Communication is the Pulse of Life!

Client Management

Activism – The New ‘Sex’ that Sells

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It’s out with sex and in with activism; marketing and branding specialists alike have dubbed 2017 as the year that “activism comes of age”.

Following a series of polarizing elections and debates, it’s clear that the world is now more divided than ever. Demonstrations, protests, and marches fill our streets and dominate the conversations on our social media feeds – there simply is no avoiding the topic of activism. Fuelled by millennials – who see themselves as active agents of social change – this wave of social activism has set off new ripples in the marketing world.

It’s gone beyond supporting a cause – audiences are now demanding that everyone else does the same. And while this may present a risk of alienating segments of their consumers, brands are beginning to dip their toes into politics. The potential virality of brand activism in the era of social media marketing has helped brands gain more exposure, attract new customers and cement old loyalties. In most cases, the benefits far outweigh the harm.

No longer excused from sidestepping conversations about pertinent socio-political issues, it does little good for a brand to remain sitting on the fence. Take Uber for instance. Earlier this year, the company suffered a major setback after the hashtag #DeleteUber trended worldwide on Twitter. Close to 200,000 users deleted or deactivated their accounts within minutes, following allegations that the company was endorsing Trump’s controversial immigration policies by remaining neutral during protests. Meanwhile, in announcing its $1 million donation to the American Civil Liberties Union, Lyft (Uber’s competitor) received high praise for its denunciation of Trump’s outrageous executive order. By the thousands, angry consumers began switching their allegiance to Lyft and within hours, the company saw a drastic expansion of its user base – exceeding the numbers of Uber for the first time.

Riddled by heightened emotions and drastic political changes, consumers want to be more involved – associating themselves only with brands that share the same ideologies and values. Consumers are making their voices heard with their wallets: every purchase is a political statement. Thus, explaining the biggest rise in brand activism observed in the history of marketing and advertising. But riding this wave seems a lot easier said than done. While brands like Heineken and Dove have successfully crafted campaigns around the importance of unity and feminism respectively, others like Pepsi have completely missed the mark.

Heralded as “The Great Pepsi Shakeup” the three minute Ad was quickly pulled following the global #boycottPepsi on Twitter. Commentators on social media were understandably aggrieved – accusing Pepsi of appropriating imagery from the real protests and completely undermining the dangers and frustrations of these group of people. In attempting to resonate with the millennials, Pepsi completely neglected the most important aspect of brand activism: sincerity. Attempting to “join the conversation” (as preached) without discussing real issues, portrays the brand as opportunistic and more detrimentally, offensive.

Following this fiasco, Heineken, on the other hand, made a political statement of their own with a video titled “Worlds Apart: An Experiment.” Six strangers, each with diametrically opposed socio-political views were paired and encouraged to foster an understanding and open friendship despite their differences. Where Pepsi enraged, Heineken pulled at the heartstrings of its viewers. In this, there are two key differences:

(a) Heineken’s Ad discussed real controversial issues concerning transgender rights, climate change, and feminism while Pepsi adopted a more generic claim for unity and peace – whilst appropriating the imagery of real protests.

(b) Heineken proposed an actual, practical solution of encouraging discourse and fostering understanding despite our differences, instead of portraying themselves as the miraculous solution to all problems.

Gone are the days where sex was enough to sell. In the advent of progressive political changes, consumers and audiences alike have become more politically engaged, often interacting on social media where reputations are made or lost within a matter of minutes – aka the age of the millennials. Ultimately, as much as consumers love thought-provoking ads that tackle the real-world issues we face today, brands should always remind themselves that sincerity and authenticity should underlie all efforts geared towards harnessing the power of brand activism.

Posted by Roselynda Afandi, CorpMedia


Keeping Cool in Hot Weather

 

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“You can’t have a business without having clients and unfortunately, where there are clients, there are also ‘difficult’ clients.”

You can please some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time. Every business that provides a service, will no doubt, encounter a few disgruntled personalities along the way. As public relations professionals, we’ve all had that experience. Some clients are a breeze to work with. Others can be extremely difficult – the kind that makes you cringe every time their number lights up on your mobile. You know, the ones who drain your energy, criticize and complain incessantly about something you’ve worked on diligently (and see real value in), or an overly needy client who calls at least twice a day to find out why they aren’t in that society magazine yet!

PR is difficult at times. You’re in the middle of everyone, the diplomat between the client and the marketing spiel and between the journalist and the story. So suddenly having to deal with someone being nasty or unreasonable is just one thing that you don’t need. But how do you handle it, when the client is paying the bill?

Dealing with difficult people is essential to our success. When dealing with difficult people, specifically a client, it might seem that keeping peace and our sanity is a tough, if not impossible, task. So how do you find the right balance?

Bottom Line: You bend over backwards when appropriate but you also learn to put your foot down when needed. Even though you may be holding the phone on one end, biting your tongue and stabbing that notepad with your pen, you can turn this around! Here are some helpful tips on how to deal with difficult clients.

Be Open, Be Clear

When dealing with a client, it is better to be clear about expectations at the start of the new business relationship. This is your opportunity to share what type of reporting, results and communication your new client can expect from you. Have an honest conversation about the amount of communication that is most comfortable to your clients and what your agency can provide. However, even clients who appear pleasant, understanding and accepting in the beginning, can become challenging once the contract is signed. It is important to know that while you should aim to be a valued partner, not all requests are feasible. Don’t be afraid to tell your client no – but with good reason. Explain why their request is not realistic or possible. You cannot please everyone all of the time and that’s a fact.

Worth the Trouble

Some clients will send a rude email – out of the blue! Or you may get a harsh tone on your voice mail on a weekend. Then it’s time to ask yourself this question, “Is it me?” If not, it’s worth your while to check in on your client. Ask probing questions to find out what is really bothering him. It could be that he’s going through something that is affecting his personal life, or it could be a trickle down “telling off” from his boss that has nothing to do with you or your work. Be kind, lend your ears and see if there’s anything you can do to help. Sometimes it does have everything to do with you. If this is the case, have an honest conversation with your client, and with yourself. Perhaps, you need to assess and amplify your own efforts.

You are the Expert

For clients that call for constant updates or to give you their own PR ideas (ridiculous as they may seem), remember you are the expert, hired to do the job. Don’t be arrogant – you can either take the ideas into consideration (if worth exploring), or politely give your views as to why they cannot be executed, for e.g. it would end up in the editors’ trash. Explain why you were hired in the first place – because of your specific expertise. Perhaps, this is also a good time to share more information and updates on what you’ve been doing to assure your clients that you’re on top of things and have their best interests at heart. More importantly, assure them that you know what you’re doing.

Be Proactive and Supportive

It’s quite common for some of my clients to reach out to me for advice on matters not related to the work we’re doing. Don’t turn away. If you can help with some input to a web design or business question, become an ally and take the time to problem-solve with them. Or refer them to someone who’s in a better position to help. By offering a solution and assisting with other tasks, you show that you care about their business. This not only builds rapport but also trust and this goes a long way in building a good, long-lasting relationship with your client.

Time to Let Go!

Unfortunately, the client is not always right. If your client is consistently being difficult and your personalities just don’t mesh, then it may be time to take the “D” out and let difficult clients go. While it’s important to do whatever it takes to keep a client within reason, you, as the expert in your field, get to define what is or isn’t working.  If your client is making your team miserable, taking up a lot of time better spent working on clients who do respect your work, it might be time to set you both free.

Whatever you decide, always be professional and polite. Be as honest as you can without getting too personal.

For the most part, PR pros love their clients and probably spend more time with them than they do their family. A PR agency should act as an extension of the client’s team. Your interactions with your client should build on one another – after all, you’re ultimately interested in a long-term relationship with your clients, and that is what you should strive for.

Posted by Irene Gomez, Corporate Media


Gen Z: The Voice of a New Generation

Humans have long corralled themselves into generational categories with the belief that one’s social, economic time-period and environment will effectively shape them into individuals with similar interests and behavior. Baby Boomers were conceived in the muddled post-World War II canvas and groomed into nonconforming liberals whilst Generation Xers alternated between their divorced parents’ homes apathetically. Online marketers in recent years have shortsightedly been clamouring for the attention of Millennials, aka Generation Y, who represent the highest proportion of online spending compared to any other cohort. As pioneers of the most disruptive invention of all, the Internet, they were the ones who molded it, and in return, it ultimately molded them.

With the spotlight trained on the founders, many have missed the opportunity that lies in the hands of the next generation, the same smartwatch clad hands dexterously juggling a tablet and a mobile phone while taking a selfie. When companies started recruiting 19 year olds as the foremost experts on this outspoken generation, we know that we are witnessing the dawn of a new age. Gen Y slowly incorporated the web into their lifestyles, but Generation Z (Gen Z) was born, fully submerged into the assimilation of notifications. Eighty-one percent of these aptly named “digital natives” are on social media at least three hours a day, making success more contingent on competent digital marketing than ever.

Gen Z are rapidly becoming a critical audience for marketers and brands to understand. Even if they aren’t your target group at the moment, they soon will be. In a couple of years, nearly 4 in 10 consumers will be from Gen Z, and their purchasing power will rise exponentially over the next 5 to 7 years as they grow to be the single largest group of consumers worldwide. They are forming their spending habits now which can influence their habits into adulthood. Appealing to this group can have a huge impact in a company’s long-term customer retention and brand loyalty.

So what does it take to really capture the attention of Generation Z? Let’s take a closer look.

Snap, Swipe, Share

Gen Z thrives on the edge of fast communications. Six second Vines, 140 character tweets, emojis and Snapchats – tapped once and gone into the ether. For brands, this means creating bite-sized, visual content that Gen Z can quickly digest and process. The more bite-sized pieces of information you can get to Gen Z, the further along their path to purchase you can push yourself.

The one thing Gen Z appreciates more than succinct communications is curating their own content. As a form of self-expression, these individuals enjoy taking charge and personalising their own content. Additionally, brands that utilise or acknowledge these consumer creations portray themselves as active listeners and genuinely caring about their customer’s wants.

Purchasing Power

Gen Z may not have a lot of its own money (yet), but this doesn’t necessarily mean they lack purchasing power. According to brand strategy firm, Sparks and Honey, the average upwardly mobile Gen Z receives an allowance of $16.90 per week, which collectively adds up to $44 billion a year. In addition to pocket money, they exert considerable influence on household purchases and family spending compared to previous generations.

What this means is that marketers need different approaches to gain the attention of the Gen Z. In the past, most ad dollars were spent on TV, radio stations, and newspapers. But to reach Gen Z, companies will need to spend more to create videos and other content that provides useful information, entertains, and otherwise impresses them enough that they share with families, friends, and followers.

Making CSR the Norm

An Inconvenient Truth” opened the eyes of unsuspecting Millennials but Generation Z grew up in an already unstable world of conflict. Fuelled by current events, they seek to create value and social change for the world through the products they purchase. This group places a higher priority on the quality of a product and how environmentally friendly it is rather than being blindly loyal to a brand. As most Gen Z research products and services prior to purchase, they become privy to the company’s practices, history, and reputation.

After too many lapses in safety and accounting, businesses must now prove themselves by being transparent and relatable. One way is to allow real customers themselves to create content, feedback, and reviews as a means of advertising the company authentically. Following in the footsteps of TOMS Shoes, businesses must start incorporating a social aspect to their business whether it be employee community service or through the triple bottom line approach in order to penetrate these increasingly knowledgeable and ethical customers.

Embrace Diversity

Gen Z is expected to be the most racially diverse generation. While Millennials in their own right are a pretty diverse group, Gen Z will view the increasing diversity in a more positive light. With more friends from different ethnic backgrounds than older generations, brands will have to amp up their multicultural marketing strategies to make their brands relevant to a wider range of ethnic groups.

Gen Z are growing up in a post-9/11 world and in a global economic recession, resulting in a demographic that is very socially conscious. They will expect nothing less from brands. Brands that can form a connection with this diverse group will have the most success. To do this, brands will have to incorporate various, yet consistent, messages that highlight diversity across a variety of platforms.

Point to Note: Gen Z’s everyday lives blend seamlessly with their lives on social channels, and many of their defining characteristics stem from this continuity.  Marketers will have to try harder than ever to interact authentically with this generation of consumers, but if they do, they’ll be rewarded by an audience that loves engaging with brands and championing their products.

Posted by Arwika Ussahatanon, Corporate Media


2016: Time to Unwrap Your Potential

2016: Time to Unwrap Your Potential

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Another year has come and gone! Is it me or did 2015 just slipped us by? Again!

Now that 2016 has arrived, many of us are tentatively jotting down resolutions for the new year. Along with personal goals like doing more physical activity and watching less Reality TV (none hopefully in the near future!), I’m sure you’ve spent the final weeks of 2015 refining your business strategy, so much so that you’ve probably not had the chance to reflect.

Fret not, here are some resolutions any PR specialist (PRs) will need to make 2016 their year:

Dump the creativity

Thinking outside the box is so passé. While those so-called creative experts may try to convince us otherwise, we all know that the best ideas come when we’re alone, seconds to the deadline, wired with lots of caffeine. But, in an era where the process is everything, any PRs worth their salt needs to at least play along with the notion of collaboration. 2016 is the year to embrace the brainstorm for what it is – group therapy with a flipchart – and save your real critical thinking for your alone time.

 Connect with your audience

PRs should live and breathe the organizations they represent. You may have tried a bit of client immersion in the past, but 2016 is the year to get your “Freak On” as the song goes. Starting on a new hip alcohol brand? Unleash your inner youth – listen to “Five Seconds to Summer” until you know all the words to their songs, watch the MTV Video awards again and again, go drinking in the millennial club. It probably won’t make your work any better nor your head, but it’ll definitely get you a step closer to “connecting with your audience.”

 Talk the talk

Touch base, flag up, check-in, sell-in, reach out….. You’ve tried long enough to avoid using PR-speake, but my friend, you know deep down you’re fighting a lost battle. Sure, these phrases don’t really mean anything, but hamming up the industry lingo is guaranteed to boost your clients’ trust in you and make your senior management team take notice. Use it enough, and you may start to believe in yourself too.

Don’t shy away

If there’s one thing we can guarantee in 2016, it’s that another viral craze will come along demanding we stick ourselves to one digital platform or another – probably in the name of some charity. As a professional bandwagon jumper, it’s important for you to be one of the first to get involved – just make sure you’re not the last.

Tweet/post/blog/vlog

In the same way a pencil makes no noise as it drops unless you’re there to hear it, your hard work means nothing without a steady stream of online updates. The trick to curating a strong professional feed is a lot easier than you think. You don’t need to read articles before you share them, just make sure your post is snappy and includes a personal comment, e.g. “Interesting read … ” or “Great piece from HBR blog… ” Looking like you enjoy your job is also key – jokes and group photos will help build your online brand.

Update your LinkedIn

With top companies trawling the site for talent and ideas, it’s time to embrace the cringe. Add pictures, join groups, and list skills – both abstract (creativity, team work) and specific (blogs) – then watch as the business roll in.

 Rise above the norm

2016 is the year of big picture. Avoid getting bogged down in too much of the nitty-gritty by becoming an expert in delegation. The key here is in packaging it up as empowerment. Empower your juniors to take more ownership of administrative details. Empower your seniors to use their specialist knowledge. In no time at all, you’ll have empowered your way to a clear plate and have more time to focus on improving your own skillset.

Happy New Year! May the Force Awaken in Each and Every One of Us!

Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, CorpMedia


JUMP ON BOARD THE PR-SEO TRAIN

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Search engine optimization (SEO) strategies have changed so much in the decade that the industry is starting to cross over into another popular industry – public relations (PR). Traditional PR agencies, on the other hand, are finding that they’ll have to adapt and work closely with social media to gain that competitive edge.

Historically, PR and SEO have worked in parallel as two separate practices. Now, the walls are coming down and each serves as one important piece of a larger digital marketing puzzle. With the common goal of reaching targeted audiences in a highly relevant way, SEO and PR professionals are learning the value of working together, implementing new tools and practices to exceed previous goals and expectations.

Content is the common denominator between SEO and PR, and the reality is that SEO is no longer a technical skill. In a world where dependence on technology is rapidly growing, PR and SEO can no longer exist on separate teams. Instead, it’s time for them to collaborate.

When PR practitioners use SEO appropriately, they’re more likely to draw their target audiences to their relevant and quality content. SEO is the most underutilized skill and strategy by the PR industry. This is actually a huge opportunity because PR pros aren’t using SEO the way they could be, so there’s really less competition out there, even from some Fortune 500 companies that have yet to jump on board. Small businesses tend to benefit from this merger as well.

What is becoming clearer is that SEO and PR need to work hand-in-hand to take on the largest search engine – Google.  Google after all dictates SEO rules!  A brand’s PR team should be aware of these trends and work with the media outlets they want coverage from so that they can help fill in the gaps and make reporters’ lives easier.  The majority of, if not all journalists, start off a story by doing a Google search.

What approach can PR agencies take to ensure that they make the most of the modern digital marketing space?  Well, for starters, throwing keywords at social media tactics isn’t quite the same thing as developing and implementing a plan to reach specific goals. Dropping links to news being promoted on social networks can have an impact but is difficult to sustain. You’ll need to consider the long-term value with SEO and social media to get the most of out of your public relations.

Here are ways you can integrate the two practices to create maximum boost for you/your client’s business:

  1. Identify your target audience. What are their behaviors and preferences for content, sharing, and media types? What keywords are used in a social and search context? Empathize with their content preferences and the context in which they consume and share. A blogger may have different preferences than say, a newspaper journalist.
  1. Set specific goals and measurable objectives. These include the number of mentions, comments, links, rankings, traffic, media coverage or other “engagement” metrics. Leverage tools from search engine optimization and social media marketing to track Web-based metrics.
  1. Determine your mix. For example, blogs, social networks, media sharing, and micro-blogging, to support and execute the strategy. Original content is great but often not practical or sustainable, so consider content curation mixed with original content for better results.
  1. Identify specific social tools to use. If social networks are the right channel, then determine which network works best – Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram? If you add video to the mix, is distribution limited to YouTube or does it make sense to syndicate to Vimeo or other channels?
  1. Set measurement tools in place. Web analytics and social media monitoring services are essential for collecting useful and reportable outcomes from news SEO and social promotion.
  1. Identify key individuals and resources to implement. Forecast time, internal reporting, and feedback mechanisms. The most effective social media SEO efforts for PR involve the agency or PR professionals working together with content creators, SEOs, marketers and others in a position to publish and promote content online.

Final thought: The word “optimization” can be defined differently from the early days to now, but one thing remains constant: SEO is essential to any digital marketing plan, and therefore, to any PR strategy. Without optimization, a website would inevitably fall further down search engine results pages and ultimately be ignored.

Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, CorpMedia


Taming the Beast – Managing Client Expectations

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Every firm has that one client – the one who monopolizes your time, frustrates all the other staff or makes unreasonable demands. But are your clients always right and should you always accede to their request?

I had a recent encounter with a client who was head-on adamant on holding a press conference to announce the arrival of their top management. The only issue was that there was no big news to announce at the event. After all, journalists are looking for something newsworthy or ground-breaking to report on.  Announcing a visit merely for the sake of it is neither. He just wanted to provide some publicity for the company to appease the higher ups.  Only after several cycles of persuasion did our client finally surrender!

The key to thriving in this type of environment is keeping it cool and managing priorities well to manage your clients’ expectations. Here are a few tips that can help you when your workload is on the verge of overwhelming you.  But first, let’s take a look at the 5 common personality types.

1. The Indecisive

These clients have a constant change of heart. They may say one thing now, but the moment you turn around, they decide on something else, on a whim and fancy.

Quick Fix: Keep an open line of communication and work out the reasoning behind the new direction. Sometimes, clients may need someone to set their thinking straight. But if the behind-the-scene action has already begun and the client refuses to meet you in the middle, it may be time to whip out the original contract and bill them for the extra work.

2. The Lagger

It’s not just about meeting deadlines but these clients continue to ignore your endless requests for information, simply because they can’t get their act together.

Quick Fix: Insist on an alternative point of contact. Riding on the agreed timeline, stay on top of them by sending reminders via email and following-up with phone calls. Help them to understand that the more cooperation you receive, the better the result.  Mark your emails as high priority (if urgent). It is important to cover all bases so that you’re able to do your job effectively for your client.

3. The Know-It-All

These clients come to the table with an extremely specific approach with little room for ideas.

Quick Fix: Re-establish your respective roles. As much as you might want to take the “Serve You Right” action, approach the situation with a focus on solutions. The client’s ideas may not always make sense. It is incumbent upon you to be frank about what works and what doesn’t. Dig up relevant real-life examples, if you need to, to convince your client.

4. The Demander

Possessing the general lack of awareness on the space-time continuum, these clients demand the impossible. To them, this is your area of expertise so you have the power to move oceans.

Quick Fix: Provide the client with a schedule of tasks, deliverables and let them know when they can expect to see results. Clearly outline the project scope and carefully calibrate expectations at the beginning of each engagement. Keep them informed on the project’s progress and discuss complications as and when they arise.

5. The Adhesive

Thinking they are your only client, these people believe they deserve 100% of your time. They may send you emails at 3 am and schedule meetings after work hours.

Quick Fix: Establish clear timetables and communicate, through progress reports, emails, and meetings. Don’t be afraid to say no if they encroach on your time or that of your team’s.

Working in the communications industry, can be a bit stressful at times. Whether you’re in-house or at an agency, you can oftentimes be pulled in multiple directions at the same time for items that all have the same priority levels. It’s the nature of the beast.

Posted by Stephanie Robert, Advocate(PR), CorpMedia


Making 2015 The Best Year Yet!

Happy New Year 2014

There’s something about a new year!  Doesn’t it get you excited?  New dreams, new goals, resolutions, plans, and new directions.

The start of a new year is always filled with optimism and excitement.  Many will see it as yet another opportunity to make significant improvements to their lives – losing weight and giving up smoking usually topping the list.

As we say goodbye to 2014 and welcome a new year, it’s time to reflect, assess and chart a new successful path. We’ve come up with a shortlist of important PR resolutions to start you off.

  1. New brooms sweep clean. If your PR strategy runs in line with the calendar year, it’s time to revisit this essential plan and freshen it up. Rethink your business objectives for the year ahead, and ensure your PR strategy aligns with these goals. Review the success of last year’s strategy, and look for ways to build on successes, strengthen any weak areas, and don’t be afraid to learn from your mistakes. If you don’t have a strategy in place, now’s the perfect time to create one.  Don’t put if off any longer!
  1. Ring in the old, ring in the new. Yes we are talking about new media and technology. You know you can’t run away from it, so just EMBRACE!  Social media has and will continue to rise. It is plastered on our foreheads with a V as in Vital.  It is an effective communications tool for most businesses and organizations today. Find ways to use this medium to the max.  Explore the opportunities social media creates for businesses, and expand your online presence by embracing new platforms that support your business objectives. Once you’ve determined which platforms are best suited for your business, dedicate time to making them work.  But don’t turn your back on traditional media.
  1. Value your clients. Your clients and customers are the lifeblood of your business.  Make sure you look after them well – communicate, engage, reward!  Continue to engage them on issues that impact their business through the various communications channels.   For the new year, perhaps it may be wise to review the relationship – is there something you could provide to add value to the business?  Don’t wait to be asked.   And you may want to reward customers for their support and loyalty – gift baskets, concert tickets?  Acknowledge with gratitude!
  1. Amp up your image. Take a proactive approach to strengthening or raising your company’s profile. Keep an eye out for ways to improve your company’s image and reputation. Editorial opportunities can position you as a thought leader, and make you stand out in a crowd.  Make the necessary improvements to enhance your public image and keep striving to be the best while remaining competitive.  People will stand up and notice!

Last but not least, use the fresh optimism and energy that come with a brand new year to create a strong foundation for the year ahead. This will not only improve your chances of a successful 2015, it will put you in good stead for subsequent years of success.

Wishing you great success and happiness in 2015!

Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, CorpMedia.


Breaking Bad – Turning Negative Publicity Around

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A well thought out and executed PR campaign is critical to successfully launching a product or business. Do it well and a PR program can help create awareness, drive initial sales and create lasting excitement.  Do it wrong and you waste a whole lot of money, and risk damaging a product’s reputation for success.

Case in Point: Abercrombie & Fitch made the mistake of insulting their market when they attacked Jersey Shore’s “The Situation.”  What’s even worse – they wanted the star of the hit reality series to stop wearing their clothes!  Really!  If you’ve ever walked past an A&F store, then there is no mistaking as to who shops there – cool cats and party girls, aka the MTV generation.  While A&F thought they were being clever by insulting the beloved TV star, it turned out to be a huge PR disaster.  A&F’s stock fell 15% as a result of the PR stunt, proving that biting off the hands that feed you is not very smart.

We all know that publicity is what a company receives when something notable happens.  When the event is good, the publicity usually attracts new clients and gives the company something to brag about. On the other hand, there’s also the dreaded negative publicity. Unlike the positive feeling brought about by good publicity, negative publicity can leave the company and the public feeling badly.

Most of the time, bad publicity is unintentional. A company does something they think is positive and end up getting a bad reaction. Other times, the negative publicity comes from a competitor who makes an effort to create bad news about you or your business.  When that happens, don’t fret.  Take a deep breath.  Know that like everything else in our lives, there are ways to turn the negativity around.

Create a response strategy

Turn a bad customer review into something positive by creating a response strategy. Whenever possible, reach out to the customer first, address the issue, and work towards an amicable solution. A bad review is a great opportunity to internalize important customer feedback and develop your business.

Tackle negative press head-on

Stay on top!  Look out for trends in the bad press, so that you’re always prepared should (touch wood!), something bad happen to you or your business.  Where possible, address the bad press and share your sincere attempts to remedy the issue. We all make mistakes – so own up and take responsibility. It’s what you do after the mistake that matters. Businesses that project an image of integrity and honesty are usually businesses consumers want to support.

Respond quickly but thoughtfully

When things go wrong, a day is too long. Be aware of the phenomenal speed at which information spreads, especially via social networking sites, and take quick action to counter bad publicity. For example, if there’s a glitch in the software you’re launching, don’t wait for user complaints to spread virally.  Instead use online forums to alert them and explain what you are doing to address the problem. It shows customers, suppliers and other stakeholders that you are taking your responsibilities seriously and it also helps to defuse a situation before it gets too out of hand.

Stand up

Don’t be afraid to counteract inaccuracies. For example, if you are aware of a Twitter campaign against you, tweet your version of the story. Contact editors if incorrect information has been published, and use your own website and social media presence to dispel misconceptions.

Keep calm

Easier said than done, you might say.  But as PR practitioners, we know that it is essential to keep a level head in the face of a firestorm.  In case of a bad online review, sometimes we need to take a step back and remind ourselves that we can’t please everyone all of the time. Take the opportunity instead to fix something that may be wrong with the business.

Launch a positive campaign

Bad PR doesn’t have to stick in everyone’s minds; it can be replaced by positive thoughts of an organization.  Take action and go on a positive press campaign. Issue a press release about the good things your company is doing, for example, supporting a charitable cause. Go a step further – get your happy customers to go online and write reviews and before you know it, people will start thinking positively about your company again.

While it may seem impossible to get over negative publicity, there are ways to turn things around and manage the situation. The first step is not to panic. Figure out the source of the negativity and see if you can diffuse the situation. If it’s serious enough, you may need to consult with your legal team. Once you’ve started to quell the flames, it’s time to rebuild your image and get the public to forget. Eventually, a new scandal or interesting story will emerge that makes your bad publicity old news. Once that happens, focus on moving forward and preventing negative publicity in the future.

Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, Corporate Media


Looking Your Best On Camera

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In any walk of life, be it business or pleasure, leaving a good impression is truly priceless. And in this day and age, the press has the power to make or break reputations. To this end, we have put together a few starter tips for those keen to take full advantage of their encounters with the media.

  • White shirts “glow” in the studio lights and will distract viewers from what you’re saying. Pastel colors are better suited. Patterns look strange on camera; stick with solids. Jackets and sweaters are advised, because they give producers a place to fasten your microphone and hide the cord. Women: Avoid heavy, dangling necklaces that might interfere with the microphone’s sound. Men: Keep your jacket buttoned and wear knee-length socks to cover your legs when you’re sitting.
  • Stay away from wearing too much red (accessories are fine); it doesn’t photograph well and can throw off skin tones.
  • If wearing a jacket, it’s a good idea to sit on the back hem to avoid bunching at the back of the neck.
  • Extensive make-up is usually not necessary. However, a little is often recommended for both men and women. For example, to minimize shine under bright lights, the use of a neutral powder is a good idea.  Since very blond eyebrows tend to disappear on camera, using light brown eyebrow pencil will add definition.  Again, this goes for both men and women.
  • If you tend to react to stress with a case of “dry mouth,” a little vaseline rubbed on the front teeth will help keep your lips from sticking.
  • In a group discussion, turning your head from side to side can make you look shifty. Turn with your upper body.
  • You’ll sound more confident and get your message across more clearly if you speak slightly slower than normal. Also, answer questions succinctly, then pause. You will be asked for more details if desired.
  • Remember, your body movements are magnified on TV.  If you are sitting while interviewed, try to lean slightly forward with your hands either lightly folded, resting on a table, or placed lightly on the armrests. Keep gestures small and controlled. Try to communicate stronger emotions with your eyes.
  • Camera lenses play tricks with light. The closer you are to the camera the heavier you will appear. Never allow yourself to be photographed by a camera closer to you than 3 feet. The farther you are from the camera the thinner you will look.
  • Since depth is an illusion on television you should always strive to provide depth with your body. If the camera shoots you straight on you will appear to be wide and flat. By keeping one shoulder slightly closer to the camera, you will appear to be three dimensional and more dynamic.
  • Smile! It will add energy to what you’re doing — even if you have to fake it. If you’re appearing on TV, smile more than you think you should.

    Posted by guest, Grupo Albron, a member of the EVOKE PR Network.


Client Engagement – Mind the Gap

Most businesses today are familiar with the term “Customer/Client Engagement” and are doing various forms of it on a daily basis. Very few, however, are taking the time to properly implement it into their communications plan.  It can be hard to exaggerate the impact of engaging customers and yet so many businesses are failing to place the importance on customer engagement that it deserves.

Customer or client engagement is one of the most important aspects of your business. When the content you put out starts creating conversation and momentum among your clients and prospective clients, you know you’ve hit the jackpot that so many businesses strive for.

Ongoing, meaningful contact between you and your client not only helps to bridge the gap – it actually drives revenue.

The rise of social media has led to a shift in the way businesses engage with their customers. It’s no longer about using those “touch points” during the marketing and sales process.  Businesses are using social technologies to form meaningful, ongoing relationships that involve online interactions.  You just can’t run away from it.

Research shows that companies that engage with their customers through social media have more loyal customers; and customers who engage with a brand online report spending 20% to 40% more on that brand, or on that company’s products.

So what does this mean for you and your business?  For starters, you need to expand your concept of customer service. It’s no longer an isolated section of your business model but part of a larger, customer engagement strategy.  Responsibilities that traditionally fell to the marketing and product teams now fall within the realm of customer service. Your bottom line is dependent on your ability to deliver excellent service while actively engaging customers.

In order to build loyal relationships throughout the business life-cycle, you need to understand some basic principles of the new definition of customer engagement and put them into action.

Building Positive Interactions

Customer engagement is an ongoing dialogue. Companies need to keep their fingers on the pulse. What this really means is listening to customers who are already having conversations about brands (yours and others) in traditional channels as well as over social media platforms.  So join the conversation!  This is a great way to build trust and form relationships through open interactions over time – interactions that create positive experiences and outcomes for your customers. Whether it’s answering questions, solving problems, sharing perspectives, and yes, even learning something new, these interactions can benefit both you and your client.

Interacting on social media helps you build relationships quickly and expand your client base. More than the relationships you have with your clients, they too form relationships with others through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.  So while this approach may not directly sell your product or services, you get to facilitate and build an active, passionate online community around your product. If and when a customer decides to purchase a product, they are likely to go with one they know and trust!

Be Purpose-Driven

Although communication with clients is an ongoing dialogue, you can’t just indulge in everyday chatter for the sake of it.  Ask yourself “What is the point of the conversation?”  Perhaps you’re looking for feedback on a product or increasing sales or nurturing brand loyalty.  While the product team is responsible for development, marketing is responsible for increasing brand awareness and driving sales, and at times the lines can be blurred. Nurturing an ongoing and genuine relationship with your clients will naturally have a major impact in both these areas.

Anytime, Anywhere, Any Place

Company-customer interaction usually happened in isolation in the past. Customers relied on phone calls, emails and sales letters.  That’s all changed now – we live in a hand-held “wired” world ruled by our mobile experience – apps, apps, apps – just seem to appear every day.  A mobile survey conducted in 2011 found that customers were using mobile apps 10 times a day, and a growing number of customers have used an app to buy a product.  An astounding 78% used mobile apps for customer service purposes!

In short, if you’re not engaging your customers on-the-go, you’re essentially neglecting them, or are at least missing an opportunity to nurture the relationship through open, honest interaction.

Win-Win for All

Any customer engagement strategy should feel less like a marketing and sales campaign and more like a well-developed friendship founded on the basis of inter-dependent needs. The feedback you get from your customers isn’t just important for you, it’s important for them as well. If you can listen to what your customers are saying and improve the product and their experience, everybody wins.  After all, relationships are a two-way street.  On one hand, your customers feel heard and they can see the ways you’re actually contributing to their company. At the same time, you get free feedback, and have the opportunity to improve your business and are likely to attract more customers.

Stay Customer-Driven

Remember the days when cold-calling was part of a marketing strategy?  Today, it is all about customer engagement and positive interaction. Your customers decide if and when to communicate. Your job is to give them the tools that make the interaction and communication easy and accessible. Do they have a question?  Do they want to shout about a new product? Are they experiencing a technical difficulty? Present your customers or clients with an intuitive tool for communicating with you, and let them initiate.

When you put control in their hands, you’re more likely to be able to meet their needs.  More importantly, you also win their trust, and ultimately, you build the loyal customer base you need to grow and succeed.

 What about you – how do you actively engage with your customers?  We’d love to hear from you!

 Posted by Irene Gomez, Chief Inspiration Officer, Corporate Media Services