think being Canadian is funny? It is.

The Canadian government has passed a law that says - on April 17 - citizens who were forced to renounce their Canadian citizenship when they became naturalized citizens of other countries, will automtically get their citizenship back.

Here's a brief announcement to help you understand the complexities of the law. And, because we're fair to all, here's another an additional explanation in a language you may better understand.

So, regardless of colour, race, creed, or neighbourhood in which you live, you're now Canadian, A to Zed.

(I am a bit curious about the homourous approach the government took. I mean, could it be that being Canadian simply means hockey, Mounties, moose and maple leaves? Maybe.)

PS - I'm Canadian, therefore I'm allowed to make fun.

PPS - No moose were harmed in the writing of this post.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Of Interviews - For Jobs and Media

With everyone looking for work these days, it seems like one thing there is no shortage of is advice on what to do to help you land a new job. Sure enough, yesterday's Wall Street Journal published an article on tips that will help you suceed if you are lucky enough to actually score an interview.

Some of the tips are patently obvious. ("Signal confidence by offering a firm handshake;" and "Show you've done your homework on the company.") As I read the piece, I couldn't help but think of the kind of advice we give to our clients as they prepare for media interviews. It struck me that, to a certain extent, preparing for a job interview is much like preparing for a media interview.

- Figure out what your key messages are and stick to them. In other words, know your story.
- Anticipate questions. If you have gaps in your resume, think about how you will explain them.
- Be ready to use concrete examples.
- There is definitely no such thing as "off the record."
- "Yes and no" answers will not serve you well, at all.
- "Flag" questions that you know you will answer well.

Anyone prepping for a job interview would be able to approach the experience with confidence, assuming they take the time to consider their key messages.

Just like in public relations.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Susan Boyle, Communications Expert

Today, like millions who watch all sorts of videos forwarded from friends and family, I was introduced to Susan Boyle.

Three seconds after she started to sing, the crowd went wild. Ten seconds later, they were on their feet.

What does this teach us about communications and public relations? I think we can draw a few conclusions, but I'll point to two I often repeat:

1. Public relations is about what you do and not about what you say. Susan said she was going to do well and no one in the theater believed her. But, her actions spoke louder than her words.

2. Conviction and belief in your messages is of paramount importance. Susan believed in what she came to do and, therefore, was admirably confident in her pre-performance delivery.

Do the right thing first and then make sure your messaging is correct. People can't ignore that.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

We're forgetting how to talk.

It turns out that people don't like voicemail anymore. Apparently, it takes up too much time and checking for messages is a complicated and arduous task.

Fascinating, but not really suprising in an era when Twitter is fast becoming a normal way to communicate. If you can't say it in 140 characters, then it's taking too long.

But, is that really communicating?

I think the challenge some people have with voicemail is that those who leave voice mail messages don't appreciate the importance of keeping messages succinct and to-the-point. Callers, somehow, are caught off-guard and aren't sure what to say or how to say it when they have to rely on the spoken word.

Here's my take: I think people are forgetting how to TALK to one another. Think about it. How many times do you get together with friends or family, only to have the people you're with texting, IMing or emailing throughout your conversation? I don't think people are too busy to talk or listen to voicemails, I just think people don't know how to relate to the spoken word, anymore.