February 6, 2014
"…used carefully, there’s huge potential in letting the people that build products explain them."

While calling it the future of the press release may be a bit hyperbolic, Quora certainly offers great potential as a corporate communications tool.

It requires both a strong understanding of audience and an engaged team to manage it, but there is a lot to be excited about when it comes to Quora and PR.  

January 10, 2014
Quick refresher on handling media inquiries

If you are having an internal discussion about how to handle a media inquiry, especially if that conversation is taken place via e-mail, it’s generally advisable not to share the contents of that discussion with media member making said inquiry. That would seem to be some pretty simple blocking and tackling, no? 

Apparently not, given two examples this week of what would seem to be very smart people forgetting this very basic, fundamental rule of media relations. 

Example 1: In responding to a FOIA request from an investigative reporter, the US Navy inadvertently shared with said reporter an internal exchange in which it strategizes ways to work around the request and not provide the documents he’s asking for. This one is particularly egregious, as it pulls the curtain back on a government institution working to thwart public access to what should be public information and documentation. 

Example 2: While less serious than the Navy example, all it took for this one to blow up in Google’s face was one word: “ugh.” That was the response one member of Google’s press team sent to another upon receiving a media inquiry about the uproar the search giant’s private shuttles are causing in San Francisco and Oakland. The second member of Google’s press team subsequently responded directly to the initial inquiry, complete with “ugh” still included. 

This shouldn’t be necessary, of course, but a couple of important reminders out of these snafus:

1) If you’re going to have an internal discussion about a media inquiry, especially a conversation that may not be entirely positive because you’re not a fan of the inquiry or inquirer, try to have it in person or over the phone if at all possible.
2) If that’s not possible, try to avoid including that conversation in your response and subsequent dialogue with the inquirer. 

January 3, 2014

Is the security breach a big deal? Yes. That’s a whole lot of names and numbers to get out in the open.

Has Snapchat handled the fallout well? No. This is one of the case studies, actually, where you just do the opposite of everything Snapchat’s done to this point to handle the fallout from a PR/crisis management perspective.

Will it matter? Probably not, and that’s probably a big reason why they don’t really care what the fallout is. Because Snapchat’s core customers - young people - don’t particularly care about their user names and phone numbers getting into the hands of hackers. That’s because they don’t particularly care about most things in general. (This is a gross oversimplification, of course, but it helps make for a tidier argument.)

What does it ultimately mean for Snapchat, then? Not much, probably, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Snapchat’s challenge still remains a monumental one - making money. Exactly how the service plans on generating revenue without negatively impacting the user experience for its core customers - those young people who don’t particularly care about most things, especially advertisers -  is still a big mystery. And a big, big challenge.

December 9, 2013
"But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide."

Just because this preemptive PR strike today from Apple, Google, Facebook, et al, is extremely blatant doesn’t mean it’s also not pretty smart:

"Hey, look at us over here - fighting for your rights! Champions of your privacy! Pay no attention to our own onerous and overbearing data-collection efforts. We’re standing up for you!"

November 11, 2013
Top 7 Haro requests of the day - 13 Nov 2013

"Looking for a Doctor to Discuss if Drinking Coffee in a Hot Tub Can Relieve a Headache"
- paging Dr. Spaceman

"Are you an expert in: Fundraising, Non-profits, Travel, Weddings, Home, Events, Money Mgmt, Babies?"

"Looking for creative bloggers!"
All bloggers are creative! Didn’t you know that?

"What do Ivy League attorneys think of non-Ivy League attorneys?"
We don’t. 

"I have been asked to look at the relationship between population growth and resource scarcity."
But I’m not actually all that interested in it myself. So whatever.

"Looking to Interview Celebrities (other popular figures) - Very Popular Magazine"
Aren’t we all. Also: Is the name of the magazine actually Very Popular? Because that would be awesome.

“‘Bake’ It A Perfect Christmas”
i don’t get it is it a pun or something

August 15, 2013
Top 5 HARO inquiries of the day, August 14

1) “Kristen Bell says pregnancy has given her a deeper voice”
2) “Calling all women who love to eat meat!”
3) “What to look for in a golf cart”
4) “What can speechwriters learn from Ashton Kutcher?”
5) “Looking for Canadian baby boomers to chat about brain fitness industry”

August 6, 2013
Screenshots of despair - the deluge of “Undeliverable” and “Out of office” auto-responses one gets immediately upon sending out a client release. Time to scrub the media list.

Screenshots of despair - the deluge of “Undeliverable” and “Out of office” auto-responses one gets immediately upon sending out a client release. Time to scrub the media list.

April 22, 2013
Why is Quantas eliminating its media-relations Twitter feed?


Qantas Airways is shutting down its PR Twitter account @QantasMedia and is directing customers over to its new online newsroom for information and updates. The Twitter handle, which is run by the Qantas PR staff and has 27,000 followers, is being shut down to streamline information the company shares on social media.

On the one hand, I get this. Sort of. For brands, social media should be a conversational and audience engagement tool, and using a Twitter feed to disseminate press releases is very one-way.

On the other hand, I don’t get this. At all. It seems like a very ill-conceived decision, one I would counsel strongly against had I the opportunity.

One of the most basic and foundational tenets of good PR is to cater to the needs of your audience. Many, many reporters, editors and media people use Twitter, especially as a de facto RSS reader where they can pull in news and updates from companies and brands they cover in one place. Removing your brand from that arena can make it more difficult for media sources to get news, updates and insights from you. Why would you want to take that chance? And if the answer is because you want them to instead visit your snazzy new media page on your website, well, your answer is not a good one. Why does it have to be mutually exclusive? Why can’t you have both?

PRNews says Quantas also explained the move by saying there was a lot of overlap between this account and its consumer-facing account. But that’s hard to see - these tend to be two very separate audiences, especially in terms of what they look for and expect in a brand’s social media channel.

It just seems very shortsighted to cut off what could be a valuable source of information on your brand for your target audience just to drive them to a new page. In PR, we accommodate much more than we dictate - or we should, at least. This seems to go in the opposite direction.

Or, as PR News puts it in the same article more succinctly and effectively, Making journalists proactively root around on a Web page seems like a retreat to passivity, and misses an opportunity to push important PR-related information out into the community to whom it would be most relevant.

March 29, 2013
Annals of bad public apologies

“I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.”

Bad news, Don Young: If anything, this makes things worse, not better. Claiming you meant no disrespect after uttering such a universally disrespectful phrase only showcases how inherent, how ingrained your racism is. If you came out and said, “yes, I know this is a bad and completely disrespectful term and that by using it a caused many people to feel disrespected”, that’s a bit better and certainly more genuine.

But to say you meant no disrespect communicates either a kind of racism that is completely ingrained into your DNA or a kind of ignorance that is unbecoming a member of Congress. Neither of which is a good thing at all.

March 25, 2013
"'Google Alerts was once a very important and efficient tool to monitor mentions of your brand on the web. It is now so unreliable that it has been rendered effectively useless.'"

This is a big friggin’ deal. In a matter of weeks, two Google services of incalculable value to PR pros - Reader and Alerts - have been in the news for all the wrong reasons. What’s worse is that Google making these services free for so long effectively muscled out any competition, meaning viable alternatives to either service is practically nonexistent.

This is a big friggin’ deal.

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