How the Message Specialists Can Help

shutterstock_131357477I would be wealthy if I had a nickel for every time a member of the faculty, staff, administration or board said, “I didn’t realize you could help with that.”

Far too often, the marcom (marketing/communications) and public relations office is brought into a situation requiring communication to internal and external stakeholders late in the process. I have learned through experience that the more people understand what marcom professionals do, the better the outcome.Read full post...

If Taylor Swift Can Prevent a PR Crisis, So Can You.

Crisis communication can be handled by a PR team, but like anything it's better to avoid a crisis if possibleAs a communication major at the University of Delaware, I have endured endless lectures and read countless chapters about the importance of crisis communication. Any public figure, organization, or institution is vulnerable to a “crisis,” whether a serious threat to people or property or a blow to their reputation. Public relations professionals know that the best way to handle crises is to have a plan. Read full post...

Don’t lick my taco: dealing with the knuckleheads of social media

It can take you years to build a good reputation, but just one knuckleheaded social media post to destroy it.

It can take you years to build a good reputation, but just one knuckleheaded social media post to destroy it.

Those of us in PR know that social media is a force to be reckoned with. We use it for the good of mankind, quickly (and inexpensively) getting important messages out there to millions of people and creating a sense of community.

Other folks, not so much.

Cyberspace is being polluted more and more with images of fast-food workers shoving food up their noses or licking a stack of taco shells “behind closed doors.” Luckily, companies can fight this reputation-damaging lunacy by harnessing the power of the very source of this chaos — social media. Here are a couple of recent examples.Read full post...

Avoiding a Super Bowl halftime nightmare

After a slew of recent halftime scandals, network execs now bite their nails and hope the performer sticks to his or her script to avoid a PR nightmare!

Come Sunday, I — along with millions of other Americans — will be sitting on my couch surrounded by good friends, ice-cold beer and wings. My eyes will be glued to the nearest flat-screen to watch (and criticize) the Super Bowl halftime show. Aside from the advertisements, this spectacle is one of the main reasons many people even watch the Super Bowl. So it’s safe to say that the stakes are high.

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The (social) media is the message

Being proactive and using a different approach for each platform are key to social media crisis communication.

A powerful new weapon has been added to your crisis communications arsenal: social media.

Like all weapons, it can be used for good or evil. It can assure you of a swift victory over those who would defame your reputation. Or it can blow up in your face. Because social media can change public opinion — for better or worse.

In the old days, companies relied on traditional media to handle a crisis. In 1982, for example, Johnson & Johnson executed its revered Tylenol crisis communications plan, calling for a comprehensive recall of potentially poisonous product. J&J (and its PR agency) used traditional media outlets to spread the word. With the 24-hour news cycle was still in its infancy, the company reclaimed 70% of its market share within a few short months. Crisis averted.

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Gyms’ PR strategy doesn’t work out

In a world of 24-hour information, quality PR work is crucial.

When the Baltimore Colts moved out of town under the cover of darkness in 1984, the team pretty much cemented its place in the Bad PR Moves Hall of Fame. But last week, Bally Total Fitness took a page out of the Colts’ playbook anyway, completing a sale of 171 of its clubs to competitor LA Fitness — without telling its members. Other than a vague, one-paragraph statement on both companies’ websites, and two days’ notice of an early closing on November 30, gym members were given no information about the sale, or what it would mean for them.Read full post...

Communication in a Crisis


Many crisis situations entail change, surprise or the unexpected.

“In many ways, individuals and institutions get measured by their capacity to deal with change, surprise and the unexpected.” — Bob Woodward

Many crisis situations entail change, surprise or the unexpected. How do we as public relations professionals respond effectively? How do we blend the proper doses of textbook theory, gut instinct and level-headed judgment?

Over the course of my career I have dealt with a variety of “urgent” situations: product liability, white-collar crime, race and sex discrimination, life-threatening negligence by healthcare providers, environmental issues, and corporate downsizing, to name a few.Read full post...


Accidental tweets are easy fodder for journalists.

Have you ever posted something you regret on your Facebook or Twitter? Maybe you posted an inside joke on someone’s wall that was supposed to be for their inbox. Or you tweeted a quote after a long night out that wasn’t as funny in the morning. Or — my personal favorite — you searched for someone on your Blackberry Facebook app, without realizing you posted his or her name as your status?Read full post...

Dear Netflix:


Ball’s in your court, Netflix.

I remember when you first came out. You sent me unlimited DVDs in the mail each month, three at a time. Then you offered cheaper plans with fewer DVDs. Then came streaming videos — for free! — to compete with Redbox, free online streaming websites like Hulu and Fancast, On Demand content that comes with cable, and other streaming video rental applications like Vudu and Blockbuster On Demand. Life was sweet.Read full post...

Oh, what a feeling (to work in Toyota’s PR department)!

Toyota relies on brand legacy during times of trouble

Talk about a summer of discontent. It seems that almost every week, another Toyota vehicle recall is announced. And it feels like no make or model year has dodged (pardon the pun) the recall bullet.

For instance, in April 2010, 50,000 Toyota Sequoias were recalled to reprogram the stability control system. In July, more than 400,000 Avalons and LX-470s got the hook for faulty steering column components. The latest recall involves a potential stalling problem affecting 1.3 million Corollas and Matrix cars. (I love it when a company spokesperson states the recall repairs will be performed “at no cost to consumers.” Oh, the generosity!)Read full post...

Is Tiger out of the woods yet?

Tiger should have taken advice from a PR professional.

Tiger should have taken advice from a PR professional.

Everybody’s weighing in on how Tiger Woods should have handled his recent scandal. Public relations professionals argue that he should have gotten ahead of the tabloids and issued a statement right after his accident. Lawyers and agents maintain that the man has the right to keep his personal life private and is not obligated to comment on these issues.

Clearly, Tiger had something to hide. As a PR professional, I knew that if and when he decided to talk, his very personal problems would become very public. And when US Weekly announced that it was releasing voicemail messages that proved his “transgressions,” Tiger finally took advice from PR people and came clean.

In this day of the 24-hour news cycle, Tiger would’ve been better off admitting his “sins” a week ago. The story would be over by now. But because he remained mum, reporters continued to dig and to speculate — and his silence became part of the story. Now that the truth is out, Tiger has taken control of the message and the worst is over for his public image. His sponsors are standing by him and he will still go down in history as the world’s greatest golfer. Let’s see if he can find a PR professional who can help him on the home front.