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Bottom of the ninth.  Two outs.  The stadium holds its collective breath waiting and hoping for a pitcher’s Holy Grail – the perfect game.

This was the scene in Detroit last night before umpire Jim Joyce blew the third-out call that relegated even Ken Griffey, Jr.’s retirement announcement to a postscript.  Joyce’s egregiously bad call stole a perfect game away from Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga, there is no doubt about that, but it is the aftermath that interests me.

After reviewing the replay, a clearly distraught Joyce admitted that he screwed up – badly and irreversibly.  “I just cost that kid a perfect game,” Joyce said simply.

Almost invariably, admitting a mistake and apologizing for it is the best crisis communications strategy.  But the trick is you have to mean it.  Joyce did.  He could have defended the indefensible or chosen not to comment at all, but instead, Joyce offered Galarraga the only thing he could – an honest apology and acknowledgement of his perfect game.

The right words can soften the blow of just about any mistake.  Sure, Joyce’s name will now be mentioned alongside Don Denkinger and Rich Garcia.  And yes, 500 anti-Joyce Facebook pages and the website www.firejimjoyce.com sprung up within minutes of the call.  But the way Joyce has owned his error is doing a lot to mitigate hatred.

To his credit, Galarraga was a class act, both during the game and after.  No one would have blamed him for pulling a Jimmy Dugan, but Galarraga had a remarkably mature perspective on the evening’s events.  “I got a perfect game.  Maybe it’s not in the book, but I’m going to show my son the CD.”  (Okay, he probably meant DVD, but give the guy a break – he was just robbed of a perfect game!)

Posted by Katie Denis, Account Executive (@katiefoxdenis)

The views expressed in this post are mine alone and do not reflect the views of Vehr Communications, LLC.

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Well, the annual Cincinnati holiday was yesterday.  Opening Day.  A new beginning.  A rejuvenation.  A rebirth.  All those things and more in Cincinnati.

Of course, in additon to balls and strikes and runs scored (too many by St. Louis for the Reds and its fans), it is also a time to reflect and prepare for what’s ahead … to “reboot” your life and take a look at where you are and where you are going.

Businesses should do the same thing.  Step back and take a look at your company, at your brand, and ask the question, “Does it matter?”

What is your purpose as a company?  Beyond the obvious (being profitable … no margin no mission … we all know that), are you making a difference?

This is the latest focus for most marketers and many, many entrepreneurs.  From former P&G global brand guru Jim Stengel to Trendwatching.com’s recent article about “Brand Butlers: Why Serving is the New Selling,” it’s obvious that what a business does beyond sales matters.

Spring is a great time to ask yourself the same set of questions.  Do I matter?  Does my business matter?  Should we do more?  Can we do more?

Of course, if you’re from Cincinnati, and it is the morning after Opening Day in 2010, you’re hoping the Reds can do a little more today than they did yesterday.

Post by Nick Vehr – 4.6.10

Two seemingly unrelated references in the past several days and it feels to me like back to the future : Google and China; and, Twitter and the telegraph.

Google & China: Some are predicting that Google will leave China (Reuters article) in a few weeks rather than continue government-required although apparently limited filtering of certain news (see today’s WSJ).  The war of words has picked up by Chinese government officials, usually a precursor to government action.

I’m not sure what’s all involved here.  What I am sure of is that it all feels like backward movement.  Google is confronted with a non-option … limited censorship.  Imagine Google being expected (or required) to be an active participant in limiting the free-flow of information.

In short, Google is being asked by the Chinese government to turn back the clock … to do what can’t be done.  They are being asked to limit news-sharing after Chinese citizens have tasted a freer flow of news.  This is going to become very interesting if, indeed, Google leaves China and Chinese people react.

Twitter & the Telegraph:  A fascinating discussion over the weekend with Gary Kebbel, director of the Knight Foundation Journalism Program at a recent IPREX Meeting.  Interestingly, Kebbel, a former newspaper editor, shared that he will be leaving his Knight post to become the new dean of Journalism at the University of Nebraska.

Also in the discussion was Mike Griffin, the new VP of Communications (Public Affairs) for Walt Disney World, also the former managing editor of the Orlando Sentinel.

In a free-ranging dinner conversation about the challenges facing journalism today, mostly brought about by technology advancement and advent of online citizen journalism, these two hard-core journalists were lamenting the dimunition of good, crisp, journalistic writing and the lack of discipline apparent today in capturing the lead and reporting from there.

Kebbel interestingly added that tight, focused, journalistic writing was inspired by the advent of the telegraph and the need to get news from the “wild West” back to the eastcoast establishment.  Telegraph outlets were very limited and reporters stood in line to dictate to fast-fingered telegraph operators.  Out of fairness, reporters were limited to one paragraph of dictation – about 140 characters or so – and then they had to move to the back of the line.  They learned to write their lead and fill in more later.

Kebbel, Griffin and others in the discussion all agreed that Twitter was forcing many to tighten-up and write right, at least from a journalistic perspective.

Interesting, isn’t it?  China seeks to control the news flow and Twitter is making the world better at getting to the (news) point!

Post by Nick Vehr (3.14.10)

“Public Relations” has to be one of the most overused and  misunderstood words in our language.  That really honks me off.

Now comes an article in the Sunday NYT’s magazine titled “Optics: A scientific-sounding buzzword for ‘public relations’,” (On Language, Ben Zimmer; p. 14) tracing the evolution of “optics” (or “optiques” for French and Canadians) in politics.

Basically, the article compares the political practice of form v. substance, the overwhelming importance placed on public perception v. public substance, to the practice of public relations.  As if everything public relations professionals do is spin, obfuscation and fluff.

Don’t get me wrong, the practice of strategic communications – also often referred to as public relations – is what we do for a living.  And, yes, when asked what I do, I say, “PR.”

And, whenever I do that, I don’t like it.  Because, we do much more.

As professional communicators, we work with our clients to understand, or sometimes determine, a clear business objective, identify the target audience (the customer) and the specific action they have to take (purchase, call, write, register, give, etc.) for the business objective to be achieved.

Then, we determine the key messages that will inspire (motivate, move, encourage, empower) the audience to action. We then determine precisely which channels are best to reach the audience.  Next, we craft creative and integrated tactics – offline and online – to reach the audience.

Of course, we then measure, as quantitatively as we can but often qualitatively, the value of the program developed and implemented toward achievement of the business objective.

Is there an application for this process of strategic communications in politics?  Of course there is.  I just don’t like that what we do for a living is so cavalierly summarized in a throw-away, misunderstood and overused phrase … public relations.

There, I feel better.  Thanks for letting me vent.

Post by Nick Vehr (3.7.10)

This is pretty self-indulgent, but I am very happy and proud to be celebrating Vehr Communications‘ 3rd anniversary today.  So, please bear with me and these few reflections or observations.

First: It’s all about our team.  Sounds cliche, but it’s true.  For the first year or so I plugged along by myself before beginning to add staff.  Since, it has been infinitely more fun, our work product on behalf of clients has improved, and I take pride in seeing colleagues grow and learn … the same folks who probably don’t realize how much I am actually learning from them.

We’re in the professional service business.  Our only product is the knowledge, experience and integrity of the people who work here.  Spend a minute on our Web site getting to know them.

Second: I am really proud of the clients we have been able to attract and retain.  I believe there is an open niche in this market and we are working hard to fill it.  It really feels to me like we are making progress.  From pure b2b clients to national b2c brands, from treasured community institutions to challenging community issues, our client list grows in size and diversity.  That’s what is so fun about the agency biz.

Third: Social media makes us better as professional communicators.  The options available to us to help clients manage their reputations, maintain and strengthen key relationships and deliver meaningful results are broader than ever.  That breadth, and the speed at which they change, keep all of us on our toes.  It is as scary as it is exciting, and we owe it to our current and future clients to be on top of this game. 

I am sure there is a fourth and fifth and sixth here.  But, I’ll stop … save them for another day.  I will add one thing, though, I really enjoying this blog but suffer high anxiety over my own frequency of blogging.  I try, but I am falling short of my goal (twice a week) because I am so focused on our growing business.  It’s harder than I first thought.  I am not apologizing.  I am not making excuses.  But, I will try to do better.

Post by Nick Vehr (March 4, 2010)

It’s February … the month of love!  So, we thought we’d share some thoughts on “link love” for those still in the hunt.

If SEO (search engine optimization) is important to your Web site’s success – AND IT IS! – then falling in “link love” is why you need to get all prettied-up for the party.

Of course, to fall in “link love” you need a little “link bait.”  What’s a player to do? 

Well, here’s a few ideas:

  • Pick a killer title: Like that little black dress on Saturday night, a good title will lure “link lovers” as Google crawls through and ranks your Web site.  Watch out, though, you can’t be disingenuous.  Make sure your killer title is relevant to your content or you’ll be cast-aside.
  • Develop good content:  Make sure that you provide interesting and relevant content.  You may set the hook with a killer title, but to reel them in you need serious game.
  • Looks really do matter:  Hard to read fonts, spelling errors, overly-digitized photos, and more, can turn suitors away.
  • Leverage social networks:  Curling up at home on Saturday with a book or a movie is no way to make new friends … you have to be out there.  Post to sites like Digg and StumbleUpon and share with your Facebook, Twitter and YouTube networks.
  • “Link Love” is a two-way street: You have to give in order to get.  So, make sure you give a nod to the sites you find interesting and resourceful.

Remember, February is for lovers.  Apply a little of that passion to your online presence and maybe you’ll find true happiness.

Post by Nick Vehr – 2.1.10

Ghost-tweeting.  Ghost-blogging.  What’s a social media player to do?

One of my favorite bloggers for professional communicators (PR-Squared) has just offered his 2nd installment of 7 exploring social media dilemmas for PR firms and their clients.

It is a very thoughtful, revealing and honest online discussion and I encourage you to follow it directly.  Here’s the link: PR-Squared.

Just consider:

  • If your client’s CEO is a full-on Twitter participant, and assuming tweet-frequency is a critical element of Twitter success, is it OK for someone else to tweet for the boss when he’s busy?
  • Is it necessary for “ghost-tweeters” to identify themselves as such in the spirit of transparency and honesty?
  • If a PR professional can ghost-write articles for the client’s monthly newsletter, is it OK for that same PR pro to ghost-blog?
  • Do ghost-bloggers need to identify themselves as such in the spirit of transparency and honesty?

These are great questions and real life  case studies (names have been changed to protect the innocent) are being shared openly by Todd Defren on his blog.  Special thanks to he and his team for these posts!

Please connect and follow these directly.  I find them to be very helpful and incredibly interesting.

Post by Nick Vehr – 1.28.10

Get it? ... "Buzz" (Just trying to stay with the "cute and clever" theme.)

I have to admit that I thought some of these new social media buzzwords shared by Pete Blackshaw were clever and kind of cute.

We all know Pete in Cincinnati.  He’s also quite the social media expert with a column in AdAge.  Here’s the link to his blog post, and his recent article in AdAge, “Top 20 Labels, Buzzwords to Describe Our Curious Stampede to the Social-Media and Mobile Future.”

But, on to the fun stuff.  See if you can connect Pete’s buzzwords with their definitions that follow.  For the answers, go to Pete’s blog post:

  • Mobilenecking
  • Jack Ripper
  • Wiki Wart
  • Oedipost Complex
  • Apptosterone
  • Twitstop
  1. The curious neurosis that compels folks to sleep with their Blackberry or iPhone. The afflicted can’t stop checking — even in late hours — for responses to tweets or blog and Facebook posts.
  2. The alarming tendency to have our necks titled down or shifted sideways — ever glued to our mobile device. This anywhere, anyplace epidemic is increasingly common in cars, airplanes and crosswalks. Closely related to term “Eyevoidance,” where no one looks at anyone anymore.
  3. The device warriors who hog outlets anywhere they can find them — in the airport, via the USB port of a colleague’s computer, even a restaurant reservation desk. They get a charge from a charge.
  4. A bathroom detour from a meeting or conversation in order to check e-mail, Twitter or the latest and greatest via an app. (Swear on the Bible, I don’t do this … but I’m told lots of others do.)
  5. A bad piece of news or an embarrassing brand episode (e.g., an activist protest or a social-media campaign that backfired) that just won’t go away in a brand’s Wikipedia description. PR pros often give false hope to brands of removing the warts, but relentless Wikipedia editors put them right back.
  6. The mojo that fuels intense “mine’s bigger/better” conversation about mobile apps. “Dude, you got Bump, but I’ve got FourSquare.” Marketing techies are loaded with Apptosterone.

Of course, here’s the gimme … the one we all need from time-to-time!

  • Digital Detox: What we all need — at least in doses. As we’ve learned, total digital immersion has side effects. Let’s all pursue a roadmap for balance in 2010. 

Thanks, Pete.  Happy New Year.

Post by Nick Vehr – 1.14.10

I am very happy to paraphrase and pass on a great blog post regarding bad apples in PR. (Note: the headline is in quotes because I am sharing it directly from PR Squared.

Here’s the deal.  The author (Todd Defren) of this post re-shares his frustration (which we all feel as PR professionals) about having to justify/rationalize our existence. 

He laments the few, but way too many, PR bad apples as much as reputable and respectable lawyers disdain the ambulance-chasing, bottom-feeders that led Shakespeare to write, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

The author also has interesting things to say about ROI and its misapplication to our industry. 

My perspective here:  It’s not that we want to be unaccountable or that meeting business objectives is not central to what we do.  It’s more that it is difficult, if not impossible or appropriate, to attempt to place a monetary, bookable value on retained trust or reputation, the crisis that never disrupts the business, or the lead that expresses initial interest while the actual sale is closed by other trained professionals.

It is easy to place lost value on such things (e.g., the value of Tiger Woods lost endorsement deals or Domino’s Pizza sales drop immediately after the online video event, etc.).   

So, please read an enjoy some thoughtful and seasoned perspective.  Any insights you have to add here or with PR-Squared are appreciated.

Post by Nick Vehr – 1.12.10

Out with the old and in with the new.  Popular and populist, especially as it pertains to media.

The truth, though, is that many “internetistas” who think a whole new world was created with the internet are beginning to realize that knowledge of how it used to be done is quite helpful.

Some rules don’t – and, perhaps, never will – change.  Be informed and be prepared – do your homework.  Be responsive and respectful.  Be actively engaged. 

Strategic communications is about developing and maintaining relationships that are important to the enterprise. 

It’s about protecting and strengthening a brand (corporate) reputation. 

Importantly, it’s about enabling or delivering results that move the business forward.

Without question, social media (new media) has created new and faster opportunities (channels) by which to engage and interact with the relationships that matter.

Knowledge of these new and faster channels is vitally important in our Web 2.0 world. 

Of equal importance is understanding what action you desire from your target audience, what message will move your audience to action, and what you need to do to enable the action in the most deliberate, intuitive (read: easy) way.

Check out this case study on Alice.com provided by the folks at Shift Communications.  Old media facilitated the launch of a new online company because everyone involved understood that the two can’t, and really shouldn’t, be viewed separately.

So, old school meets new school and strategic communications still works the way it always has – just a whole lot faster.

Post by Nick Vehr – 12.21.09