Revealing The One Element Of PR Management That Frightens Businesses

how to manage crisis management in PRBeing dazzled by the glittering lights of a fabulous PR feature for your business sounds great, but if you haven’t got a carefully constructed strategy, then the whole business of your new PR venture will go to pot. Sounds unbelievable, doesn’t it?

 

When everything is positive, it is hard to imagine anything ever going wrong. The press will always be on your side, right? Wrong. However, working with the press doesn’t have to be such a daunting task. So long as you plan ahead and cover every eventuality, and I mean, everything.

 

So, in this post today, we talk about that one element of PR that all businesses would rather not talk about. The one thing that makes almost all business owners shudder and keeps PR professionals up all night sweating:

 

Crisis Management:

 

No company can ever be fully prepared for a crisis yet the more high profile you are, the harder it will be to shake off. In this day and age, businesses who want to venture into the press need to tread with caution. The press can be your ally. They can promote your story, service or product with ease and it won’t cost you a penny. It’s not like marketing where you are paying cash and keeping in control. The only trouble is, is that you don’t have a say in what they print if it’s a PR campaign. However, the higher up you are in the power stakes, the more clout you have when it comes to requesting such things like copy approval (which is asking to see a draft copy of the article before it goes to print.)

 

The press can also be your enemy – sneaking up on you when you least expect it. They are, of course, only interested in a story and if it is gained at the expense of your business’s image, then so be it. They are useful, very useful but, like you, they are out to survive and make money which is exactly what you’re doing. So be wary of that. The only way to harness their power and ensure you keep in control is to construct a plan for when it goes horribly wrong, just as much as when it goes right.

 

So what is it about Crisis Management that fills companies with dread? Probably the biggest reason is that they think they will never need it. After all, who is really going to be interested in something about the company that has changed recently? It’s amazing how many businesses overlook this fact that the press just might be interested in publishing your latest quarterly figures, particularly if they are down significantly.

 

As someone once said, the news is what someone else doesn’t want published. Everything else is advertising. 

 

So, when faced with the front pages pointing the finger at you, what do you do?

 

 

Don’t panic

 

Panic? No. That’s the last thing you should be doing. After all, you would have already put in place a Crisis Management plan for such eventualities. Panic will not come into it.

 

Grow up

 

One of the first things you should do, my friends, is Grow Up. Yes, grow up. It is time to take responsibility and acknowledge any wrongdoing. That doesn’t mean to say putting your hands up in the air to every accusation with ‘it’s a fair cop, Gov,’ but what it does mean is being diplomatic, transparent and honest. If you’ve screwed up, that’s fine, just don’t cover it up by telling everyone how wonderful you are, when at this point, you’re clearly not.

 

Get active

 

In this day and age, you can’t afford to sit back and reflect on any mistakes for too long. The digital age means that all businesses, big and small have to respond quickly to negative press. Don’t sit on it. No one will forgive you for it. Be ready to respond quickly but effectively, but don’t get knee jerked into saying something fast that could be more damaging than helpful. It will save your image from disaster. Having said that, if it’s an irrelevant comment in the press that is clearly just a dig at you for no reason other than to irritate you, then ‘no comment’ is fine. A good PR team will tell you when to leap and when not to.

 

Whatever you need to do, if you need to do it, do it as soon as you can. If it means compensation, then get apologising and start handing out the freebies. It will allow you to pick up your brand off the floor without too much damage. Make a call to action and then get on with it. If you say that you’re trying to do this and attempting to do that and then start doing it.  You will likely win back some credibility.

 

Shut up and listen

 

Before you go reaching for the keyboard tutting, listen to the complaint/the negative story and consider what the subtext is. What is the complaint about? Are you really listening to the problem?

 

Your reputation is on trial, yes, but consider you’re being listened to by potentially millions of people if you are responding digitally, so be careful how you say what you’re going to say. No one wants to be accused of not paying attention to the real issue.

 

 

Get human

 

When someone has a go at you over social media, don’t come back to them with a speech that sounds more like an MP’s cover-up. Ditch the corporate language and get human. Get on an equal level with your customer/stakeholder/press and talk to them as if they were human, (and yes, even the press can be human sometimes.)

 

Avoid ‘we’ speeches. Don’t say ‘we’re are always improving our blah blah blah.’ It won’t wash. Say ‘I am sorry’ rather than ‘we are sorry.’ it’s not about taking personal blame. It’s about effective communication and not distancing yourself from complainer like you’re above them. Be honest, say you are going to work through it and offer to keep them updated on your progress. People will feel you are not only getting on with resolving the problem, but you are respecting them too.

 

 

 

 

 

5 Tips To Creating The Perfect Press Release

Michelle Hatcher Media

The other day, I was going through my emails. Nothing unusual there.

 

Often I get a sudden sweep of promotional emails from other businesses showcasing their wares in the hope that I might be interested in them for one reason or another. Then one stopped me in my tracks. Not for its content but how the content was presented.

 

With a fairly speedy eye, I managed to count four different fonts in one email of varying sizes, yet this had been sent by a senior PR account manager (I shan’t name any names here.) I was horrified.

 

michelle hatcher media

 

The products might have been very nice (the truth was, I didn’t hang around on the page to find out) yet I was so overwhelmed by what looked like four different people had written the email. What the lovely PR person was trying to tell me was completely lost in translation. Sadly. The next thing I noticed was the name of the sender and their email signature. Ouch. That was bound to stick with me.

 

For someone who works in PR, I always take notice of who has sent a press release. If it’s shoddy, I will make a note of the name, whether I consciously mean to or not. If it’s outstanding, I will do the same and remember them equally. It’s just one of those things. I instantly get an image of that person and then wonder how they got to be in a senior PR role.

 

In this business, it’s all about connections. It’s not always about what you know but who you know. We remember names and jot them down in little black books. That’s how it works. The next time, I come across the name of the PR person, I will remember the limp press release. Unfair? Well, it’s all about setting an impression. Whether that’s good or bad is entirely down to you.

 

So, in today’s post, we’re going to focus on the little slips and trips that even the best of us fall victim to.

 

 

You’re invisible so look good

 

Remember that the recipient of your email cannot see you. They don’t know who you are (more often than not.) So, it doesn’t matter how good your products are, what your office looks like or even how your sales charts are doing, if your press release looks disjointed and unpolished, you might as well be sitting in a cardboard box, busking.

 

 

Use one font but no more than two

 

If you are putting together a cunning press release, consider how it’s going to look for the recipient. Putting together a world-class killer press release on your desk top might look completely unreadable on the other person’s mobile. As more and more of us use our mobiles to converse, shop, bank and search, do a test send you your own mobile first to see how it looks first before sending.

 

 

Get visual first

 

Looks are everything. Basic psychology tells us that we process visuals faster that we process text. People are going to look at the way something is laid out first, before they read it. It doesn’t matter how many action verbs or keywords you stuff into the piece, if it’s not visually appealing, the message will be lost.

 

 

Remember email attention spans

 

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that you have someone’s attention if you send something by email. Our attention spans are just as fast on email as they are on social media. Hence the reason why companies are finding that email marketing isn’t as easy as it used to be. Your impact on email has got to be just as striking as if it was on SM. Use images to convey your message. Again, visual impact is the key. Floaty fonts won’t cut it. You know what the message is, they won’t. So make it clear and leave the fancy fonts to someone else.

 

 

Don’t be lazy on cutting and pasting

 

Lastly, be wary of cutting and pasting to save time. If you are taking something from a Word doc for example, watch the font and the size too. You might think large print has impact but for the recipient, they will feel they are being shouted at.

 

 

So the next time you send out a press release about a new product or service take time to consider how that piece is going to look.

 

Never mind the deadline you’ve been set, take time over it. It could mean your reputation.

 

 

How To Celebrate A PR Career In Your 40’s (When Everyone Is Younger Than You)

In PR and over 40

This week, PR Week UK launches their 30 under 30 project to showcase, yes, you guessed it, 30 of the most up and coming PR professionals under 30. The criteria? You have to be under 30. Of course. In this post today, we celebrate the over 40s (even if no one else will) still in PR, still cutting it and still leading the way.

 

In PR and over 40

 

I came officially into PR late in life, you could say.

 

As a journalist with a past in delivering a British voice on current affairs to an overseas audience (back in the day when deadlines couldn’t be scheduled to send at a reasonable hour,) I had come in hard-nosed, serious and as tight as The Beatles in Hamburg. PR for me meant sweaty palms, long train journeys for 20 minute meetings and achingly perfect handwriting. The industry, my friends was hard. It still is, but us 40 somethings had to do everything manually in those days. When we were under 30. These days, you can click, swipe and tap your way to the (almost) the top. Then, it was hard graft, wrist ache and regular trips to Timpsons.

 

I am all for celebrating the next generation of PR-ettes. The world in this industry changes daily and you have to either keep up or stand out or fall out. For me, in my late forties, I aimed for the latter, made it my own and ran with it. I am still running.

 

So what have I learned in this business over the last 20 years? For me, the barriers between PR and Marketing have melted considerably. There is probably more confusion around these days about what is PR and what is Marketing in the boardroom. I have seen, and still continue to see, businesses fall into the trap of cutting back on their hard-working PR and Marketing teams in the hope they will save some cash. In these days of uncertainty (and believe me chaps, it doesn’t get more worrying than right now. Even the crash was better than this. I know, I was there,) anything you can shrewdly do for next to nothing, counts.

 

We are all looking for the next big bang moment. PRs are hungry to find that all elusive great idea that will push their client/employer out of the window and into the laps and clammy hands of their target audience without so much as dipping into the petty cash tin. The ideas are there. They truly are. As Bob Proctor once said, nothing is being done in the world now that can’t be done better in the future (the future being Monday lunchtime.)

 

The only thing PRs like me have against them, often, is age. But clients want experience? Ah, that comes with age though. That’s the catch. Oh yes, and then there are our salaries. This is usually the point when there is some mild fainting in the offices of HR. Balance sheets are re-read and sums revised. Surely we don’t need a PR? Sure! Because only the Spice Girls need PR. Only an MP needs pubic relations. Right? Wrong.

 

There is still a worrying attitude that PR is a luxury that only the multi-million pound empires can afford. Many of us who have been churning out careers in the media one way or another will argue that it’s a vital piece of the jigsaw. Companies can do without PR as much as they can do without sales. But when the general focus is on fresh-faced under grads with that smell of new shoes about them, the hardest teachers who will tell you exactly how it is, are the over 40’s. The elder PR-ites who have spilt blood and trod in the footsteps of the media, once bustled their way through the crowds with spiral notepads and damp rain coats simply to get their client in the front of the man with the money. There is a knack of elbowing that is probably not needed anymore.

 

The most extraordinary people I have ever worked with in the media – across the press, TV, celebrity and radio broadcasting are the 40 somethings. There is something confident about them, often a glint in the eye and an assuring quality, about themselves. You will get a straight answer out of them simply because somewhere along the line, that was their mistake or their trip up too.

 

They dusted off the years from their pin stripes and got back in the saddle. There is an outer coating which shows they have worked all the angles. They can take products and turn them to a whole new audience. They have seen that changing the colour tint in a bill poster will get another 3000 sales. They have debated and argued the mechanics of their profession. Learned from their even elders and caught the right buses. That comes with years which can’t be brought with a mortar board and red ribboned certificate.

 

When I meet an under 30 in PR, I smile. I think about what it was to at that age. Then I remember the knocks life has dealt me. The trying to bring up a family amongst a sea of paperwork and calls. The projects cut short. The late night meetings which inspire and create people who fire you along which don’t for one reason or another get signed off.

 

It is all part of the learning curve. I embrace the next generation but I also bow low to the ground for mine and the one before it. The crafters who set in stone what the young things now are being guided from. Celebrate the under 30s, Hell yes.

 

But let’s not forget the men and women who make that field possible and still lead the way.

7 Brutal Questions You Must Ask Yourself Before Hiring A PR Manager

So, how do you obtain brilliant PR? You start with the right person, and by that I mean BOTH manager and client.

The pairing has to be perfect. Those who sit in their agencies thinking that all you need is a long list of press contacts and a gift of the gab are missing out on a big trick. The relationship between client and manager needs to be water tight. Yet, this plus a whole host of other issues usually fail to get any attention by businesses.

So, in this post, I will walk you through the 7 brutal questions you need to ask yourself before you hire a PR Manager (and it’s a frighteningly vast number of businesses who don’t.)

  1. Do they ‘get’ your business? Understanding your playing field is vital to the success of the relationship between your PR manager and you. They need to have either experience in your trading arena or have the desire to learn it thoroughly.
  2. Are they keen for the right reasons? Enthusiasm is the key here and if your newly acquired PR manager is willing to engage, then they are a better bet than someone who is simply willing to part you from your cash.
  3. Do they genuinely want to get to know you? A good PR manager will want to spend time with you and get to know you and your company. Allow them to do this as it will give them valuable insight into how you think, speak and currently project your company image. It might sound like a turn on the therapist couch, but if you want your PR to be transparent, on song and genuine then your PR manager is going to want to make sure the story you share is truthful and accurate.
  4. Do they love you? Don’t simply go for a PR Manager who kisses the ground you walk on. The papers will only take so much of yet another client wishing for their ego to be massaged.
  5. Are they the right PR Manager for you? This is a toughie as most businesses will hire someone that’s wrong. That doesn’t mean to say that there are bad PR Managers and you have to know how to pick a good one. Some will be a good fit. No everyone you meet will be.
  6. Have they identified opportunities yet? Every day is an opportunity. A good PR manager will not sit around waiting for those opportunities to drop into their lap – they need to see the world differently to everyone else and a good PR manager won’t hang about. They will want to take action and shout your corner as soon as possible.
  7. Are they swtiched on? You might have heard about the brain’s excellent ability to ‘distort, delete and generalise’ everything that comes into contact with its eyes, ears and senses each day? A PR Manager will be subconsciously switched on to picking up everything once of data which in turn, leads to a positive opportunity to create that all important persona for their client. They will have their finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the world and ready to snap up an opportunity as soon as it happens. 

 

Michelle has won awards for her contribution to Communications and PR for several high profile clients and projects, including the London 2012 Olympics.  She holds a total of 5 Diplomas in Marketing, PR and even Business Psychology. She currently works as a PR Manager and lives in Wiltshire with her 3 cats and son, Jon.