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Danger You Never Saw Coming

By Lisa Faulkner-Dunne, Lisa Faulkner-Dunne & Associates Public Relations

Social media is a great way to engage your customers and clients, and to share product information and announcements with people who already like you. But, if you’re responsible for handling social media for a client, you know that heartsick feeling when you realize someone you can’t control, with the most tertiary connection to your client or the brand you represent, is about to ruin your weekend. Usually, that’s not even their intent. The offending party makes a bad choice, engages in a poorly thought out prank, participates in a racist or sexist rant that they arrogantly assumed was private. Suddenly, if that person has any connection to your client, you’re dragged you into a train wreck you never saw coming.

After the OU fraternity videos surfaced, the Catholic high school one boy attended was forced to make statements about the school’s code of conduct, and its reaction to the event. No one at the school was part of the video, and representatives were obviously appalled by their former student’s behavior, but they were on the hot seat, shown on national news as if they were a little bit responsible.

How do you avoid getting embroiled in hot topic issues, so repugnant they go viral? Luck is the only way. But, you can work smart to mitigate the damage, much like the high school did.

  1. React – They came forward with a statement and an interview, indicating how disappointed they were to see a former student speak this way.
  1. Validate – They talked about the school’s teachings and discussed diversity among the student body.
  1. Finish- They faded away after. They didn’t clamor for more spotlight. Their part was over, and they wisely didn’t try to make it about them.

Of all the scenarios discussed at this school, I doubt they had played through this one—but, they responded appropriately.   A crisis doesn’t usually come from the direction you’re looking.


Apple Watch- PR Lessons for the C-Suite

By: Melanie McCraney, McCraney Communications

Apple watch photo courtesy of Associated PressWhen Apple chief Tim Cook unveiled the Apple watch with a typically unfussy flourish March 9, he accomplished something most CEOs only dream of; he made news with a product announcement. Even better, the event kicked off a lively conversation that’s been happily buzzing ever since. Media mentions have been in the millions and the PR value attached to those stories is calculated at many times more. Apple enjoys the elite position of not having to pitch its news to the media; the media knocks on their door.

NBC’s Today Show had Carson Daley on the story, setting it up with a clever tease,  “Fun at Apple’s expense?” Daley’s story, showcasing the $10k gold “Edition”  was upbeat , featuring huge, crisp digital images of three models of the watch , with price tags dangling . He did lightly poke fun at the prices, but so what? Apple had center stage and their product looked terrific.

The headlines, at least most of them, were a public relations consultant’s dream: “Apple’s Watch Is Almost Here Here’s What Wall Street Is Expecting”- Wall Street Journal, “Apple Watch arrives in April as most advanced timepiece ever created”- C-Net, and it goes on and on. Reuters took a scolding across tech media with their headline “Exclusive: Apple Watch not on shopping list for 69 percent of Americans: Reuters poll”, with Apple defenders chiming in to point out the bright side of nearly 40 percent of those polled having an interest in a product they haven’t even seen yet. Reuters followed up a few days later with “Nearly 40 percent of iPhone owners interested in Apple Watch: poll “

Giving Ambassadors the tools they need

Apple users have long played a crucial role in accelerating the company’s growth. Years before Apple even considered advertising , Mac users were creating a fiercely loyal user group that eventually led many prominent web developers to make the switch from PC to Mac. The brand’s popularity was built largely on the user experience and word of mouth marketing, staples of  public relations. Mac users take their allegiance to the streets- check out the popularity of the Apple icon displayed on the rear windows of cars and trucks coast to coast.

Apple’s appreciation of the power wielded by brand ambassadors shines in the Apple watch launch on a deeper level.  Apple introduced Watch Kit in 2014, giving third parties the opportunity to build apps to engage with the wave. ESPN, Major League Baseball, Target, Honeywell, Nike, American Airlines, Starwood, BMW and others were quick to jump in with apps to boost the watch’s relevance across multiple channels. That kind of third party endorsement is a fundamental PR tool.

Integrated messaging key to Apple success

Apple has long been known for its meticulous attention to marketing detail, and there’s a valuable lesson in there for the C-suite in any business or industry. While many companies push their  public relations strategists to the fringe of the inner circle (if they let them in at all), Apple does the opposite, embracing the message as a foundational element of organizational strategy. Mark Gurman’s Seeing Through the Illusion: Understanding Apple’s Mastery of the Media, a profile examining Apple’s PR strategy , is a must-read for anyone wanting an inside look the company that makes the Apple watch tick.

Strategy wins

Apple’s communications strategy favors substance over hype. Hype may spark a burst of publicity, but the impact is as fleeting as the clichéd “15 minutes of fame” it may garner. A carefully considered public relations strategy, appropriately integrated into the business plan, will yield results that resonate with core audiences for the long run. You can’t just talk a good game; you have a play a good game by creating an exceptional product or service and connecting with your target audience. Apple has cracked the code on that.

Melanie McCraney- McCraney Communications

Author: Melanie Berry McCraney is founder and president of McCraney Communications, a Birmingham, Alabama public relations consultancy focused on media strategy, integrated communications, relationship marketing, issues management and digital strategy. She also serves as President of PRConsultants Group. A collaborative of senior level PR agency leaders in the top 50 US markets, PRCG partners with major firms and organizations across the U.S.


Reporter Appreciation

By Melinda Kruyer, Kruyer & Associates

The recent losses of David Carr, New York Times, and Bob Simon, CBS News, juxtaposed to the fall of Brian Williams, NBC News, got me thinking about the reporters in my world and how much I value them as collaborators and respect them as professionals. Here is an example.

I learned about water technology when I signed on to lead the branding, marketing and public relations efforts for the new WTIC, the water technology innovation cluster covering Ohio, Kentucky and SE Indiana. The first thing that we did was to change the name to Confluence.

What is it?

  • Confluence is a 501(c) 3 organization composed of federal water laboratories and agencies, universities, large and small businesses, water utilities and regional development agencies.
  • The groups work together to expedite commercialization of needed water technologies, create jobs and spur economic development.

So, new organization in water technology with no burning buildings or celebrities, how do you pitch this?

Key for us was our relationships with great reporters who are gifted storytellers and worked with us to dig deep, boil down the information, sell it to their editors and create compelling stories. And they cared.

Even without caution tape, the Cincinnati ABC and NPR affiliates set a precedent by forming a partnership for a full week of stories on Confluence. WCPO and WVXU, partnered to produce one original content story per day per station for a week with all stories collected on a landing page titled Liquid Assets. We also had front-page coverage in the Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati Business Courier.

Despite squeezed budgets, staff turnover and crazy news cycles, these talented reporters took the time, did excellent work and made it happen. Proving once again that at the end of the day, it is all about trust, integrity and relationships.


Lights, Camera, Action in Media Relations

By Natalie Ghidotti, APR

It’s no shocker that online video consumption continues increasing at a rapid pace. According to comScore’s Video Metrix, 190.3 million Americans watched online content videos last summer.

Videos are easily viewed from a variety of devices – whether that’s a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. They’re also entertaining, while informing. Think of the number of videos you probably watch just in your Facebook feed alone. Don’t tell me you haven’t clicked on one of those Buzzfeed videos before. We all have!

So knowing that people like to watch things, it’s no surprise that using video in your media relations efforts can result in better engagement, clearer understanding and increased dialogue. Reporters and editors – (gasp!) they’re just like us! The gal you’ve been trying to pitch for a year at the New York Times likes watching engaging content just as much as you and your friends.

Our firm has worked over the past few years to incorporate video into all of our PR campaigns. We’ve had some great success in using video for everything from media relations to blogger relations to direct marketing. Here are two recent “wins” when it comes to using video for media relations.

Alliance Rubber Company


We wanted to tell the story of this 92-year-old family-owned company that is the world’s largest manufacturer of rubber bands. Alliance is located in a small town in Arkansas and represents U.S. manufacturers who are dedicated to keeping jobs and dollars in our country.

Our goal was to share the story of Alliance’s rich history and product innovation to key national media, including the Wall Street Journal. We conducted our normal background work and had chosen the reporters we felt would be most interested in learning more about Alliance. As part of our relationship building with these reporters, we sent them a video we created to give a good overview of the company and hit on all of our key messages.

A few days after we sent the video to our Wall Street Journal reporter, he emailed us with an interest in learning more and talking to Alliance’s chief executive officer. Through the power of video, we were able to quickly tell the Alliance story and pique enough interest for him to want to know more. The interview went well and was a great follow up to a story he had recently written on the manufacturing of paper clips.

Here’s a link to the story:

Alliance Rubber Company Overview Video

McDonald’s Central Arkansas Co-op


If you watched the Super Bowl or followed the commercial launches the following day, then you are probably familiar with McDonald’s “Pay With Lovin’” campaign. The company ran its first Super Bowl spot in eight years and launched a two-week campaign where customers were randomly chosen to “pay with lovin’” – a fist bump, a hug, a call to a loved one, even a Hog call (probably only witnessed in Arkansas).

We wanted to make sure the customers in Central Arkansas were well aware of the Pay With Lovin’ promotion. What better way to do that than to produce a video showing all the lovin’ from the first day (when 88 central Arkansas stores gave away free meals to more than 3,000 people)! We sent a video crew out to several of the restaurants, and had a 1-minute long finished product the next morning.

We used the video to push out on our social portals and, most importantly, send to local TV stations for use as b-roll. Our results were phenomenal. All four stations in the market used the video at some level – two that showed the entire video on air and online. All of them tweeted it, several posted to Facebook, and one radio station made the video its “Video of the Day.”

We garnered so much media social love that a reporter with MediaBistro contacted McDonald’s Corporate to ask what in the world was going on in Little Rock that the media was all over the Pay With Lovin’ promo! Needless to say, the power of video worked beautifully with this particular PR outreach.

Here’s a link to the ABC station coverage:

McDonald’s Central Arkansas Pay With Lovin’

When strategizing for your next media outreach, think of how you can use video to your benefit. Words are great, but seeing is believing!

You can find Natalie Ghidotti, APR online at @ghidotti. Visit the team at or


Writing Isn’t a Group Process

Barb Harris and Sharon Kreher, teamworks communication management

We increasingly are involved in creating content for our nonprofit clients.  They have great stories to tell and they are passionate about their work. As a result, they tend to want to be “involved” in the communication process. These organizations also have a variety of stakeholders – donors, board members, volunteers, staff – who also are dedicated to the cause and want to be involved.

The idiom, “too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth” quickly becomes applicable.  So many voices often muddy the waters and result in disjointed message.  So, how do you preserve the writing process, limiting it to one or two creative wordsmiths to work their magic, while ensuring that everyone on the broader team feels involved and heard?

Recently, we embarked on a project to help a local nonprofit revamp its communication tools. The website, newsletter and marketing materials were a mix of catch phrases, taglines, and conflicting or outdated messages. The organization was willing to start with a clean slate, creating new messaging that will help it move forward in its next phase.

Instead of trying to schedule sit-downs with all the staff, the board, and key clients, we developed a survey using Survey Monkey. A dozen clear, concise questions allowed each respondent to share their thoughts about the organization. How did they view it? What did they think its focus should be? What three words would they use to describe their organization? The survey was shared with a list of 45 stakeholders. The response rate exceeded 50 percent and the answers made it crystal clear what our messaging should (and should not) be.

Drafting a new master messaging document that included an “elevator pitch,” key media messages, a revised mission statement and organization descriptors flowed naturally from the data we received. It also brought some “challenging” questions to the surface about previous messaging and positioning that we were able to address with the leadership team.

Our resulting communication “broth,” so to speak, proved tasty. The client noted, “I like the feeling I got when reading it. You seem to have captured a precise, yet broader spectrum of who we are and what we offer.”

Our job as communicators and writers is not to tell organizations who they are. Rather, it is to guide them through the process of recognizing who they are, and then to help them articulate it. Writing doesn’t have to be a group process as long as stakeholders feel their input is heard and valued.


Super lessons from the Super Bowl

by Kristin Helvey, APR, president/owner, Helvey Communications

This year, my husband and I took ouFive hours and counting until Super Bowl XLIX. Can you tell who we were cheering for?r first Super Bowl trip. The football hype began upon landing. Airport workers wore jerseys, balloons lined hallways and murals covered the baggage claim. This was, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. For four days, we were enveloped by building-sized endorsements, crazed fans jumping around in the background shots of athlete interviews (if you saw someone that looked like me, I probably just have a twin), live bands playing ear-shattering music, and more beer than should be allowed in any one place.

I was in love.

As an event professional though, I couldn’t shake the nagging question: How do you pull this off? The number of working parts it takes to execute something of this magnitude astounded me. Soon, I was approaching everything I encountered through a planning lens. What would the process for XYZ look like? (…My husband enjoyed this, too. Not.)

I realized something. Regardless of professional experience, huge, high-profile projects can be daunting. Thankfully, however, fundamentals always apply. Here are a few that stood out last week:

  • Create exclusive experiences. The Super Bowl is much more than a football game. It’s a weeklong phenomenon. Find creative ways to infuse life into your project/event, and provide opportunities to feel like an “insider.” People enjoy showing off these experiences.
  • Don’t underestimate in-person interactions. In the digital era, I assumed an event this size would put less emphasis on face-to-face tactics. Wrong! Meet and greets and photo opps were highlights of our trip. Personal interactions are important.
  • Expect the unexpected. Restaurants ran out of food. And it rained for two days. In Phoenix. Plan for the unexpected.
  • Correct misinformation. Leading up to the game, ticket vendors pre-sold tickets they didn’t have. This is bad. It is worse that notices were given with such inadequate explanations about how this could happen. Of course, angry customers made their own assumptions. Give information, even when it’s hard.
  • Evaluate. Again. Plans can fail. Circumstances change, and sometimes assumptions are just wrong. It happened in the last play of the game, and it happens everywhere else. Evaluate along the way, and make necessary changes.

I may never plan a Super Bowl. Admittedly though, it helps my ego to know it’s not magic. We work hard to stay abreast of changing trends and technologies—but as we vie to lead the cutting edge, don’t abandon the basics!

Kristin Helvey, APR, is the president and owner of Helvey Communications, an Alaska-based professional communications company. Inspired by the potential strategic communication has to effect positive change, Kristin opened Helvey Communications in 2010 and now consults with and assists organizations and individuals to improve internal communications and community standing. A lover of sports and a self-proclaimed “foodie,” Kristin is already making plans for Super Bowl L. If you wonder why there are no photos inside the actual stadium…well, that’s a funny story.

 Front row at the Little Big Town concert during the NFL On Location pre-party. See those green beads she’s wearing? Yep. Those are (were) mine.

Getting ready for the big game.


These 12th men don’t mess around.


Busy-ness in Business

By Alex Greenwood

You know, you just keep your head down in your home office, day-by-day, doing the best you can for four years or so, and suddenly you look up and you’re paying rent for an office, hiring staff and working with great interns in service of some fantastic clients.

Funny enough, I never grew up dreaming of owning a business. As I recall, my dream jobs as a kid through young adulthood involved driving a garbage truck, piloting an Apollo lunar lander, being an actor and eventually being elected to the vice presidency of the United States.

Well, the garbage truck lost its appeal around age six, being an astronaut required much stronger math skills than I possess (and America stopped going to the moon anyway–low earth orbit doesn’t have quite the same allure, no disrespect to ISS astronauts intended), I was an actor for a while but found it ultimately a ridiculous profession, and my time in politics convinced me it isn’t much better.

Therefore, to earn a living I turn to two resources: my skills as a public relations consultant and writer. Thankfully, I make a living at both (though I must admit I wish I made a little more on the writing than I do). At first, I managed to juggle both jobs, but little by little the PR firm has taken more and more of my time. A fourth novel’s first draft languishes while I work on client projects, prospecting for new clients and trying to get more than seven hours of sleep a night. I recall hearing how hard self-employed people work when I was working for employers and thinking “No sweat, I can do that.”

Well, yes, I can do that–but I was wrong about the “no sweat” part.

Owning a business comes with sweat, be it actually perspiration or worry. Don’t get me wrong, I love it and suspect it beats being a garbage truck driver and even vice president (though Joe Biden always looks so darn happy…) but managing clients, projects, staff, interns, payroll, taxes, rent, landlords, salespeople, cash flow, long hours, work/life balance, etc. takes its toll on you.

The truth of the matter is simple: being in business necessitates a certain, unavoidable busy-ness. If you’re contemplating hanging out your shingle, know that simple truth. And get some sleep now, while you can.

Alex Greenwood is wide awake at the offices of AGPR.