General Motors’ news release announcing the retirement of General Counsel Michael Millikin does not mention his role in handling the company’s ignition switch recalls. This is disingenuous.
Most people outside GM familiar with Millikin’s name know him due to the controversy. Some members of Congress are critical of GM for keeping him onboard despite the crisis. GM CEO Mary Barra didn’t necessarily need to defend him in the company’s news release. We infer she considers him a valuable adviser during the company’s recent problems. At a minimum, her praise of him in the release should have included the value she believes he brings to the table regarding this specific controversy. Excluding this aspect of his GM career is ignoring what everyone in the metaphorical room is thinking when hearing about his retirement.
Such news releases reinforce the stereotype that public relations is nothing than an attempt to spin reality despite the obvious. More companies must abandon this old school approach and at least acknowledge, if with only one sentence, the giant pink elephant stumbling around the room. Otherwise, the public may view other, more important company statements with skepticism.
We recently had a PR prospect decide not to move ahead with a PR campaign to promote the opening of its new plant. Their reason? Orders were already pouring in before the plant even opened. Keeping up with demand was their primary focus.
For some companies, PR is just a temporary option. When sales are good, companies often become clouded with the notion that they are fine without a PR plan. Here are five reasons companies with this mindset should reconsider PR.
- Credibility. Does your “do” match your “say”? PR representation is like the third eye that monitors your company’s moves and mouth. PR counsel can be vital when it comes to how your company conducts itself both internally and externally. Often times, employees, media, customers and investors have your company under a microscope. Some are waiting for your company to screw up.
- Content. PR is more than about press releases and media placements. It’s about being your own newsroom and sharing this content (blogs, pictures, videos, posts) through various social media outlets. This keeps your company top-of-mind for consumers and media alike. It’s about positioning you and your company as an industry expert.
- Community. PR is about building community via partnerships, events, sponsorships, charitable giving and memberships. People like to do business with companies that are making a difference and are involved in their communities. Employees feel good about working for these companies.
- Crises. When a crisis hits, this is often the time when companies scramble to secure PR representation for guidance. Consequently, they have to make up for lost time by creating a crisis plan, key messages and bringing their new PR person up to speed on their industries.. Much of this should be in place before the crisis hits.
- Creativity. A good PR rep or company will always look for creative ways to get results for your company whether it’s a campaign that generates buzz or creating content that people want to share.
“Since June there has been an average of more than 1 billion video views on Facebook every day.” Source: Facebook
“Now more than 65% of [Facebook] video views are on mobile.” Source: Facebook
“And with an update [rolled out in Sept.], people will be able to see how many views a video on Facebook has received.” Source: Facebook
How to add a call to action at the end of a Facebook video: http://ow.ly/Cxnqv
Keith speaks to students at ASU about video production.
Around 11am, a reporter sent me a YouTube link of a fight at an Arizona Cardinals football game. She wanted to know if a client was available for an on-camera interview to talk about limiting this kind of activity during the approaching Super Bowl that Arizona is hosting. The story was for the 5pm newscast, so she could interview the client at anytime.
The client needed time to put on a tie and shave, but he arranged the interview for 1pm. That’s about two hours after the reporter made her interview request.
If a reporter suddenly requested an interview within the next hour or two, could you accommodate the request? Do you have a tie, change of clothes or even a razor blade handy to make yourself to appear on air?
The reporter asked if the client could meet her near the stadium so it could be in the background. The stadium is across town from the client’s office, but he agreed to make the trek.
If a reporter prefers not to interview you at your office or current location, are you flexible enough to drive to another place if that location is halfway to Mars?
Around noon, the reporter emailed back, saying she needed to get another interview at 1pm. Could the client reschedule his interview for 2pm? He agreed.
If a reporter reschedules on you an hour before your interview, can you make the needed changes to your schedule?
When I was reporting, if someone said “no” to any of the above questions, I may have moved on to someone else who said “yes.” And because the second person was available and flexible, I may have never called the first person again. I compare this to a second-string quarterback who earns an opportunity to start, just keeps winning and downgrades the former starter indefinitely to the bench.
During a media training session, we stressed the importance that employees working out and about knew the organization had assigned specific people to talk to the media. I heard from the company this had been an issue in the past.
Then my mind wandered into a shaded, gray area it had not visited before during media training. It struck me that all participants during this particular training were men. The organization was male-dominated. And I recall from my days of reporting how supposedly seasoned spokesmen fell under the spell of attractive, nicely dressed female reporters.
The female reporters were not necessarily flirtatious. They were simply doing their jobs. They were young, attractive, already attached and unlikely to hold any desire for middle-aged men often lacking personality. But the men simply could not help themselves. Call it caveman behavior. They just enjoyed being in the company of the opposite sex and the fact that the women were hot fueled their fire.
It is only human nature that these one-sided relationships might mean someone releases additional information or at least points reporters in the right direction.
This goes both ways. Women comment about handsome reporters dressed in perfectly fitting suits. When I prepared to interview someone nervous about appearing on camera, I sometimes went out of my way to compliment their hair or tell them they were pretty. And maybe, just maybe, when I interviewed older women, I may have complimented her thinking she might appreciate the gesture from a younger man. Consider some examples:
- Before interviewing a woman in her home, she asked me to help her strap on her gold high heel shoe around her foot.
- A woman said she would have worn different underwear if she knew I would be attaching a microphone to her pants.
- When I told a woman I needed to put a microphone on her, she asked if I needed to attach it to her boob.
- A female reporter told me she batted her eyes to make journalistic headway with a governor.
- A co-worker told me one of our reporter colleagues slept with a woman he had interviewed earlier in the day.
- A female reporter told me a celebrity she interviewed later sent someone to ask her if she would join him in his hotel room.
- Some reporters and anchors post social media profile pictures more appropriate for lingerie commercials.
For the most part, sexual tension between reporters and spokespeople is harmless. It is a reflection of society and the dynamic between men and women. But if we are keeping it real, this unspoken heat between the sexes could lead to some information leak. And during this media training session, I went down that road. I warned the men, when dealing with sensitive information not ready for the public’s ears, don’t transform into bubbling fools because common sense crept south where common sense has no sense at all.
People may consider all this silly. But we have witnessed supposedly great men in powerful positions risk it all for sex. Take it for what it’s worth. Know your weaknesses. Don’t blame the opposite sex. Keep your comments in your mouth. How you handle your pants is your business.
Why not show a little leg on your company intranet with the HowStuffWorks approach? Wikipedia aptly describes the site as an “edutainment website” that “uses various media in its effort to explain complex concepts, terminology and mechanisms, including photographs, diagrams, videos and animations, and articles.” You can do this on a shoestring budget with such tactics as infographics that illustrate workflows and processes, podcast interviews or top 10 lists of weird factoids. This approach can help break down silos, humanize your company’s divisions and pique interest in how your company operates. The content needs to be unique and shareable through your internal social media platform. People like to see behind the curtain.