Donald Trump is breaking every conceivable PR101, 202 and even PR PhD rule and remains completely unaffected by it. In fact, the more he breaks the rules, the more popular he becomes. So, are those basic public relation rules that we all know outdated? His communication style is aggressive to the point of stand-up comedy; more propaganda, less public relations. But, for argument’s sake, should we throw out what we know and adopt the shoot-from-the-lip style Trump embodies – especially in the face of a crisis?
In a political nomination campaign, particularly in the United States, you can do the following, apparently without fear of law suits or reprisals:
Call opponents liars
Threaten to punch protestors in the face
Be yourself – no matter what
Make fun of the media who carry your message
Say Trump wins the election. Should you or your company adopt his style and become more aggressive in the face of attacks by the media or critics? Should you go on the offensive to try to galvanize your supporters? Should you simply thumb your nose at powerful media and treat it and your detractors with disdain?
Consider this: If “the Donald” was your CEO in a crisis and talking about your company’s critics or competitors as he is talking now about his opponents and others, how do you think it would affect your brand? I suspect his board of directors would be the first to say, “Donald, you’re fired!”
In the real world of business, you simply can’t do what “the Donald” is doing. Why? Because politics is not business reality. So, in light of Trump’s recent antics in the media spotlight, here are some lessons we can all learn:
Never attack your competitors
The first rule of good public relations is you never attack competitors. Exxon didn’t gloat publically when BP sprung a leak in the Gulf of Mexico. When Walmart parmesan cheese was found to contain cellulose recently, Safeway didn’t run attack ads about it. When you begin throwing stones it’s too easy for the media or the public to pick up some of those same rocks and toss them back at you.
Don’t call opponents liars
“The Donald” calls his opponents liars. He does this often. It’s his go-to pitch. In a heated public debate which your company may be involved in, calling opponents liars will galvanize opposition and lose you public support. When you lose your cool, you lose – period. The best strategy is to stick to your facts day in and day out and to let your facts ultimately win the day. Keep a level-head because the more nasty and out of control your opponents get, the more support you will get.
Don’t threaten to punch protestors in the face
When asked, many a CEO might agree privately, that in certain instances they’d like to punch a protester in the face. Now imagine a big project, like B.C.’s pipelines and Site C dam proposals. Imagine a CEO saying on TV, “I’d like to punch that protestor in the face.” They’d be looking for a new career immediately and the project would be dead.
You can be your own worst enemy
In Trump’s case, this means his shoot-from-the-lip style is not a good idea in a crisis. Being yourself is actually good advice for a CEO facing a crisis, as long as being yourself means you show that you care, admit your mistakes, are truthful and outline a plan to make things right. If you are shaken by what happened, allow it to show, allow your concern to show through – be human. But, if being yourself means you go on the offensive and attack everyone in your path, then save that for the boardroom.
Media don’t like to be made fun of
The media, including social media, carry your message. Making fun of media pundits, reporters, bloggers and analysts is never a good idea. It may feel to you like you are winning but the “win” is temporary. They always get the last word. You should correct factual errors they have made, point out your positive message, and then take the high road. The public is smarter than you think. They will get your message and understand when the media is being unfair.
The bottom line?
Everyone likes to copy a winner; business schools teach investment success models such as Warren Buffett’s. But, we also laud those who break the mold and go against the establishment. Case in point? Donald Trump.
If you copy Donald Trump’s nomination strategy in your business I would say that you do so at your own peril. Right now, Donald Trump doesn’t need real answers, he just needs one-liners, of which he seems to have an endless supply. When pushed into a corner he goes on a personal attack, calls someone a liar, raises a boogeyman or mentions 9-11.
A nomination campaign is not the business world or even the real world. It is more like reality TV. There is only one measuring stick: winning, and the focus is extremely short term. There is no tomorrow.
Successful businesses have a long time horizon to consider because the public won’t forget and you don’t get to completely rebrand every four years like a political party does. Unlike a new political leader, a new CEO doesn’t make all the old negative news magically disappear.
Looking back on nearly two decades of public relations work following a 30-year career as a news reporter provides an opportunity to reflect on how PR and the media interact in 2016. The new reality for the news media is there are now fewer people employed to do what, in many cases, is much more work.
Television news that once was confined to slots at noon, supper hour and late newscasts is now delivered 24 hours a day in back to back ‘news wheel’ formats that stretch reporters, editors and videographers to new limits.
A new media frontier
The power of the internet continues to grow, with bloggers having as much or more impact than reporters for mainstream media.
So how does this impact the ability of companies, organizations and public relations professionals to get the message out in the media?
Simply put, the media landscape may have changed dramatically but there are more opportunities and channels than ever for publicity.
Everybody is talking about Donald Trump
Love him or hate him, Trump is a publicity machine. He is getting more media attention than anyone else on earth with radio, television, newspapers and social channels featuring what seems to be a play-by-play of Trump’s latest antics in the Republican presidential candidate race.
Getting noticed still makes or breaks reputations, makes the cash register ring and brings people to the door.
And so, getting your message out with ‘earned’ media – otherwise known as public relations – is still one of the best ways to become known. Although the number of reporters may be contracting, newspapers and television are still hungry for content. The number of social channels grows every day. Trade magazines also abound and every industry is supported by at least one that’s looking for stories.
If you can’t get the media to tell your story through positive news coverage, do it yourself. Have videos produced and tell the story of your own company, your product or your services with words and pictures that matter to your brand. Then, feature it on your website.
Do something amazing and put it on the web via Youtube, Vimeo or Instagram. Send this to everyone you know. If your story goes viral, everyone will know what you want to get across and good things can happen.
Today is our 13 year anniversary at Peak Communicators! Yesterday night, we hosted a wonderful celebration of our 13-year milestone and celebrated with clients – past, present and potential – as well as our media friends.
Stories were told, laughs were had, sushi and cheese were devoured and wine and beer were flowing!
Thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate ‘#Peak13’ with us. Your support is what got us through the first 13 years and we’re excited to see what the next 13 have in store!
This year’s BCAMA annual marketing agency panel did not disappoint. Expert speakers from top agencies provided a strong sense of what’s to come this year and created a healthy debate around what’s really going to be some of the key drivers. There was a ton of information relayed to the hundreds of branding and communications professionals in the audience. Here are few of the highlights we took away with us.
Speaker #1: Andrew McCarthy – President, Tribal Worldwide Canada
The theme of Andrew’s presentation was around using content to connect with consumers. Research has recently shown that 71% of consumers who have blocked ads have said they’d consider whitelist advertising if the content was decent. Basically, people hate bad advertising.
So, how do you increase the shareability of your content?
Relatability – your content must be relevant
Have a point of view – this will help streamline content and ensure it’s consistent and interesting
Findability – search rankings are key when it comes to content dissemination
Mobility – make sure your content is where your audience is hanging out
Likeability – it’s an obvious one but your audience has to want to genuinely share your content
Snack Time, the milk producers of Western Canada’s cartoon series, was shared as a successful campaign where all the above was put in motion.
Speaker #2 Kelly Stephenson – Director of Strategy, Creature Agency, Seattle
Kelly’s talk centred around the prediction that there will be a rebalance between data and “creative bravery”. Kelly acknowledged the importance of data but cautioned that often marketers can get so caught up in data that the ability to connect with consumers is lost. Her argument around brands not becoming too obsessed with data was effectively summarised when she said, “data looks backwards; insights look forwards.” Marketers need to consider data and use this to create consumer insights in order to produce relevant and creative narratives that will increase the value of the relationship between brand and consumer.
An example used to highlight this argument was REI and its decision to shut up shop for the day on Black Friday and encourage its followers to #optoutside. REI chose to prioritize its shared values with its Millennial audience, putting a short-term need (a lot of revenue on Black Friday) behind the longer-term relationship. It was a smart move as the retailer generated millions of media impressions and a significant amount of content and engagement around #optoutside.
Speaker #3 April Yao – Senior Account Manager, 6S Marketing & Sheng Li Digital
April got up on stage and immediately said she had to disagree with some of Kelly’s points as 6S still uses and responds to data to ensure successful client campaigns that are closely tracked and clearly show ROI. April primarily presented on two topics: retargeting (also known as remarketing) and marketing to the Chinese population. April discussed the virtues of retargeting and dynamic remarketing (getting specific products that someone has already looked at on your brand website in front of the user when they are viewing another site). She said that, if you follow the cost per click (CPC) model, you’ll see the value quickly.
On the Chinese front, April said that approx. 20% of the Vancouver population is Chinese and encouraged the marketers in the room not to forget this growing market which often has high spending power. She talked about some of the equivalent Chinese social sites such as Youku (video),Baidu (search), and Weibo (think Twitter and micro-blogging).
April gave the example of Cirque du Soleil and how they were selling tickets fast in the English-speaking Vancouver community but not in the Chinese community. Through a Weibo contest, creating a Chinese landing page and a retargeting campaign, Cirque saw a significant increase in its ticket sales. Her final point on this community was that ethnic markets shouldn’t be forgotten but they also require their own distinct strategy.
Finally, Dan Scherk took to the stage to discuss the importance of brands adopting a user-centric approach in their marketing campaigns. He talked about how social marketing in particular has proven how brands cannot be organization-centric and that they have to prioritize user needs. Using his psychology background, he delved into social marketing behavioural theories and touched upon reasoned action approach, a benchmark for understanding and predicting human behaviour. Dan emphasised the need for marketers to tap into consumers’ beliefs, showing how that would impact attitudes which would in turn formulate intentions and lead onto certain behaviours.
The last case study of the morning was an interesting one: it was the “Dumb Ways to Die” campaign that was launched by Metro in Melbourne, Victoria. The cartoon campaign series was focused on reducing the number of accidents on its trains. Based on this, it was extremely successful and resulted in a 20% reduction in accidents. The campaign won top industry awards and was hailed a great success by many. But it was viewed as a failure by others. Why? In the real world, the true issue was suicide. So, a successful user-centred approach would have been around suicide prevention. Instead, the brand took an organizational approach and focused on an issue that was not the real problem.
Finally, the panel moderator, Claire Booth of Lux Insights, said that, while #FOMO (fear of missing out) was a real thing last year, this year, it’s apparently going to be all about #FOLO (fear of living offline).
40 percent of B2B buyers say LinkedIn is important when researching technology and services to purchase and 65 percent of B2B companies have acquired a customer through this channel (source: business2community)
More than 70 million photos and videos are sent daily (source: Hootsuite)
53 percent of internet users aged 18-29 use Instagram (source: Jeff Bullas)
Instagram is considered the most important social network by 32 percent of American teens (source: Hootsuite)
Among top brands Instagram has been adopted by 85 percent (source: Hootsuite)
Brands on Instagram are seeing a per follower engagement rate of 4.21 percent – that’s statistically 58 times higher than Facebook and 120 times higher than Twitter (source: Hootsuite)
Still photos are more popular on Instagram than videos – generating 36 percent more likes (source: Hootsuite)
Posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6 percent more engagement and posts tagged with a location receive 79 percent higher engagement (source: Hootsuite)
18 percent of marketers plan to increase efforts on Google+ this year (source: SearchEngineJournal)
The +1 button is hit 5 billion times per day (source: Jeff Bullas)
Google+ has more than 2.5 billion users but only 10 percent are active (source: smallbusinesscan)
The lights, the decorations and the Christmas music are in full swing anywhere you go in the city these days. From big shopping extravanganzas to ‘stuff-a-bus’ campaigns to tree lighting ceremonies to the Starbucks red cup fiasco of 2015, it seems that the holiday season is always the time of year business after business tries to out-do each other for the PR spotlight. Case in point with WestJet’s admittedly impressive stunt in 2013.
This Christmas, forget the large-scale, consumer-focused, out-of-this-world PR campaigns to promote your brand and services. Because, let’s be honest, not many businesses have quite the PR/marketing budget that WestJet has.
Few things give people the warm fuzzies more than a simple heartfelt – and sometimes awkward – Christmas card in the mail. As the holiday season approaches, take this opportunity to send out festive cards (bonus points for snail mail!) to clients and business partners to nurture existing business relationships and to tip the scales in your favour for potential new business relationships in the new year.
In PR, we always talk about the importance of key messages. Don’t miss an opportunity to incorporate these in a company Christmas card! More than just wishing ‘Happy Holidays’ or saying ‘thank you’ via email or social media, use your card as a way to remind clients, past and present, of what makes your business unique and the value you can bring to help them meet their business goals. Think about the big themes that give your company its character and charm and use them as the foundation of your card.
Maybe all your employees are big advocates of health and fitness. Or maybe everyone at the office is an obsessive coffee drinker with an unusual love for cats. It doesn’t have to be big and it doesn’t have to be flashy, but utilize your creativity to incorporate your company’s voice, personality and character into a holiday card without just relying on your company logo and tagline to do the talking.
From the message, to the wackiness of your graphic design, this is the perfect opportunity to capture your brand’s values and personality in a non-invasive, feel-good way. Be classy about it – no one needs to see your website URL in bold 20-point Arial font across the front – but use this card as a PR tool to reinforce your brand values and keep your business at the forefront of people’s minds.
A recent CTV interview with Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau filmed days before the Canadian federal election, reveals much about the woman who stands “shoulder to shoulder” with the newly sworn in Prime Minister. The interview was not only a window into the family’s core values, it also revealed why she’s a rising media star.
Across generations, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau has struck a chord. She carries the type of authenticity that doesn’t require age to connect.
In watching the interview, it’s apparent that Sophie’s style of openness and ability to make a connection with people is precisely what makes her so appealing and relatable. You see she’s human.
At Peak we often prepare our clients for media interviews. Whether it’s for print, radio or TV, interviews can be intimidating if you’ve never been put in the hot seat.
Through media training, we help people feel confident and in control of their conversation before they speak with media. There are a few things we could learn from Sophie’s CTV interview. Here’s what she got right.
Know your key messages
While the media may ask the questions, it doesn’t mean they dictate the conversation. In fact by knowing your key messages, which is an essential statement, thought or idea you want to get out in your interview, you remain in control of the conversation.
For Sophie, her key message throughout the conversation was that regardless of what changes around them, “within we’ll stay the same”.
Offer sound bites
By keeping her language simple, short and without jargon means her message is easy to understand. By doing so, Sophie adds more power and credibility to her response.
Here are a few sound bites, which reflect her key message:
“whatever things you go through, you stay true to who you are, and your core values”
“how you grow out of adversity is a reflection of who you are and who you can become”
Talk like a human
While none would mistake Stephen Harper for talking like a human (watch him talk about his love for TV shows), Sophie speaks with a natural tone, and it never sounds like she’s reading from a script.
When the reporter asks about her children’s reaction to the potential change to their lives, she repeats her key message, “I answer honestly. Inside we’ll still be the same people.”
Open body language
Crossed arms, shifting gaze and fidgeting are just some of the non-verbal cues of someone who is uncomfortable. This could translate to public mistrust and leave doubt in the message that is being delivered.
From the way she leans forward in her chair, to her open legged-stance, warm smile and animated gestures, Sophie exudes an easy openness, which translates to trust. Not only do you want to hear what she’s saying, you believe her.
The company only came clean on its deceptive practice of programming its cars to conform to emission standards only while being tested after U.S. authorities threatening to deny certifying 2016 models.
It is one thing for a company like General Motors to face a crisis like the faulty ignition switches that claimed multiple lives and cost the company $900 Million in fines. It’s quite another thing when a company creates its own crisis.
VW now faces fines up to $18 billion in the U.S. alone on top of multiple lawsuits. The company has withdrawn its affected diesel cars from sale here in Canada. Company management in Wolfsburg has warned employees of job cuts as the car sales nose dive and the company sets aside billions of Euros in a war chest.
The CEO of the company took days before he fell on his sword and resigned.
The company was slow to follow basic crisis management: Mess Up. Fess Up. Dress Up.
Key messages from the new CEO were week and predictable:
We are committed to fixing the problems ASAP
The affected vehicles are safe to drive
We are developing a remedy that will meet emissions standards
The world is watching the biggest automaker as it struggles with one of the biggest breaches of public confidence in automotive history.
Volkswagen’s fall from grace has been sudden and staggering. If the company has a crisis communications plan calling for timely and meaningful communications with the public, it has not been put into effective use.
Social media is still a relatively new phenomenon and the features are constantly being updated. PR professionals should consider how these changes impact or enhance their campaigns.
Below is a round-up of recent ‘need to know’ social media news this fall.
Dislike is the new thing
Facebook announced that soon a ‘dislike’ button will launch. Mark Zuckerberg explained that the new function would allow people to show ‘empathy’.
Brands need to pay attention to this; consumers will be able to voice their dislike for campaigns with a simple click of a button. Brands will make headlines for the wrong reasons when a campaign backfires as a result of this function.
Twitter is making its ‘Buy’ button available to everyone in the US, as a result of a partnership with Stripe. This is great news for online retailers and enhances the importance of Twitter as a customer service channel – the more followers you have, the more likely customers are to make an instant purchase.
The value for this activity will be measurable based on sales directly through the Twitter platform – this will make it easier getting buy-in for social media at the executive level.
Retailers should enhance their social media plans to develop an engaged, relevant and sizeable following on Twitter as a result.
Pinterest announced in September that it had hit the 100 million users’ milestone. Out of this number, around 70 per cent are considered to be ‘actively’ engaged. The company also confirmed that while Pinterest users are predominantly women, the gender gap is closing month by month.
The benefit of Pinterest for brands is people are often browsing the site for items they potentially want to buy; it is often treated like a shop window. Advertisers can proactively pay for promotional pins now and this feature will become more valuable as the number of users grow.
Pose for a portrait
Instagram is moving away from simply showcasing square images; now users can choose to post portrait or landscape photos. This is generally better for brands. Images won’t need to be compromised to fit the square frames, and will be better for accommodating specific brand guidelines.
At Peak Communicators we monitor for these social media updates daily and consider how they can be used in client campaigns. We’ll continue to share relevant updates via this blog and also our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin).
Communicating well in writing is one of the most important skills you can have, whether your job formally involves writing or not. At Peak we’re constantly striving to create engaging content for our clients: blog posts, white papers, reports, articles, tweets. The list goes on.
Once you know your purpose and audience, you need to get some words on the page. Here’s how.
Fill your brain
Before I can write about a topic, I need to know what I’m talking about. Once I’ve processed the background information, it’s much easier to synthesize cohesive arguments and writing goes a lot more smoothly. To organize my thoughts, I create a text file devoted solely to research and notes. In here I copy and paste relevant information I find online, any ideas that occur to me as I’m researching, and raw quotes from individuals I interview. If you come up with key points or sections you want to convey in your piece, put them in here.
Dump your brain
The biggest inspiration killer for me is setting rules or expectations for my piece of writing at the beginning of the creative process. Instead, just write down whatever’s on your mind. Set a time limit and keep typing until your timer goes off. If you think of a phrase that sums up what you want to communicate, put that at the top and work to it, but don’t feel limited by it. While you’re doing this, there will be additional questions that come up. Whenever I feel a brain blank about a topic, I highlight it so I can come back to it later, like so: [insert in-depth description of the process here]. Then I continue writing about something else.
At this stage, value quantity over quality. Only in the editing stages should you polish this piece. Beware of correcting grammar and restructuring sentences. Just dump your ideas.
Fit the pieces together
Now it’s time to determine which ideas you’re going to keep and how you’re going to sequence them.
Once I think I have sufficient content on the page to start putting my ideas in order, I create a new document and save the research doc as-is. It gives me peace of mind because my research and ideas notes are always there for reference. It’s an assurance that frees me to use this new first draft document to experiment with order, change wording and delete with abandon.
Defining sections is a handy way of designing the big-picture information flow for your piece. As you determine your sections, insert subheadings and make sure you put only information related to that subject into that section. You don’t have to keep these headings in the final piece.
Once I have these headings, I shuffle my research, quotes and idea fragments into the different sections.
As you’re doing this, delete irrelevant information mercilessly. Shorten and rephrase cumbersome sentences that are essential. Cut out redundant information, or synthesize it with the bits you want to keep. If there are phrases that don’t fit anywhere but you like them, keep them at the end in an Extras section. Later you can delete them forever, or bring them back from purgatory as supporting points.
If you’re using info from an interview you did for the piece, use quotes very selectively. Quotes should insert information you couldn’t deliver any other way, such as your interviewee’s colourful opinion, interesting phrasing or their retelling of an experience.
Continue to insert your notes as you go through, highlighted like so: [insert better transition sentence here].
Let it sit
If you can, take a couple days off.
Kill your darlings
Come back with fresh eyes and a taste for blood and slash anything that doesn’t support your points. Zero in on anything that sounds awkward or doesn’t make sense and tinker with it until it works, or remove it.
This piece of writing is not about you. Remember your audience and write the piece with their interests in mind. Show your sentences no mercy.
Whittle and polish
Your piece has structure and it’s streamlined. It’s nearly done. Now it’s time to tweak the small stuff. If you fiddle with the details before this stage, you risk wasting your time crafting exquisite sentences about irrelevant points that get trashed.
Do any remaining research and fact checking
Make sure there are clear transitions between each idea
Use active voice whenever possible
Clarify long and/or convoluted sentences into concise thoughts
Vary sentence lengths
Replace vague phrases with specific ones
Include illustrative examples where relevant
Think your piece is good to go?
Here are some final tests to make sure it’s bulletproof:
Get someone else’s feedback
Read it aloud
Leave it alone again and come back in a week
It’s usually better to publish something that’s less than perfect than to leave it sitting forever unpublished with the hope of someday achieving perfection. Ain’t no such thing. After you’ve done your due diligence to ensure the piece makes sense, let it loose.
It helps me be more creative when I remember not to take myself so seriously. The quality of your writing doesn’t reflect your personal worth. If the article turns out bad, learn from your mistakes and take them into account next time. Once you’re OK with the worst-case scenario that this might be the worst thing you’ve ever written, you’ll feel freer to put words on the page.