Sword and the Script

4 Creative PR Ideas for Crisis Communications



4 Creative PR Ideas for Crisis Communications-Chevy-Tweet

Constraint breeds creativity.  It may seem counterintuitive, but the ingenuity of deftly navigating the most difficult of binds goes to show PR is often as much about problem solving as it is communication.

Corporate crisis communications provides a demonstration because there are very clear constraints:

  • Unknown unknowns – the effort to understand what is happening
  • Time hacks – crisis PR demands speed
  • Dichotomy – substantial pressure to credibly refute or validate

1. Chevy embraces the truck.

As a Chevy spokesperson Rikk Wilde’s job was to present a new truck to San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner.  As a corporate sponsor this was Chevy’s big moment to showcase some of the finer points about the vehicle they were about to handover to the World Series MVP.  It was an awkward presentation through and through, but at one critical moment, Mr. Wilde noted the new Chevy Colorado, “…offers class-winning and -leading, um, you know, technology and stuff.”

Twitter exploded and some quick thinker doing the Twitter for Chevy simply embraced it with this tweet which read in part, “Truck yeah the 2015 #ChevyColorado has awesome #TechnologyAndStuff!” Writing on the Ignite Social Media blog, Bruna Camargo gave the vehicle manufacturer good grades for its response,

“Instead of issuing some lame press release about how they’re sorry their guy couldn’t be more eloquent, they embraced it, rolled with it, and are now about to bank on it. Can’t cry over spilled milk, or Rikk Wilde’s sweat beads that surely moistened that Chevy-branded trophy. But you can, you know, make fun of yourself and stuff.”

The company is getting accolades from other reputable marketers.  Mark Schaefer, for example, called it GM’s Oreo moment.  Talk about rags to riches.  Crisis communications has changed — and Mr. Wilde should get a raise.  If there was a way to plan that — marketers would!

The video is embedded nearby — imagine watching this from the social media command center — and then tightening your seat-belt:

2. Suggesting edits to a reporter’s story.

Once upon a time there were few options for responding to a negative opinion piece in a major daily paper.  Some of these included a) contact the writer b) contact the editor c) write a letter to the editor in response.  These were all terrible options, which means picking and choosing battles was extremely important.  Today, corporations that put the time into cultivating corporate blogs, have an effective outlet for managing with crisis communications and added an option to the crisis toolkit.

When the New York Times published an opinion piece in part about Walmart, the company vigorously disputed the representation. In very creative rebuttal posted to Walmart’s blog titled, Fact Check: The New York Times “The Corporate Daddy”, David Tovar, then a vice president of communications with the company, offered edits to the Times’ writer’s “first draft.”  A few days later, the Times allegedly refused to publish a letter to the editor submitted by the company, which instead published on its blog.  This was a brilliant move and it’s a response well worth adding to the tool kit.

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3.  Best time to release a bad news story.

Late Friday afternoon used to be the besttime for corporations to release bad news.  The hope was reporters were more focused on getting on with the weekend and by Monday, well, the news would be too old to cover.  I don’t think that’s the case in the tech-driven era we live in – anytime is a great time to publish a juicy story.

So what’s the alternative?  Release the bad news when something else big is going on!  While a few outlets caught on, it probably could have been a lot worse. The Huffington Post was one of those outlets and published a story titled Snapchat Conveniently Announces Legal Settlement During iPhone 6 Launch.  In the article, associate business editor, Alexander C. Kaufman, wrote:

The timing of Snapchat’s announcement suggests that the company may have hoped news of the settlement would go unremarked. The company sent out its press release about the settlement at 1 p.m. EST — coincident with Apple’s big product launch event, which dominated the technology and mainstream press corps’ attention.

4.  Use your own product.

As a business, Yelp both creates and makes news.  From my vantage point it seems the company is essentially in continuous crisis mode over this issue:

Yelp denies filtering reviews to allow a more positive or negative slant depending on whether or not a business is a customer of Yelp.

A while back, Inc. Magazine ran this article – After 10 Years, Yelp CEO Reviews His Own Business – and the play on the word “review” struck me as creative. It’s proactive and counters a continuous theme rather than reacting to a specific headline.

Indeed, the article was written by Michael Liedtke a long time tech writer for The Associated Press, which assures wide distribution include on Inc.com, which I might add, is a sweet spot for Yelp.  And it seems Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman does in fact use his own product:

Q: Do you still write reviews yourself?

A: I do. I just did three or four today. I am at 1,214 reviews as of today. I was on a trip in Aspen, and I just gave a one-star review to this French restaurant. They gave us a hard time. We actually had to walk out. I didn’t even get to the food.

* * *

In these examples we can see tenets of crisis communications applied in modern era where news cycles are accelerated.  Chevy embraced a story while Walmart refuted another.  Timing was factor – reactive and proactive – in both the Snapchat and Yelp example.  Putting all these together provide additional creative PR options for managing crisis communications.

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Should PR Pros Sign up for Ello?



Should PR Pros Sign up for Ello -2

If a life immersed in technology seems to be getting faster, it’s not just that technology enables us to be faster, but the process of creating faster technology is getting faster.

“Today a kid in a garage can start a company, that goes viral and can touch a billion people,” as one technologist put it eloquently recently.

Ello is a great example. The social network shed obscurity, scrambled to adjust to sudden growth – to the tune of a reported 45,000 requests to join an hour – and experienced a PR backlash in the span of just a few days. Read More…

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Company Bites Journalists…Again



Company Bites Journalists

Think the media won’t cover your product?  Well then, you’re just not thinking outrageously enough.  It’s very easy to do, but will require some steely nerves the first few times you try it.

There’s a secret trick that marketers of apparel love to use.  It’s guaranteed to score ridiculous amounts of coverage.  Ready for it?

1. Be offensive and distasteful. 

Create an advertisement that you are 100% certain most people will find hideously offensive; where possible, be slightly prejudice, sexist, or distort a historical tragedy for capital gain. It’s important to be only slightly wrong for the purpose of plausible deniability that you’ll need later. Read More…

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Are Trade Shows still a Good Place for PR Launches?



by Frank Strong

Are Tradeshows still a Good Place for PR Launches

One hundred and forty seven.

That’s the number of pre-trade show pitches one blogger told me he had received in a side bar conversation last week. For the most part, he runs his blog like a traditional news site, clearly has good industry contacts and always winds up involved in a couple of sessions.

The blog is an industry staple, he’s plugged into the community and his name always winds up on industry conference media lists. The PR pitch deluge inevitably follows. Read More…

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How to Get Ahead for the Young PR Account Executive



by Frank Strong
How to Get Ahead for the Young PR Agency Account ExecutiveThe salary would be a pay cut.  At $15,000 less than what I had previously earned that would translate to a difference of about $800 less per month.

In an expensive city like Washington, DC, $800 was about what I paid in rent on my basement apartment.  The cut would hurt and I’d spend the next year or so living paycheck-to-paycheck, sweating the credit card bills and student loans I had racked up in graduate school.

On the upside, this would be my first real gig at a tech PR agency.  It was my ticket into an industry where the perennial phrase “PR agency experience preferred” finds its way onto corporate public relations and PR agency job listings alike. Read More…

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5 Categories of PR Metrics Pros Should Measure



by Frank Strong

5 Categories of Measurement for PR Pros Should MeasureThere’s an old saying in advertising that half of the budget is wasted, but marketers don’t know which half. Today, there are enough analytical tools today to avoid wasting half of the marketing spend.

The demand for measuring effectiveness in marketing is on the rise too, according to an eMarketer report titled, Execs to Marketers: Show Me the Metrics.  The report combined data from two surveys issued by three different organizations.  Read More…

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Corporate America Invoking Theft of Time



by Frank Strong

Corporate America Invoking Theft of Time

Dr. Seuss once asked, “How did it get late so soon?”

People invented the concept of time, and yet our perceptions vary by personality and culture.  For example, I can assure you firsthand, the notion of time in the Middle East is very different than on the streets of New York City.  One study of security cameras from a restaurant comparing customer interactions from today, to those of 10 years ago is a remarkable record of how our sense of time has changed.

The major end items that suck our time like black hole are easy to identify: Inefficient meetings, needless “reply all” emails and the fruitless endeavor of interruption marketing. This is partly why content marketing has earned a reputation beyond mere novelty:  Content is currency brands barter in exchange for a few moments of attention…of time. Read More…

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The 5 Major PR steps to the Declaration of Independence



by Frank Strong

The 5 Major PR steps to the Declaration of Independence

We often think of the Declaration of Independence as a singular event, the starting point for the war that would ensue over the better part of a decade.

As it is history, if it is the record of life, the details are never quite as clean cut and there were a series of actions, including many with a public communications component, the played out over many years leading up to the Declaration of Independence.

Though I use the word PR in the headline of this post, public relations isn’t the right word given the grass roots and decentralized inertia.  Propaganda might have been more accurate then, but the meaning today has dwindled to mean drivel. There is clearly a communications component to several of these actions – here are five that stand out in my mind:

1. Message. “No taxation without representation,” was the colonial zeitgeist. It represented several decades – from 1740 on – of discontent with the policies of the crown to fund European wars through colonial taxation.  The gripe? The colonies, first founded by people who sought to escape repression, had no influence over the creation, governance or implementation of these taxes. For a time, the French and Indian Wars united the king and his colonist against a common enemy. A junior officer in the Virginia Militia, a young George Washington, would learn valuable warfare lessons he’d draw on as the commanding general of a revolutionary army. Read More…

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PR Pros learned to Drink Coffee from a Goat



by Frank Strong

PR Pros learned to Drink Coffee from a Goat

Son of a goat!  It can be the ultimate slur, or simply an expression of surprise, which is the case here. Who knew we learned to drink coffee from a goat?

It’s true according to the video embedded nearby, which I first spotted on Visual.ly and attributed to PhD Comics.  The reality is, comics are hard to take seriously, unless they have earned a doctorate and taken a long view of a daily habit.

Allegedly a goat header in Ethiopia observed his goats were rather spry after eating coffee beans.  Add water, boil, and the rest is history.

The video is less than 90 seconds long: Read More…

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3 Free PR Photo Hacks



by Frank Strong

3 Visual Hacks for PR Pros

As a species, we’ve been communicating visually a lot longer than we have the written word.

Children often doodle before they learn to write. We intuitively understand a map even if the legend is written in another language. The first known written language started somewhere around 2,900 BC, while the origins of modern humans date back some 500,000 years.

I’m can’t remember who put that idea in my head – I owe them a link – but it’s stuck with me: We are genetically programmed to be visual creatures.  The research on the impact of visuals in press releases, blog posts and even tweets is nearly unanimous:  Images drive interest and that interests lasts longer.  Read More…

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