from pickett&associates … exploring PR, social media and entrepreneurship

Big Company … Big Crisis December 14, 2010

Filed under: Crisis Communication,Strategic PR — pickettwrites @ 2:19 pm

Long time no blog.

Back to that “cobbler’s children have no shoes” theory. I know it is essential that a business maintain the stream of awareness created from relevant-content blogs, Tweets and Facebook posts. However, my workload of late is a good reminder WHY so many businesses have turned to Pickett&Associates to assist with their social media management! When you’re trying to run a business, marketing for YOUR business slips down the priority list.

So, after a brief absence, I’m back on the blog wagon hoping your heart has grown fonder. And the last few weeks have certainly given me lots to blog about: trends in public relations, new developments in social media management, myth-busting search engine optimization and a litany of observations.

So, for today, how about the wonderful world of public relations? Fineman’s annual “Worst PR Blunders of 2010” list is out and, honestly, the fact that they were able to cull it down to 10 is pretty impressive. Mind you, these are the “biggies of national scope.” Topping the list is British Petroleum and their monumental bungle, including the CEO’s ill-conceived quotes “it wasn’t our accident” and “I just want my life back.” I was just waiting for him to say, “You’re doing a heck of a job, Brownie.”

Toyota’s web of “pay no attention to that car behind the curtain,” was a close second followed by the NPR/Juan Williams fiasco. You can follow the link above to read the report in its entirety. What it proves beyond a shadow of doubt is that money and company size certainly don’t buy good public relations’ smarts. And of course, I always wonder, “How did their public relations professional allow this to get so out of hand?”

For the record, a trusted communications advisor should be just that: They serve as respected member of your senior management team, whether that is an internal or external position. And in that role, they are not necessarily a cheerleader; they will probably, from time to time, have to clear their throat a little and tell you something you really don’t want to hear. A communications advisor thinks in terms of “what if” scenarios and acts proactively as a result. If you have a business, there will, at some point, be a crisis. And, as we can see from the behemoths mentioned in the Blunders list, the bigger the company, the bigger the potential crisis. The difference between a crisis and a permanently damaging incident is the way in which the company reacts, takes ownership and makes restitution or amends.

So, do you agree with Fineman’s list? Any additions? I’d love to hear!


The Press Release: Not Dead Yet September 27, 2010

Filed under: Strategic PR — pickettwrites @ 11:11 am

I often refer to my “previous life” as a journalist and rely upon a good many of those skills I developed over the course of nearly three decades. Lately, I’ve observed a bit of debate among communication professionals regarding the future of the press release.

Some shout, “Strike up the dirge, it’s deaddeaddead!” Others hold steadfast to their practice of pushing out a news release, regardless. If nothing else, they reason, they can post it to free sites and gain a little search engine traction.

I’m reminded of the scene in “The Holy Grail” in which Monty Python parodies the era of the Black Plague … as the “dead wagon” approaches, one potential passenger says, “Hey. I’m not dead yet.”

Indeed, as more tactics of message distribution are added to the list, the importance of the press release has diminished a bit. You can Tweet, Digg, Facebook, Blog, etc. …  but certainly, like our dead-wagon-bound-friend, “it’s not dead yet.”

So say two industry bloggers this morning: Rob Berman’s blog, “20 Reasons for Issuing a Press Release” rehashes one of Pickett&Associate’s fav’s, Gini Dietrich’s “Spin Sucks Blog” which I believe I even “re-tweeted” a few weeks ago re: PR vs Publicity.

The reasons are all good, solid ones with which most public relations/communications professionals are familiar — organizational changes, awards, new products, services, business or employees. All fine and encouraged.

However, I will make one observation. A press release should be NEWS worthy; it SHOULD NOT originate from your public relations account manager or internal communications director as a way to “get your name out there.” Here’s another phrase that I disdain: “Repurpose.” Rule of thumb: You should only recycle your trash, not your press releases. Changing the headline and rearranging paragraphs does not a press release (or a blog for that matter) make. And, harkening back to my experience in the newsroom, these practices will NOT make you very popular or trusted among the media, either.

So, the press release? Perhaps it’s “getting bettah.” Especially when used prudently, respectfully and wisely as part of your communication tactics.

Writing this morning from the “Arklatex” region … Evidently, that’s what they call this area of northwestern Louisiana in which Shreveport is located. Last stop on the “tour” … back home to the Midwest tonight. But in the meantime, “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”


Which Comes First: The Content or the Social Media? September 21, 2010

Filed under: Social Media,Strategic PR — pickettwrites @ 12:35 pm

I haven’t met with a client yet who hasn’t broached the subject of integrating social media into their communications plan. They ALL think they need to do it, but they’re unsure of WHAT to do, HOW to do it and for heaven’s sake, WHO is going to write all of that?

That’s where a merry band of content strategists and providers assist in navigating the sometimes murky, definitely over-flowing waters of social media. (Okay, sure, I’ll be a little self serving …  Pickett & Associates has found a “sweet spot” in this sort of strategic approach to content for numerous clients.)

Take a few minutes to click on the link and view this video (thanks to Michael Selzner at the Social Media Examiner for sharing an interview with  Joe Pulizzi, author of Get Content, Get Customers) that gives a WONDERFUL primer into WHY you must have a content strategy before you have a social media strategy.

So, how are you integrating content into your social media strategy? What is well received among YOUR audience? and is it in-line with Joe’s assessment?

It’s almost lunchtime here in the Bayou Teche region of Cajun Country … where I’m enjoying a delightful breeze on the patio of The Fairfax House. Looks like an early afternoon rain may be moving in … and maybe a post-lunch NAP. Which, if you haven’t heard, is a GREAT way to boost your afternoon (seriously, even the Harvard Business Review says so!). As that old commercial used to say, “Try it … You’ll Like IT!”


The Challenge of “the Cobbler’s Barefoot Children” September 17, 2010

Filed under: Social Media,Strategic PR — pickettwrites @ 8:02 am

After several years working with public relations/marketing agencies, I was certain of one thing: When I started my own firm, things would be different!

I’d commit to joining and being an active participant in a chamber of commerce. (Well I’m halfway there … I did join the Carmel (Indiana) Chamber. I’m ready and willing for committee work!)

I’d DONATE a portion of my services to non-profits. (I’ve actually helped out both the Noblesville Education Foundation as well a the Walk Out of Darkness benefiting the Association Foundation for Suicide Prevention.)

I’d promote a flexible work schedule. Well, I’ve worked twice this week until 7:30 p.m. BUT I am playing golf this afternoon and will be working from Louisiana next week.

And, I positively knew that one of the MOST important things I could do was participate heavily in social media, including blogging, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. I was certain that this would quickly help establish my efforts and present a clear picture of my passions and capabilities.

So, my day starts between 5:30 and 6 a.m. with a cup of coffee and perusal of new posts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s the place from which I gather my ideas and inspiration for the day. I “retweet” and comment in the appropriate forums from those folks I follow in Twitter as well as in my LinkedIn groups. And then I grab about my third cup of coffee and head into my home office.

It’s literally 7:18 a.m. as I’m writing this; I’ve got my Frosted Mini-Wheats in a bowl (dry) on one side and the glass of OJ on the other. And a dog hoping I miss my mouth. When I finish all this, I’m out the door for the mile walk , and then come back to attack client work  which takes up the bulk of the day.

However, as I gain more clients — which is happening with amazing, rewarding regularity — I am beginning to face the challenge of keeping up with my own social media/marketing efforts while managing those efforts for my clients. And thus the challenge of “the cobbler’s barefoot children.” This is only the second blog I have written this week. To compensate, I’ve learned to drive folks to the blog via my other social media outlets, so the actual visits to “Pickettwrites” haven’t dropped substantially, but I believe it’s important to provide daily, informative content to you followers. I’ve got a few “guest bloggers” lined up (which reminds me of the old days of herding writers for a magazine!) as well as some “video blogs” I’ll be posting soon re: local entrepreneurs.

This very challenge I am facing is, of course, why people retain Pickett&Associates. They have come to a point at which they have neither the time, desire or expertise to keep up with all the lines of communication and conversation that make for a successful business in 2010.

So, my solutions — maximizing other social media outlets that aren’t quite as time-consuming as an original, daily blog — and engaging “guest bloggers” are two ways to tackle this challenge. But I’d love to hear how you are and/or your organization is putting “shoes on the kids!”

For the record, it’s 7:50 a.m. I’m making good time. Need another cup of coffee (don’t judge) and get the tennies on for an early walk. Before teeing it up this afternoon, I have a prospective new client meeting, errands to bank, post office and rendezvous-ing with MY FAVORITE PHOTOG to grab a disc of beautiful product shots. Happy Friday … and don’t forget, it’s Follow Friday on Twitter … read more about it! http://www.abnormalmarketing.com/2010/09/twitter-follow-friday/


Time to Get Your Plan On September 2, 2010

Filed under: Strategic PR — pickettwrites @ 7:55 am

The impending Labor Day weekend sadly marks the end of summer and signals the waning months of the year. I must admit, the upcoming months are probably my favorites … the return of football, toasty fires, crunchy, fallen leaves and the holidays. Professionally, these next few months are always busy ones. It’s usually a near-frenetic pace as I’m finishing up projects that need to be completed by the end of the year and at the same time, working on the upcoming year’s agenda.

For the editorial services portion of Pickett&Associates, this means laying out the upcoming year of themes, content ideas and editorial tweaks; developing new media kits and brainstorming any new initiatives that will lend to an improved product. (And watch for a very exciting announcement on this front very soon!)

For the strategic public relations part of the business, I will be meeting with clients to establish their 2011 communications plans, which begins with an evaluation of the current year’s work. What worked and what didn’t? What are the company’s strategic business goals that need to be integrated into the plan?

I believe that both processes require significant input from clients, but not everyone agrees. Last year, I found myself working on these annual plans without any real input from clients. When I inquired about the process, I was informed that, “Our clients expect us to know them and their business. We don’t ask them what they want, we tell them what they need.” It felt weird, but I plugged on. Take it for what it’s worth, but very few of those clients “re-upped” for 2010.

If our goal as public relations professionals is to have that “seat at the management table,” it’s imperative to be an integrated part of the business planning and strategy process. In my mind, it only makes sense to work together in a mutually respectful and beneficial manner. Not doing so seems “a major disconnect” at best and, at worst, feels a little like “riding rough shod” over one’s client.

Companies work through this process in a number of ways … some take part in management retreats that include team building activities and a bit of fun as well as some intensive work sessions. Others bring in “facilitators” who lend an objective ear to the “SWOT” (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis and the ensuing strategy. As a communications professional, involvement in this process can prove exceedingly helpful. It is NOT a time to present ideas or show “how smart” you are; it IS a time to observe, listen and learn. Noting the inner-workings of the organization – including any changes from previous years if you have that history – provides a better understanding that lends itself to a communication strategy that will be embraced by the organization.

And that sort of “buy in” is essential for the plan’s success. Without it, you’ll be swimming up-stream all year … if you’re even allowed to take a dip in the water!

What are you doing to get ready for 2011? I’d love to hear how your business is setting the stage for the upcoming year!