Archive for January, 2009

Any PR is not, in fact, good PR

Sally Saville Hodge

Rod BlagojevichThere’s an all-too-common school of thought that “any PR is good PR,” and Illinois’ soon-to-be-deposed Governor Rod Blagojevich is clearly a leading advocate.

His whirlwind New York press tour this week only succeeded at underscoring the fallacies of such thinking. If anything, his frenzied “I am not a crook” and “they’re denying me my rights” proclamations made him more of a caricature than he was prior to his arrest in December on charges of trying to sell the President’s former Senate seat.

But it’s too easy to riff on Blagojevich. My beef is with the flack he hired to trot him out to the press. Did he (or she) warn the Guv of the dangers of this course from the perspective of an image that has already been battered to hell?

What’s been wrought is not good PR. Good PR doesn’t further decimate an already shredded reputation. Good PR practitioners counsel their clients in the interests of creating positive buzz. They ask what the client’s end objective is with the media outreach. To change minds? To shape or re-shape a brand? They coach their clients – especially vigorously if television is a primary target– on their key messages, and how to segue back to them. They learn their clients’ tendencies and try to head them off at the pass to avoid situations like the use of bad analogies (cowboys and revered religious leaders, for example) that may provide fodder for derision.

Okay, Blago was probably not inclined to listen to wiser (saner?) counsel on these matters. When his estimable attorney Ed Genson threw in the towel in disgust, it gave a pretty clear signal that the Guv was intent on bulldozing his own path – rightly or wrongly.

But still. Many perceive PR folks as generally ranking right up there with used car salesman when it comes to ethics and honesty. In this instance, someone just took the money and ran, perpetuating many myths in the process.

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January 28, 2009 at 4:52 pm Leave a comment

Why online hits matter

By Sally Saville Hodge

We still hear all too often from clients and prospects who thank us very much for those online hits, “but we want to be in the paper!”

I suspect that the full implications of the “viral” benefits of online media coverage are difficult for them to grasp. Here’s a case in point I use time and again. We got mention of one of our client’s blogs (with the link) on Reuters.com last year. It was still driving traffic there two months later – long after a traditional placement would have done its duty as birdcage liner.

Here’s a good overview (below) of the media channels out there that makes the case for why online is where you want to be if it’s reach you’re looking for. Special thanks to The Bad Pitch Blog for driving this out.

January 19, 2009 at 8:43 pm 2 comments

On jargon and buzzwords and really tired phrases

Sally Saville Hodge

It’s needless to say that a lot of words and phrases are over-leveraged in today’s written and spoken dialog.

You see? I just did it with barely a thought.

I will be the first to admit that I occasionally – okay, often – fall into this “let’s show people how smart I am by the number of buzzwords I can weave into my writing” trap. I do try to stay away from really stupid phrases, but sometimes, well… okay. I just got through writing a proposal and used the word “leverage” four times. It would have been more, but I cut a few out. It’s not that I think the use of such verbiage makes me look smarter (really!) but it does show I can use the language that my audience of businessfolk uses – I can relate.

Language and its use and misuse is a favorite topic of those of us who love it – done right. One of my favorite bloggers is Dan Santow of Edelman PR, whose Word Wise blog is the ultimate in grammar and style and all things related. I also recently happened upon Lake Superior State University, which since 1975 has issued a “banished word” list – some evergreen, some having taken on new disfavor with political and cultural shifts.

    Among my favorites from that particular list:

    • Maverick. I can’t even think the word without a correlating vision of Sarah Palin as its chief utterer.
    • Staycation. A made-up word that everyone glommed onto – the non- or anti-vacation.
    • Not so much. The ultimate in overused snarkiness.

    Among the evergreens:

    • Paradigm shift. What a grandiose term for the simple matter of change.
    • “I, personally.” Would it ever be impersonally?
    • 24/7. This phrase must have caught on for its appeal to everyman’s inner geek.
    • Fairly, almost, one of the most (etc.) unique. Either it is or it is not one of a kind.
    • “At the end of the day.” Versus at its start. A single word will often do in place of pseudo descriptive phrases. Try “ultimately.”
    • Make it sticky. This has been around for awhile and I still puzzle over what, exactly, it’s supposed to mean.
    • Outside the box. We can also all try to be just plain old creative or innovative and leave the box out of it.

    There are so many ways to make your writing sing without having to resort to tired and hackneyed language. Here’s to working on better melodies in 2009.

    January 13, 2009 at 5:32 pm 1 comment

    Why PR investments should grow in 2009

    Sally Saville Hodge

    I’d like to think it’s true, but the cynic in me just keeps muttering, “Yeah, right.”

    Media prognosticator Jack Myers recently issued a report suggesting that the bright spot in the current advertising depression will be public relations. He projects investment in PR to grow by 3% in 2008 and by another 3% in 2009 to over $4.5 billion.

    There are a lot of reasons why this should be true.

    • In hard economic times, businesses need to grow their credibility with consumers. You get that with PR, particularly with an orientation that’s geared to inform, versus hammering away with heavy-handed sales messaging.
    • They also need to grow awareness. And while an ad campaign does that, so does a PR program. The difference is that PR features the credibility component, while advertising doesn’t. Furthermore…
    • …a PR program is a LOT cheaper than advertising or the majority of marketing communications programs to design and execute. That’s not to say clients ought to believe the “free publicity” misnomer of one aspect of PR, however. There’s still time and expertise involved, and that carries a price tag. But a $100,000 budget will easily be sufficient to create a robust PR program featuring traditional and social media aspects over the course of a year (providing you stay away from the larger, high-priced agencies). That kind of money will get you bupkis in advertising and not a lot more in some of the more traditional MarCom tactics.

    So why am I cynical that the growth Myers projects may actually occur? Well, for one thing, the top dog for communications matters at most businesses is still a person who has a marketing title. As a rule, these folks are still pretty tied to tradition – the tried and true of advertising, direct mail, and the like.

    Too many don’t have a great grasp of depth and breadth of traditional public relations approaches, much less how PR applies to the new media world. For example, in an article tellingly headlined, “Social Networks: Millions of Users, not so Many Marketers,” e-Marketer, an online newsletter, has projected a decline in U.S. social networking advertising, but pointedly observed, “Advertising is not the only way for marketers to participate in social networks.”

    We’re heading into one of the toughest years for business that I can remember – and 2008 was hardly a cakewalk. PR investment may or may not grow by the projected 3%. But those challenged to do more with less in a difficult climate would be well-served to take another look at traditional and social media PR approaches and adjust their thinking accordingly. (more…)

    January 5, 2009 at 10:00 pm Leave a comment


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