February 13, 2013
Crisis communications is the quintessential “difficult but necessary” topic. None of us like to think about worst-case scenarios. But, if you maintain your success long enough, you will eventually face a crisis.
How you or the PR firm you hire chooses to handle that crisis could make or break the further success of your business. Unfortunately, here at 5WPR, we have seen far too many business owners or executives make the fatal mistake of trying to “get out ahead” of the crisis without a workable approach to their crisis communications.
That impulse is understandable. One glance here and it’s obvious that I understand exactly what it feels like to encounter a crisis and immediately want to attack it, fix it, mitigate the problem as soon as possible. That’s a trait common to everyone committed to business success.
Unfortunately, it can be exactly that passion that can be a detriment when crisis communications require a more delicate, reasoned response. In my work with 5WPR, I have observed people too close to a crisis situation make tragic mistakes, simply because their proximity precluded objectivity.
Let’s take a look at a recent communications crisis in the pharmaceutical industry. McNeil Consumer Healthcare, makers of the industry-leading acetaminophen product, Tylenol, was faced with the immediate recall of nearly its entire brand line. On the surface, the issue seems simple. Remove tainted products and let the public know you are “on top of the issue.”
Here’s the problem for them. Pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers deal with these issues on a daily basis. They are intimately connected with the standards and practices that govern their industry. The average mom buying Tylenol for her toddler is not. She hears “recall” and goes all “mama bear.” An otherwise reasonable mom may take one look at the empty spot above that Tylenol shelf tag and make the snap decision to never buy another Tylenol product.
A savvy PR firm must connect the precision response of the company with the emotional response of parents across the market segment. The power of crisis communications in this example is exemplified when the consumer is cognizant of the efforts of the company to correct the issue and the company’s communication reflects empathy for the emotionally distanced consumer.
February 12, 2013
Recent news about the unfortunate handling of a public incident by Applebee’s has many companies going back over their corporate rules and policies, looking for anywhere there might be a fissure in their PR approaches.
Sure, we’d all prefer to not have to deal with such a situation. But none of us are perfect and it’s better to be safe than sorry. That being said, here are 5 key tips taken from some of the best crisis PR firms to follow in order to properly handle a PR crisis.
1 – Be Honest With Yourself. All reputable crisis PR firms will tell you that a crisis arises mainly because a company has ignored an issue. To prevent this, be willing to honestly identify your own issues. Do what you can to fix them before they get out of hand.
2 – Be Accessible. You need to be easy to reached by your customers and target audience. This means keeping a social media presence via Facebook, Twitter and innumerable other places. This is key to keeping tabs on the public’s opinion of your company.
3 – Prepare for the Worst. Take the time to have a frank conversation about what type of a crisis could befall your company at any given moment. Think outside of the box and make sure all bases are covered. Based on what you come up with, create approaches to stomp out that crisis and keep it stored away should that crisis ever arise.
4 – Be Fast. If you do find yourself in the midst of a crisis, there’s no sense in wasting time to see how the cards will fall. Respond right away. This is easier if you have followed Tip #4.
5 – “No Comment” Does Not Exist. Never under any circumstances should you answer any question with “no comment” no matter how bad the situation may be. It makes you look foolish and makes the public assume the worst.
Having taken all of this in, ask yourself if your company is prepared to follow all of these tips. If not, you need to take action or you may find that the next public crisis is your own.
February 8, 2013
It seems you can’t sit down in front of the TV, commute to work, surf the internet or read the newspaper without being faced with food ads. Some marketing messages are encouraging you to eat out, and inviting you to head to their restaurant. Other commercials are reminding you of the benefits of dining in your own home, the comforts of your own kitchen and the sense of accomplishment when you’ve prepared a gourmet feast.
With all the restaurants that pop up overnight and new food products that hit the market every day, consumers are literally bombarded with print and online media content competing for their attention. They are overwhelmed with the information being put out there, whether they intend to eat out or dine at home. Obviously, some of the messages are going to get lost in the fray.
When it comes to our food and beverage clients at 5WPR, we are not willing to let that happen. It’s our responsibility as a top food PR firm to ensure that consumers hear our message; moreover, we want to read their minds to know what they want to hear. We want to be that voice at the back of their head that says, “You know, I kind of feel like making dinner at home tonight and Italian sounds perfect.”
The major client players at a PR agency like 5WPR rely on our team to put together attention grabbing content and prepare it for widespread distribution. As consumers are assailed from all angles with marketing messages for a wide variety of food and beverage products, our content needs to stand out. If it’s not memorable enough to make an immediate impact, there’s no way it will ever last long enough in a consumer’s mind to inspire them to buy.
Fortunately, our team at 5WPR has some tactics up our sleeves that we use while developing the marketing campaigns of our clients. Often, we’ll introduce a new spin on a previous strategy that was successful in optimizing brand visibility. Other times, we’ll have brainstorming sessions when content has gone stale. It’s important for our team to press on when other PR firms might have run out of ideas if we want to stay at the top of the game.
February 6, 2013
No matter what the Ground Hog tells us every year, it always seems like winters in the NYC area last well beyond the six weeks he predicts if he sees his shadow in the Punxsutawney morning sun. Even though the days are officially getting longer, the grey and dreary weather takes its toll by the time January and February roll around. We’re getting sick of bundling up, frustrated with the cold, and weary with being stuck inside all the time.
By mid-February, most residents of the northern states are casting their gaze south if they’re able to get away for a few days of warm vacation bliss. The last thing potential travelers want to is go away on a trip to a spot that’s even more bitterly cold that their own neighborhood. If they’re going to spend money on a getaway, it’s difficult for a travel PR firm like 5WPR to convince consumers to head somewhere with the same – or worse – weather than what they have at home.
Our team is constantly faced with challenges where we’re forced to persuade consumers to spend money on something when they’re inclined to do the exact opposite. And encouraging tourists to visit a cold weather destination toward the end of winter might be considered a losing battle. Of course, we could always use monetary incentives such as offering deep discounts at unpopular times of the year. But these tactics force our travel public relations clients to give up profit.
Instead, successful PR agency will make it their responsibility to find a new approach and use innovative concepts that make a cold destination cool. We must make it appear like an overwhelmingly attractive option even at a time when consumers are looking for sun and fun.
While you may not know it, you have seen this work before. Think of the ice bar and hotel concept, where the excitement is based entirely on the frozen atmosphere that welcomes the visitor. Ski resorts tout the fun of sleigh rides, bonfires and hot tubs in the snow. Even the seemingly impossible can be accomplished with ingenuity and thinking outside the box.
January 29, 2013
Even back when the main media sources were the printed news, television and radio, the competition among public relation firms in New York City has been stiff. There are countless agencies in the city, from the one person shop to the mega PR companies with hundreds on staff. Each of these firms tends to concentrate on different specialties, such as clients of a certain size, businesses in a particular industry or geographic target. There are factors that a company will need to keep in mind when choosing a PR firm, but many business owners choose 5WPR because we offer a well rounded portfolio.
In my experience, I have seen that a PR agency can be successful by offering innovating marketing ideas and providing premium customer service to its clients. But if that’s all you’ve got, you’re not going to separate your company from all the other public relations firms in New York City who are effectively doing the same thing. I’m not suggesting that they need to pigeonhole themselves into a niche, but there are ways a PR firm can stand out.
One concept where I focused my efforts to enable 5WPR to step away from the pack was to specialize in complementary industries. Covering several different consumer areas that are interconnected in some way enables a company to rise above other firms if they can effectively increase visibility for one client while promoting the interests of another. A secondary advantage is that it allows the 5WPR team to become specialists in the multiple industries we represent.
There are many opportunities to use a strategy in connection with one client, and be able to carry over the concepts for use with another client in a different industry. With a few examples, you’ll be able to see the advantages for 5WPR operations and the benefits we are able to pass on to our clients. Obviously, the fashion and beauty trades share common interests in visibility at industry events, online media channels and other outlets. 5WPR’s efforts in any one of these spheres on behalf of our fashion client serves to heighten awareness of our beauty industry partners, and vice versa. Likewise, our representation of a celebrity requires us to promote and draw attention to various endeavors. Conveniently, we can accomplish this during one of the social events as we’re handling the PR for our charitable organization client. That’s why it makes sense for 5WPR to multitask on behalf of multiple clients.
January 24, 2013
For a while it was thought that Google didn’t pay that much attention to social channels and what bloggers were writing about in the web space.
Times have changed and Google is placing greater emphasis on social signals and the same way Google rewards sites for relevant links to your site, they will reward you for having the relevant followers from Twitter and likes from a Facebook page.
According to Google, a signal isn’t the same as a ranking factor. This is what Google had to say in late 2010 in regards to retweets, “Yes, we do use it as a signal. It is used a signal in our organic and news rankings. We also use it to enhance our news universal by marketing how many people shared an article.”
Google can’t rank a page if it isn’t indexed, so the engagement on social channels will have little effect if this is the case.
Engaging in social channels whether directly or indirectly helps with search optimization overall. It provides wider visibility which in turn leads to more links and social signals, further boosting your site’s web authority.
The thoughts on social signals are this, engage in social channels the same way you would approach SEO. Don’t start spamming on social channels; this could ultimately hurt your rankings. Having a strategy in place where you can start sharing content with relevant followers. It’s about quality first, not quantity.
January 24, 2013
For those that are in the market for a reputable public relations firm in New York, there is a lot to consider. There are tons of PR agencies out there that will compete for your business and it can often be a daunting task to sift through them all to find the one that is best suited for your needs.
For the most part, there are a few basic guidelines in selecting a PR firm that is right for you. A good rule of thumb is to speak with at least three PR firms before making a decision. As you do, consider the following items.
- Work with someone that will get you results as quickly as possible. When you have to decide between the company that wants to start getting results right away or one that wants to “get to know you” for a few months first, you should probably choose the one that is more results-driven.
- Try to find a public relations firm in New York that is going to match your personality, goals, and objectives. When it comes to PR, there is going to be some meeting in the middle, but it should not define your relationship.
- Be very careful and selective when it comes to deciding between a general services PR company and a specialty firm. While a specialty firm is absolutely going to instantly identify with your goals, they also have several other clients with similar goals. This may make any work they do for you seem generic and cut-out, as their client’s all have objectives that are too closely matched.
- Ask for references or samples of other similar work. Make sure all of these are in direct relation to the results you hope to get. In terms of references, Ronn Torossian’s PR firm can provide at least two or three clients that can happily vouch for them.
Even after all of this, you’ll still have quite a decision to make. Just be sure to not rush your decision and try to follow your instincts rather than just their pitch.
January 23, 2013
With the holidays just behind us, we can reflect on the season with our family and friends enjoying meals and good times with an adult beverage. Wine is served at many Thanksgiving tables, and cocktails abound during the December festivities. When New Year’s Eve is upon us, many toast with champagne to ring in the New Year and say goodbye to the old one. The last couple of months in a calendar year are a boon for alcoholic beverage producers, as the holiday season is their most profitable time.
However, there are several other holidays throughout the year that offer marketing opportunities for the makers of different alcoholic beverages. One of the most reputable PR firms in New York City, 5WPR has spent countless hours reviewing consumer trends related to adult beverage consumption on behalf of our food and beverage clients. As part of the process of educating our team, we have found that there are some consumers that simply have a favorite cocktail and will not change their habits. On the other hand, there is a large group of consumers that will sip on a cocktail based on certain holidays. It’s up to 5WPR to seize on this opportunity and turn it into profit for our client.
As an example, Mardi Gras is usually celebrated during February, depending on when Easter falls in a particular year. Traditionally a party where people enjoy a last hurrah before more well-mannered behavior is expected during Lent, however Mardi Gras has become a holiday unto itself. Firmly established in New Orleans culture, the Hurricane is a traditional beverage and a strong PR firm like 5WPR will take advantage of the opportunity to maximize visibility for its rum producer clientele.
Cinco de Mayo is another case in point where the holiday itself conjures up a taste for a certain beverage. In fact, for producers of tequila and Mexican-style beer, the week leading up to May, 5th is among their most profitable times of the year. And of course, St. Patrick’s Day wouldn’t be the same without a pint of Irish stout. Ronn Torossian’s team at 5WPR steps up its marketing efforts for these clients who will benefit from the additional exposure conferred by the upcoming holiday’s flare.
January 18, 2013
It never fails that a celebrity client or sports star is involved with an after hours brawl, run in with the law or other PR nightmare. At 5WPR, our team members are sometimes called out of bed in the middle of the night – literally – to put our heads together on some scheme to snuff out negative chatter. Our PR clients rely on us as their go-to PR firm to drag their reputation out of the gutter when bad publicity explodes throughout the online newswire. But we didn’t earn our outstanding reputation in the aftermath of just one or even 20 widely publicized catastrophes.
Take, for instance, the different individuals and NFL teams involved in the fallout from the bounty program. From the player level, to members of the coaching staff, to entire organizations, the scandal hit the league like a ton of bricks. Careers were devastated by the potential suspensions and penalties that might be handed down, well before final decisions were ever made regarding the punishments that would be levied. Some sports pundits wondered if the players and other staff would ever rebound from the controversy, even after fines had been paid and suspensions were served.
As a top PR firm, our team reacts to a crisis like this particular scandal with a swift move into reputation management mode. Going on 10 years in the public relations industry, the damage control frenzy surrounding the bounty controversy is commonplace and we have seen our fair share of media disasters. With every publicity snag that befalls one of our celebrity clients, we learn and apply the techniques to future catastrophes.
When it comes to reacting to a crisis and restoring a reputation, you have heard my adage “content is king.” While I don’t want to dilute that point, I also want to stress that rapid response is also key. Attack the blogosphere with an aggressive campaign that serves to weakens the impact of negative press. Use newswire resources to distribute press releases to mitigate the bad impression left in the public’s eye by a starlet’s wardrobe malfunction or a sports figure’s too-candid comments about a coach. Your goal is to counter every dent in the client’s reputation with a post that pounds it right back out.
Reputation management in a crisis situation is less about contradicting the media reports, and more towards distraction. Arguing against the incident or scandal will only draw more attention. Our goal as a PR firm is to shed an upbeat light on the positive traits and selfless deeds of our clients, and saturate the online distribution outlets with as much feel-good content as we can circulate.
January 14, 2013
In the industry of alcoholic beverages, there is not much room for an entirely new liquor. It’s true that unique recipes for rum, vodka and whiskey are rampant, and companies are promoting new cocktail combinations at an extraordinary rate. I’ve recently seen releases of legal moonshine concoctions, which tend to ride on the coattails of popular reality shows. But as far as new hard alcohol being developed and introduced to the market, there’s nothing left that truly innovative.
So when clients come to 5WPR and want to hear how a leading PR firm will help them clamor on top of the heap in an intensely competitive industry, we can’t send them back to the lab to devise a new chemical combination. My position on this topic is that it’s more important to boost a brand’s breadth than to deepen their marketing budget. Through use of these marketing tactics, one of our top beverage PR clients was able to extend its roots in the industry without having to throw a ton of money toward a less profitable campaign. While our partner had their foot in the door in the enormously lucrative vodka business, they needed help broadening their brand.
Our solution: introduction of flavored vodkas as an adjunct to their unflavored product. The flavored liquor trend has been taking hold of the industry for the last few years, and it seemed a natural progression to draw visibility to their original premium brand. In this way, the client could increase its market share in the flavor trend while strengthening its roots in its main (unflavored) product.
It’s true that I have used re-branding tactics as the foundation of a marketing campaign when the product has become stale in its industry. This is not always the most advantageous strategy, as it can be expensive and lose ground in a cost-benefit analysis. An example would be a well-known vodka producer that invested millions in an ad scheme that involved manufacturing personalized bottles for packaging its liquor. This type of tactic really only reaches a small target audience, and so doesn’t broaden the brand’s presence among its competitors. Of course, every promotion strategy must be focused on serving the needs of the individual client. Not every tactic is perfect tailored to the size, budget and goals of the customer, and my job is to cull the out the most effective methods.