October 17, 2013
This past week, the producers (and many fans) of the anticipated movie adaptation of the huge bestseller 50 Shades of Grey, had a bit of ‘splainin’ to do. Charlie Hunnam, the superstar actor known best for portraying Jax Teller in the megahit Sons of Anarchy has – once again – stepped away from the role. Though the producers were clearly caught off guard, the move could not have been a complete surprise. Hunnam had initially turned the role down, but later agreed.
The story being told now by both sides’ entertainment PR departments is that Hunnam had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. That may have been it, or it may have been the somewhat bipolar response to the announcement that Hunnam had been tapped to play the lead character, Christian Grey.
The purpose of this article is not to toss salt in a wound, but to take a look at how both sides responded to a potential negative PR firestorm.
Fans of this book are legion, and they are rabid. The expectations are going to be off the charts. Seeing this sort of shakeup will not inspire them to positive feelings, and will not play well online.
So, what will Universal Pictures, and Focus Features say to get ahead – and stay ahead – of the story? Well, they are already talking, and there’s plenty for you to learn about how to handle “oops PR”.
1 – They made the announcement
The producers didn’t get scooped; they got there first. This is huge from a PR standpoint. You want to be as far out ahead of the story as possible. Leading the story is always best. This gives you the best opportunity to control the narrative.
2 – Embrace the embarrassment and move on
They didn’t quibble, posture, or point fingers. They just told the truth, and announced future plans. Was it embarrassing? Likely. Was it fatal to the project? Not hardly. And it was certainly not as negative as it would have been if the producers had turned this into a circus.
3 – Remind fans what is going well
In a release, the producers were quick to remind fans that the female lead, Dakota Johnson, is still under contract, and they are moving quickly to find a replacement. The application here is to remind people that things are under control, and positive action is already underway.
You will never be able to steer clear of all embarrassing situations or PR issue. But, when you have to face the music, keep these tips in mind.
October 15, 2013
The National Hockey League has begun preseason games and fans seem pretty excited. But the league still has to be wondering how loyal fans will be after last year’s shortened lockout season. The league still has to play the games, and it can expect the die-hards to be in the seats…but what about the fringe fans every team needs to balance the books.
Torossian tip #1 – Be generous
Nothing says I love you fans like opening your wallet…or, more to the point, sparing theirs. For many people, going to a professional sports game is expensive. Make it less so and they will be more encouraged to leave the flat screen at home and go to the game.
Torossian tip #2 – Be competitive
Even fair-weather fans love to support a winner. But even if you lose as many as you win, your team can fill the seats if it looks and feel competitive. This has as much to do with public relations as it does with the scoreboard.
Torossian tip #3 – Be fan friendly
This is definitely as much about PR as it is about anything. The approach and the conversation matter. If you can do things and say things in a way that conveys, ‘hey, we appreciate you!’ that will go a long way toward mending hurt feelings. But don’t skimp. Make this a culture, a reality. Some teams do a great job at this. Learn from their examples.
Torossian tip #4 – Make it about them
If the NHL can manage this sort of approach, it will bring the fans back for the long run. There have been far too many lockouts and strikes in pro sports in recent years. The fans are tired of it, and now it’s time for the league to step up and prove how much it values its fans.
October 7, 2013
5WPR Chief Ronn Torossian explains how to maximize the PR value in your reviews
In the food and beverage industry, particularly if you have a storefront or sit-down joint, reviews can mean everything to your public relations efforts. But are you maximizing your reviews for the best results? Do you even know how to go about that?
PR guru and CEO of 5W Public Relations, Ronn Torossian, digs into this issue and offers three points you need to immediately apply to your food and beverage PR campaigns if you ever want to get any push from your restaurant reviews.
Torossian tip #1 – Ask for specifics
Too many times a review will be long on generic descriptions and very short on specifics. But do hungry consumers want to know whether the food was “good” or “a good value” or do they want to know if the selections were specifically worth eating? People can find your menus online, but they may not try one of your signature items because they aren’t sure if they will like it. Specific reviews about the taste, texture, and consistency – all the aspects of your meals – will help people better understand what you do well. That’s key when it comes to marketing your reviews for the best results.
Torossian tip #2 – Ask for suggestions
When asking your diners to leave a review, ask them to make specific suggestions to the users. What to order and how they may like it cooked. If one dish is a little spicy, a diner would want to know that. If it’s a bit more bland than the competition’s version, they would want to know that too. Diners understand they could ask for slight alterations to the menu items based on personal taste, but if they don’t know the specifics how will they know what to ask for. You can answer those questions much better in the reviews than you can on the menu.
Torossian tip #3 – Ask for recommendations
When it comes to dining out, the menu selections are only the beginning of the experience. Time of meals – when the restaurant is busy or a bit sparser – can be helpful information. As can the sort of crowd that comes in throughout the day or night. Some places are much better for drinks than late dinners. Others better suited for brunch than breakfast. Ambiance matters and the mood or vibe of the place can definitely impact the enjoyment of the meal.
Keep these tips in mind when passing out review cards and you will get much more impactful restaurant review PR.
October 3, 2013
Since the advent of social media, many companies have been in the vanguard of using this technology for the best possible promotional purposes. World Wrestling Entertainment has always been one of those innovators.
This, of course, is not new ground for the McMahon family. They pioneered closed circuit and pay per view programming in the 1980s and jumped ahead of the curve in cable programming domination.
Now the WWE has body slammed social media. In every episode of every televised WWE event, the TV audience is brought into the action. Viewers not only get to share match details and promote hashtags, now they are being asked to decide matches and matchups. This is genius.
#1 – Keep your audience engaged
One of the key goals of any TV program is to keep their audience engaged. Even during the commercials. This is tough in a world where everyone watches TV while holding their smartphones. But, instead of moaning and groaning about the potential distraction, WWE encourages the viewers to USE the phones. They CONTROL the distraction.
#2 – Control the conversation
One of the most difficult things to control online is the conversation of your fans and detractors. Talk radio does a fair job of this by giving listeners soundbites to regurgitate on social media and in comment threads. The WWE does this by actually suggesting hashtags and telling viewers which social media pages to visit and what to ask for and when. It’s an active and direct form of control the fans actually love.
#3 – Encourage downline promotion
Sometimes you don’t get because you don’t ask. The WWE consistently asks their viewers to promote their events by, one, giving them something specific and memorable to talk about and, two, asking them directly to talk about it. When was the last time you asked your fans to discuss a specific product or aspect of your business? Has it been a while? Have you never done so? If that’s the case, you are definitely missing out on some easy PR points.
Follow these tips and you could be pinning your social media and PR goals as quickly as one, two, three. Ignore them and expect to end up counted out.
September 26, 2013
A child is injured at your facility, what do you do?
Recently, a high school athlete passed away during a sports practice. This unspeakable tragedy seems to happen almost every year someplace in America. While the family grieves, other onlookers try to find someone to blame. Then there’s the organization – a school, most often – left in the nearly impossible position of protecting its name while grieving with and for the family and friends of the child.
It happens far too often, and most of the time it is the result of an accident, not an avoidable mistake. But how do you start or continue a dialog when a child is injured or killed on your watch? What can public relations teach us about what to say when there are no words?
Ronn Torossian, founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, has the answer. “The number one factor is to communicate without accusing or pretending to understand. You can’t compare or correlate grief, so don’t try,” Torossian said.
But there are a few factors you can consider and aspects your PR communication should include.
#1 – Before anything else, express empathy
Don’t try to hurt for people, tailor your communication to be as circumspect and respectful as you would like someone to be if the roles were reversed. Sympathy in this situation will likely just come off as empty words and just drudge up hurt feelings. Empathy knows when to be silent.
#2 – Explain without accusing
Human error may be involved in the tragedy, but you have to figure out a way to communicate facts without pointing fingers. To explain the situation without accusing anyone.
#3 – Never pretend to comprehend
You do not understand what the loved ones are going through. Even if you (God forbid) went through exactly the same situation, you cannot understand exactly how they are feeling. Don’t pretend to.
#4 – Do not assume or presume
In these terrible circumstances, do not attempt to assume what the parent is thinking. Also, do not presume to understand what they know and how they feel about it. Or what they will do next. Everyone responds differently to shock and to grief.
Follow these guidelines and carefully consider each and every step in the communication process. While this may not feel like the time to be careful of your image, people will judge you and your brand by how you react.
September 23, 2013
Controversy creates cool public relations
The Miss America pageant is known for showcasing the best and the most beautiful girls from each of the 50 states. The pageant is renowned for its squeaky-clean, pure as the driven snow, sweet as cotton candy young women. The kind every guy would love to have on his arm and hope to bring home to mother.
But this year, that image is getting a millennial overhaul. And it may be the best PR the pageant has received in decades.
The contestant from Kansas, on paper, looks like every other overachieving pageant entrant. College co-ed. Check. Professional career goals. Check. Sings opera. Check. Volunteer activities…military service. Check and check!
But when she shed her clothes and donned a bikini, Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, revealed something no other contestants have ever dared. Tattoos.
Not one, but two. The most visible is the Serenity Prayer, etched in thick lines of script along her rib cage. While, so far, pageant officials have been mum about this display, the carefully cultivated pageant world has been buzzing.
What is most clear is that, though many contestants before Vail have been inked, none have chosen to show their tats.
Ronn Torossian said this story will likely be the most press the Miss America pageant has received in years. “The Internet is an emerging visual medium, and stories like this are tailor made for the web. Particularly in the age of mobile devices and quick click page views.”
Tattoos Are In
Torossian admits the fact that Vail is not only tattooed but also gorgeous certainly play into the appeal. “Sure, but the Miss America pageant has been trading on beautiful and poised young women since its inception. It’s the tattoos that are breaking the mold. Miss Vail is inked, but she’s not a bad girl. She’s as All American as any other contestant.”
Torossian said this may signal a sea change in the perception of both tattooed women and pageant contestants.
“Tattoos don’t mean you’re a ‘bad girl’ anymore, and pageant girls have always been ‘real’ girls underneath all the illusions.”
September 19, 2013
Crossing The Public Line
However, there are those things which are simply over the line. The public may like the image of a rebel or someone who breaks the rules, but they tend to be less forgiving if people are actually hurt, or their image of a straightlaced person is shattered. For example, a DUI is always a bad press moment, since drunk driving is a more taboo act in the eyes of the public. If the person involved is seen as having a more sweet and innocent public persona, such as what happened to Lindsay Lohan or Amanda Bynes, then the fallout tends to be much worse.
So how are things like this generally dealt with? There have been many different approaches over the history of celebrity public relations disaster aversion, and while each situation is a little different and unique, the basics still remain the same. The general public likes someone who owns up to their actions, and apologizes. Once that is done, if there can be an explanation that shifts the blame elsewhere, then that usually happens. Apologies are generally meant to be heartfelt, and teamed with some kind of compensatory action, such as volunteerism, or large donations to a charity related to the faux pas.
This is sometimes coupled with a public announcement that the celebrity in question is seeking some kind of counseling for a condition related to the incident, like sex addiction for Tiger Woods after he cheated multiple times on his wife, or Mel Gibson blaming alcoholism for his anti-Semitic rants, then going to rehab. Generally, the first rule is apology, the second is finding a way to shift blame so that the public feels sorry for the celebrity, and finally, show that the celebrity is back on their feet and better than ever, because everyone loves a famous person who capitalizes on a second chance.
September 12, 2013
Since the early 1930s the Florida-based Publix supermarket chain has been growing in popularity and numbers in the southeast United States. The chain’s commitment to quality, cleanliness and customer service have attracted a huge and dedicated following that doesn’t much care about pricing.
As Walmart entered the grocery business, the Big Box behemoth went from town to town, destroying other local grocery chains with its rock-bottom pricing and massive availability. But not Publix.
“Even in markets where the two companies faced off and all other competitors had been largely cleared away, Publix still continued to grow. To fight back, Walmart launched a huge price-based advertising campaign in an attempt to put a gap between them and competitors such as Publix,” Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5WPR, said.
At first, the PR gambit worked. People decided to give Walmart a try to see how much they would save. And save they did. Low prices are low prices, after all.
Publix vs Walmart – Quality Matters
Then Publix, the quality and service-positioned grocer did something unthinkable. They did math. See, for years Publix had been marketing their BOGO products and advantage buys. So someone in their public relations department grabbed a calculator.
The result, Torossian said, was very interesting. When considering the BOGO, coupons and advantage buys, shopping at Publix could actually not only compete in price… “They could actually beat Walmart in some situations on a cart of groceries,” Torossian confirmed.
“This was a huge public relations coup.”
In the end Walmart’s price gambit worked in the early stages, and it worked very well in various regions across the country. But not so well in markets where Publix maintained a strong presence.
This is not the only time a quality-positioned business successfully competed on price using creative sales and other value added options. The lesson here, Torossian says, is that depending on price alone can kill you in the long run. Public relations and marketing campaigns can include price, but are much better served to focus on quality and value.
September 6, 2013
Even before lining up under center for the first time in the NFL, Tim Tebow has been a public relations juggernaut. He hardly played in the NFL but he landed major endorsement deals, had a Super Bowl commercial and landed speaking engagements.
The headline-stealing QB may be finished in the NFL
Even though he won a playoff game in Denver, Tebow’s play never matched his popularity, and he struggled to make it on three NFL teams. The worst spot was definitely at New York. To this day no one quite understands why the Jets wanted Tebow. Rex Ryan was set against him from Day One and he was never going to be the starter.
Now, after being – reportedly – cut from the Patriots, the Tebow era in the NFL might be over. And it was an “NFL era.” The Tebow PR machine was bigger than any one team. Bigger even than the NFL.
Teams hire countless talented players each and every year. Some have even won National Championships, as Tebow did (twice). Others have won the Heisman Trophy, as Tebow did. But none have achieved the transcendent fame of Tebow.
Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5WPR, explains the Tebow phenomenon from and public relations perspective and explains how you can apply some Tebow magic to your own brand.
Torossian tip #1 – Tebow was tough not to like
Even if you didn’t want him as quarterback, you wanted him on your team. He offered intangible benefits that caused people to look beyond his skill. How can you position your brand that way in the marketplace.
Tebow developed a strong brand outside of football by just being Tebow. He is sought after for his testimony, volunteer efforts and squeaky-clean image. How can you set your brand up to offer more to your potential customer base? Do this, and you will be able to multiply your market potential.
Torossian tip #3 – Tebow gets people talking
There are hundreds of players in the NFL no one ever talks about. Yet, people can’t seem to keep away from the topic of Tebow. How can you create a conversation about your brand that continues, crossing markets and never stopping?
When you think of the NFL as a business, it’s easier to apply the lesson learned from the Tebow brand that can allow you to increase your brand reach and market development.
September 5, 2013
Entertainment media needs a vixen, so who’s waiting in the wings
While the jury may be out on this, some pop culture experts are saying Miley Cyrus may have taken it just a little bit too far. Even her target market is disgusted with her VMA performance.
Strange, since there is absolutely nothing unusual about the racy and raunchy Video Music Awards performance. And nothing new either. When nothing scandalous happens, the VMA ratings are in the tank. When Britney makes out with Madonna, the ratings go through the roof and people talk about it for – well – years.
But, if Miley is out, who’s coming next? Why ask this question? Simple, because Ronn Torossian says pop music needs a vixen.
“Pop music works best when it is promoted by type,” Torossian explains. “You have a vixen, a rebel, a bad girl, a diva, a good girl and a tough girl. Sometimes this manifests in groups – think Spice Girls or the Bangles or even Destiny’s Child. Other times you see a group of solo performers hit the scene at roughly the same time.
Consider: At one point Pink was the tough girl, Katy Perry was the rebel, Christina Aguilera was the diva, Taylor Swift was the good girl and Britney was the vixen. Then Britney married K-Fed, lost it and shaved her head. So there was an opening in the vixen department.
Christina tried to take that spot but no one was really buying. There, waiting in the wings was another wholesome Disney star, the mega popular prepackaged commodity that was Hannah Montana.
Torossian says Cyrus or someone in her camp saw the opportunity and went for it. One booty-shaking dance craze later and Miley is fondling a foam finger in prime time.
But, much like the Britney transformation, this “new” Miley Cyrus might just be too much for her fans to take. Torossian says that’s an inherent danger anytime you try to rebrand anything. People may love the last brand and might welcome the change…but not too much change. At the same time, you really have to sell that change to a potential new audience.
A recent example of an entertainment transformation is the former 90s rock singer, Darius Rucker, who was the front man in Hootie and the Blowfish. Now he’s a top-selling country solo artist, a gambit that could have failed spectacularly but turned out to be a big win.
The moral? Be careful when you try to change who customers have accepted you to be. It can be a very fine line…and crossing it can make you look like a real “twerk.”