What Happens When Operational or Individual Employee Misconduct Creates a Business Crisis?

After Uber’s license was suspended in London, we had to wonder how PR professionals were handling the situation…

London’s transport regulator has ruled that Uber cannot renew its license in the city because of a “pattern of failures” that puts passenger safety and security at risk. The company has 21 days to appeal (Update: as of December 16, they have appealed) the decision and can continue to operate in the city during that time.

What Happened?

The UK government transport authority, Transport for London, found out that more than 14,000 trips booked through Uber’s platform had been taken with uninsured drivers. It said the company was failing to do adequate checks on drivers, insurance, and safety, and breaches in these things had put passengers at risk. The biggest issue it identified was that a change to Uber’s systems let unauthorized drivers upload their photos to other drivers’ accounts, meaning customers couldn’t be sure they’d get the driver they had booked. Crucially, the regulator said it did “not have confidence that similar issues will not reoccur in the future,” which has led it to conclude that the company “is not fit and proper at this time.”

There are 45,000 drivers who work for Uber in the UK capital who await a final decision over the future of their jobs. It won’t necessarily be a major blow to consumers, who can pick from one of the many other ride-hailing apps available, or get one of the city’s famous black cabs.  But what will be the long-term impact on Uber’s ability to continue providing ride-hailing services around the world? Will other cities follow suit and ban the service? And how in the heck is a PR professional supposed to spin this story?

A PR Professional’s Answer:

You must never spin anything. Spinning a story without company management addressing the underlying cause of the crisis is like trying to put lipstick on a pig. It will still be a pig, only with red lips. What is required is for Uber to clean up its operational act rather than try and cover it up, and to then initiate Public Relations to tell the story of how they used this event as a wake-up call to improve their services and the safety of the consumers.

How to Properly Communicate a Business Crisis:

Publicly recognize there is a problem. Provide a detailed plan the company will initiate to fix the problem, and regularly self-report on the company’s progress. Good news can trump bad news ONLY if it’s true and authentic.

Are You in a Business Crisis?

Get ahead of the situation and contact us. In the meantime, check out some of our content on crisis communication, like Dan’s take on how to handle a crisis, or Lisa’s video on identifying if you are really in a crisis.

How to Interview a SME

Rob dives into 5 tips on how to properly interview a subject matter expert (SME)

As a content writer, a large amount of my time is spent talking with various subject matter experts, or SMEs, about their matters of expertise- and then writing a story based on my findings “by” the aforementioned SME for publication. Often referred to as “ghostwriting,” it’s a cornerstone of the marketing communications world. And rightly so. 

SMEs are often high-ranking members of their organizations, filling job functions that demand the majority of their time. They have great and valuable insight to offer potential customers, but often times, simply not enough time to compose their thoughts into content that can be used for marketing purposes. 

This situation is all too common in the world of content marketing. If you haven’t found yourself in something similar before, you’re likely the exception to the norm. But chances are, as a content marketer, you will have the opportunity to conduct many different SME interviews in your career. Following are five tips I have used over the years to help ensure I have a productive and successful interview every time that lets me craft a compelling piece of content

5 Tips for How to Interview a SME

(We couldn’t help ourselves)

Arrive Early to the Interview

I always try to give myself at least 5 minutes before the interview begins to settle in and prepare myself. As I said before, SMEs are often very busy people. You’re depending on their knowledge and cooperation to complete your work, so respecting their time is in your best interest. 

Prepare Your Questions

Before the interview begins, I prepare by thoroughly researching the topic and putting together some basic questions to loosely guide the interview. These help to make sure we touch on all necessary topics. My interview always begins by having the SME confirm that I have their correct job title and spelling of their name (forgetting this step could make things awkward down the road). 

Record the Interview (If Possible)

If you have the ability to create an audio recording of your interview, and if you have your SME’s permission to do so, it would be an excellent backup to your notes. Many SMEs you come across throughout your career could be fast-talkers, or perhaps English could be their second (or third) language. You might conduct your interview on the phone with a poor connection, or near a busy and loud work environment. Often, interviews are conducted on a tight schedule without much time to ask the SME to repeat themselves. Either way, few interviews ever happen under perfect conditions, and having a backup audio recording to refer to when your notes have holes could make all the difference. 

Let Them Talk

This is a simple, yet often overlooked tip. Obviously, SMEs know the subject you’re there to discuss with them (this is where the “E” in their acronym comes from). But sometimes, we as writers prepare so much for the story (visualizing the points that we’ll make along the way to create a successful piece of content) that we rush along to the next question when we feel the source has provided a sufficient answer. Don’t do this. If your time with the SME allows, let them talk until they feel they’ve fully covered a point. Listen for opportunities to ask follow-up questions. If they reference an anecdote, be sure to ask them to tell this story and capture it as best you can. It might provide a great example to help bring one of your points home.

Bring Backup

It’s a luxury that most working situations can’t afford. But if you’re able to, bring a member of your team to help with capturing notes (perhaps a junior level or intern who could benefit from the experience). To heads are better than one. And this might also help ease your stress over missing any important tidbits, letting you focus more on the story being told. 

Do You Have Additional Tips on How to Interview a SME?

Hopefully these tips help you on your future SME interviews. Do you have any additional tips for conducting a successful interview? If so, let us know!

50 Years of Content, Fact-Finding and The Internet

Dan reflects on 50 years of the internet and discusses how it has changed storytelling and news over the years.

Two amazing things happened this year that have caused me to reflect heavily on my life and career as a public relations professional, content marketer and storyteller. I turned 50, and the Internet turned 50. Why then do I just keep getting grayer and grayer every year while the Internet appears to get more and more colorful by the day?

Reflecting on 50 Years of the Internet

My self-reflection kicked off Saturday night, October 26, at an annual event held by The Mercantile Library, a historic library in downtown Cincinnati that promotes history, reading, enrichment and community engagement. The event was the Library’s 32nd annual Niehoff Lecture, which featured Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward (one of the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Watergate story on June 19, 1972). As the guest of my good friend and fellow former journalist Carolyn Pione Micheli, I had the great fortune to meet Mr. Woodward. That evening, a dream I never thought would come true was realized.

Back to the Beginning

Growing up, I remember studying about Watergate, which led to Richard Nixon’s resignation from office. Of course, I also was mesmerized as I watched Robert Redford portray Woodward on the silver screen in 1976’s All the President’s Men. I knew that Woodward’s and Carl Bernstein’s reporting was at the center of this national scandal, and as I grew older and began pursuing an education and career in journalism, I came to better appreciate the process the two journalists pursued to uncover the facts, apart from rumor and partisan politics. I was inspired to pursue and then obtain a degree in print Journalism.

I emphasize “print” for a reason. Because as I was making my way as a newspaper and magazine reporter, editor and eventually public relations consultant, a game-changing technology was slowly percolating within the halls of academia and government that in the mid-90s would begin to turn the world of journalism on its head. On October 29, 1969, just a few months after I entered the world, the Internet was born. And just three days after I met a bona fide living legend of journalism, the Internet celebrated its 50th anniversary.

The irony of these two occurrences happening around me within days of each other is staggering. The person who epitomizes investigative print journalism in its most ethical and objective form stands contrasted in my mind against the very platform that enables so many to share information in its most raw and unverified form, causing chaotic firestorms of misinformation and rhetoric on a daily basis.

Amidst the chaos, I believe we must look hard for meaning. Since the beginning of human existence, information has been communicated and shared as stories. Over the eons, the vehicles by which that information was shared has evolved and advanced with one consistent objective at play—to communicate facts. Yet, today, the facts are relegated to a supporting role in telling stories, and those trusted to convey the news that we trust to inform our decisions are…well…you and me. We no longer depend on newspapers and magazines or the once modern mediums of television and radio to deliver our news. We seek it out on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, on blogs and subscription news feeds, and of course the websites belonging to those news outlets that used to only exist in print and on our air waves. And each one of these outlets and platforms is competing for clicks, impressions and unique users. The rush was always on to break a story, but never until the facts were collected and verified. Today, we’re simply in a rush to be first, as he or she who gets the most visits wins.

What Does the Future Look Like?

No telling what the future looks like, especially as technology continues to advance. My hope is that we can find a compromise between our voracious appetites for information and minute-by-minute updates to that information and the ability of professional storytellers to once again be afforded the time and resources to tell their stories with all of the facts in tow. Until that time, we must embrace one of the many pros the Internet affords us today—the ability to research for ourselves the facts, and the boundless ways in which we can tell our stories.

Looking back on this past year, especially with respect to these recent milestones I’ve just shared, I see 2019 as neither the end to my first 50 years nor a new beginning. Rather, it’s like the fold in the newspaper I still read every morning. In Journalism school, having a story appear on the front page was never enough. It had to appear “above the fold.” That was the money shot, because…in theory…that story always got read first. The funny thing is that it didn’t really matter where a story landed on the front page, because it was only the beginning, and often was only a couple of paragraphs in length. You still had to open the paper to get to the meat of the story and digest all of the details. That’s where you decided your opinion of the story and those in it.

After 50 Years of the Internet — What Now?

For my next 50 years, I will continue to follow Mr. Woodward’s example of doing the hard work, resisting the urge to be first, and focusing on getting it right…whatever “it” happens to be in my case. I’ll use the Internet as a resource for achieving my objective, not as the objective. I’ll search for the truth, and do my best to encourage those around me to do the same. And as a storyteller, I’ll strive to shed light on all sides of those stories, and hopefully encourage those after me to do the same.

Fool-Proof Tips for Writing an Attention-Getting Press Release

Lisa shares four quick tips for writing a press release.

So, your company has an announcement they would like to make, and they have asked you to make that announcement via a press release. A quick Google search will tell you that your release should cover the Who, What, When, Where, and Whys, and you might even be able to track down a release template. That’s great; you’re well on your way! But allow me to offer a few tips and tricks that I have picked up throughout my years as a public relations professional. They might just help you craft a better release and make sure your announcement (assuming it’s newsworthy) gets heard.

4 Tips for Writing A Press Release

  1. 1. Remember to write the facts, not a 500-word commercial. A good question to ask yourself is, is it newsworthy? If it’s not, you’ll probably find yourself acting as more like an ad agency copywriter than a public relations professional. If you have a newsworthy story, it won’t be hard to share the facts without using overly flowery language and fillers.
  2. 2. Be human and conversational, but not fake. Journalists are human, and they want to know you have done your research and know what topics they cover. They do not, however, want you to act like you’re an old college buddy (unless, of course, you are). Skip the emojis and “how’s the weather” fillers and give them the info they need to create the content. I’m not saying you should write like a robot, but save the overly friendly banter for your personal contacts.
  3. 3. Use text formatting for emphasis. Make it easy to capture your dates, times, and locations by using bold, underlines, or italics. Increasing the scanability of your release increases the likelihood of it being read.
  4. 4. Don’t forget to include quotes: Try to have at least two quotes from relevant experts. Make sure your quotes sound like something a human would say and are factual and relatable.

Don’t forget THIS on Your Press Release

Never forget to include your contact information on your release. While this may seem obvious, I have heard many horror stories where journalists really want additional information to tell a great story but have no clue whom to follow up with to get the facts they need. Ugh, that hurts. Don’t be that person.

You’re Not Quite Finished After You Pitch Your Press Release

If you receive coverage as a result of your release, be sure to say thank you! Again, this might seem like common sense. But often times this simple act of appreciation can be overlooked. Plus, your mother would be proud.

You’re On Your Way to Writing a Press Release that Will Turn Heads

Well, there you have it. In addition to your Google research, you now have some tips and tricks of the trade! If you need additional guidance on crafting the perfect pitch, check out this blog to pitch like a pro and enjoy some pretty amazing Elle Woods gifs, too!

PR is Changing: Here’s Why it Matters

Predicting trends is easy. But how often do those predictions come true? Let’s take a look at 2019.

These are the predictive trends for PR in 2019. Now that we’re over two thirds through the year, let’s see how accurate these predictions have been.

From an article written December 12, 2018 in PR Forward by Jenn Deering Davis:

4 Trends Changing the Future of Digital PR in 2019

Clearly, a lot is changing to bring us into this brave new world of truly digital PR. Here are the PR trends are we particularly excited about for 2019:

More and More Measurement

As our work becomes increasingly digital, we’re able to measure every step of the communications process, from output to outcomes. Using real-time data, along with the insights pulled from that data, we can understand precisely how our messages are received and by whom, so we can adjust our message and optimize its impact. We have access to comprehensive online, print, broadcast and social media monitoring and analysis. We have intelligent media contacts databases and tools to manage relationships and outreach. We have real-time alerts and notifications that tell us the moment something happens.

All that technology means we can create smarter, more targeted pitches that have a better chance of getting picked up. It also means PR and comms teams can now prove their impact through data, right alongside the marketing team. We can track views, engagement, clicks, downloads, you name it. We have the ability to know how much traffic a particular piece of earned media drives to our website. We know more about the demographic characteristics of an audience than ever before. 

All this data can be overwhelming. In fact, it can be downright distracting. But, when harnessed appropriately, we can focus in on a few specific KPIs to measure the true impact of our team’s PR efforts and how they relate to an organization’s business goals.

TRUE. Increased measurement is reality in 2019 and has become a vital tool in the PR professional’s arsenal.

Integration With Marketing and Beyond

In 2019, public relations will be seen as the powerful partner to marketing that it is. As organizations turn to a more integrated communications strategy, comms and PR pros have a unique opportunity to take a bigger seat at an organization’s leadership table. There are a number of ways to integrate with and amplify our results through the rest of the marketing team, from social media and content marketing, to lead generation and paid media.

This includes building a closer relationship with our company’s social and paid media teams by sharing the most interesting or most relevant earned media coverage, so they can post it across owned and paid channels. This provides those teams with additional credible content and further amplifies the earned media pieces to increase future brand recognition with a wider audience. 

Another way PR ties back to broader marketing efforts is through SEO and organic site and search traffic. It’s essential that PR pros understand how SEO works and what they can do to contribute to backlinks and other SEO-friendly tactics to support the marketing team. Earned media can boost credibility with search engines as well as the human audiences who read those articles. 

We can also use all these earned media insights to inform future content creation across our organizations, from blog and social posts, to ebooks, landing pages, webinars and more. Use earned media to learn what resonates with a target audience, so the entire marketing team can do more of what works (and less of what doesn’t).

TRUE. Social media teams, once independent, have been absorbed into the public relations team. PR is ultimately responsible for ALL communication between an organization and its publics. PR and social media must speak with one strategic voice and one message.

Focus on Flexibility and Experimentation 

We learned a lot of tough PR lessons in 2018, many of them related to how we use social media. Most of this centered around what turned into a pretty bad year for Facebook. There were numerous data breaches and privacy issues, constantly changing algorithms, data APIs that disappeared overnight, even widespread reports of inaccurate ad metrics. For those of us in PR and marketing, we found ourselves struggling to keep up and sometimes having to totally rethink our plans on just a few hours’ notice. 

The impact this has on our strategy moving forward is that we can’t rely on a particular distribution channel or campaign working the way it did last month, and we need to always be ready to change. That means we have to be flexible, read everything we can to stay up-to-date on the latest changes, and learn how to appropriately test out new ideas. We can’t put all our eggs in a single platform’s basket, so we need to diversify and adapt. 

TRUE. Facebook’s challenges in 2018 will be magnified in 2019 and 2020 by artificial intelligence. In a September 5th article in the MIT Technology Review, Will Knight discussed Facebook’s fear AI-generated “deepfake” videos could be the next big source of viral misinformation with potentially catastrophic consequences for individuals and organizations.

Evolution of Influencer Marketing and Influencer Relationship Management 

The job of the PR professional has always relied on good old-fashioned relationship building, which takes a great deal of time. PR pros know how important is it to establish a relationship with a journalist before sending a pitch

This year, interest in influencer marketing hit a fever pitch. We heard about influencers everywhere. Even the word “influencer” itself has lost a lot of its original meaning; “influencer” has become synonymous with “celebrity.” But when we talk about influencer relationship management, we’re really talking about a concept that is much broader and more sophisticated.

In 2019, PR and comms teams will develop more a nuanced understanding of influencer relationship management:

-At one end of the influencer spectrum, we have journalists—  experts in an industry, with a large and engaged audience eager to hear about a topic.

-Other media, social and micro-influencers comprise the rest of the continuum—  experts in a particular topic, with an engaged and relevant audience.

This even extends to B2B brands.

More and more of these IRM programs will live with PR and comms teams as organizations come to realize that influencer marketing is a lot more than just throwing money at celebrities for product placements; it’s a strategic process of extending the reach of your message to the audiences you care about through earned, paid and social media.2019 will be a year of change and opportunity, and it’s a year that communicators are equipped to face. We can’t wait to see what the next 12 months bring to the quickly evolving world of digital PR.

TRUE. Product placement and celebrity endorsement are becoming less important than social and micro-influencers as evidenced by brands canceling sports celebrity’s endorsements contracts overnight because of the athlete’s bad behavior. Brands made huge investments which turned to dust in a heartbeat.

What’s Next for Digital PR in 2020?

Subscribe to our blog to stay updated! We will surely be writing about exciting new trends as we enter another year.

All PR is Good PR! Unless You’re Chernobyl.

Dan discusses some important lessons for preparing and managing a crisis.

If you’ve not yet binged HBO’s miniseries, “Chernobyl,” about the Russian nuclear reactor explosion on April 26, 1986 and its tragic aftermath, that’s probably best. You’ll sleep better. It’s not exactly an uplifting or inspiring tale. It’s also a fictionalized telling of the actual disaster and the attempts the Soviet Union took to cover it up, so inaccuracies and untruths abound. But, if you appreciate stellar acting and a compelling story, and you have five and a half hours to kill, then sit down and get ready to learn how not to manage and communicate a crisis.

Can a Crisis Happen to You?

The first mistake the Soviet Union made, years before the Chernobyl disaster, was not admitting that a crisis could happen at Chernobyl…or anywhere in the Soviet Union, for that matter. Such an occurrence simply did not align with the Soviet Union’s doctrine or dogma. So, while they did conduct safety tests on the reactor, they never prepared fully for an actual crisis. And they certainly never crafted a communications plan for such an event, because crises didn’t happen in the Soviet Union. So, why would they need a communications plan? Thus, when the reactor did explode, they weren’t sure how to respond to it, they downplayed its severity, and they tried to cover it up, which ultimately put the entire European continent in peril and over the years cost nearly 200,000 lives, according to Greenpeace estimates.

Here’s the thing… It’s not a matter of if your organization will experience a crisis. It’s a matter of when. Accepting that reality allows your organization to prepare for that reality. I could talk for hours about all the possible crises that could occur and the many steps you could take in managing and communicating any one of those crises. But we don’t have time for that here. So, here are the basics you need to keep in mind in preparing for and managing a crisis.

Is It Really a Crisis? Will You Need PR Crisis Management?

Chernobyl obviously was a crisis. It was never a question. Those in charge simply would not admit it to themselves, and they and thousands of others suffered for it. So, lesson 1: If you clearly are in crisis, admit it to yourself so you can take action.

However, not every misstep, mistake or accident results in a true crisis. More times than I can count, I have received calls from clients panicking about a comment left on one of their social media channels that is critical of their business. They worry that the comment will impact their business negatively, either by spawning similar comments or by finding its way onto the evening news, and they’ll want to immediately issue a statement to the media or via their online channels. In most of those situations, though, the comment simply died on the vine. Either no one noticed it, no one was moved by it, or no one believed it. Every case is unique, but typically I’ll caution to not panic and simply monitor the comment to determine if a response is merited. By responding prematurely, you can actually create the real crisis.

Regardless of the situation at hand, the seemingly most minor of incidents can erupt into full-blown crises. Your ability to deaden or lessen the impact of a crisis may or may not be limited; you will not know the answer to that question until you’re in the midst of the event. So, act now…before the incident occurs. What’s the old saying? “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?”

Plan!

Don’t wait for a crisis to hit. Create a plan “now” for when a crisis does occur. And don’t panic about the plan itself. PR Crisis Management & Communications plans can be several pages long or one page long. It all depends on the size of your organization, the type of organization, your familiarity and experience with the media, the proprietary nature of your organization’s data, etc. and so on. The silver lining here is that there are numerous crisis plans that you can find online or through specialists who focus on helping organizations like yours plan for and manage crises. Some simple and quick online research can help you find the resources to meet your needs. Lesson 2: Plan now, not later.

Breathe (assuming the air isn’t radioactive)

When a “potential” crisis does occur, before you do anything else, breathe. Then, assess the situation and determine if you and your organization are truly in crisis. Don’t panic prematurely. Lesson 3: Take a breath, and assess.

Work Your Plan

But when that initial incident does devolve into a legitimate crisis…and the panic sets in, there are steps you can and should take to mitigate both the crisis’s impact on your business and your personal life. First and foremost… Lesson 4: Consult your plan, and work your plan.

Know Your Story

It might seem contrary to the task at hand, but some crisis communications situations can present opportunities for you to tell your story…if you’re prepared. Prior to any crises occurring, everyone in the organization should know the company’s basic story and should be able to retell it in an instant. Write down the key talking points you would want anyone (customer, employee, media, etc.) to know about your organization. Share them throughout your organization. Make them a part of your organization’s mission, vision and values. Then, when communicating a crisis to your various audiences, including the media, you’ll be able to incorporate the appropriate elements of your story into your message to help gain empathy. Lesson 5: Stay on message.

Just the Facts, Please

The deeper you dig your hole, the more difficult it will be to climb out of it. The same logic applies to your crisis situation. Many organizations will be tempted to talk around the facts, make promises they can’t keep, make statements neither they nor the media can verify, or simply duck behind closed doors until the crisis passes. In all of these cases, resist the urge. Beginning immediately, collect all the facts. Quickly, calmly and collectedly, talk with all members of your organization who might have pertinent information to shed light on the situation. Obtain as much perspective as you can without raising alarm. Then assess and determine the actual facts about the situation. From these facts, you can create your narrative that you might need to share with your respective stakeholders. And do not embellish beyond the facts. You do not want to have to walk back your statements later. Lesson 6: Stick to the facts, and only the facts.

Know Your Audience

Organizations often make assumptions about whom they need to inform of a crisis, which typically results in them neglecting important audiences who often could help their cases. Audiences can include: employees, customers/clients, investors, vendors and strategic partners, regulating bodies, the public and the media. Organizations also often fail to modify their messaging per audience, as different groups will have different concerns. This is especially true in regard to media. Keep in mind that not only must you be mindful of how to share information with the media, but you should remember that media are professionals with personal lives similar to yours and mine; they have a job, they have families, they have personal commitments, and they have beliefs and opinions. Understanding this can help you gain empathy from them. Lesson 7: Identify and target each audience.

Know Your Channels

Prior to your crisis, within your plan, you should have already identified which channels—website, social media, news releases, text, company email, etc.—you will use to disseminate your message, depending on which audiences you’re trying to reach. Each channel offers opportunities and challenges that will be critical to successful pr crisis management and communication of your crisis. If you’re unsure of the strengths and weaknesses of each channel, consult a professional who can guide you in that assessment and usage strategy. Lesson 8: Communicate the right message via the right channel.

“No Comment”

What is the absolute worst comment you can give in response to a crisis? “No comment.” Doing so implies guilt, makes you sound insincere and uncaring, and connotes that you are avoiding the subject in the hopes that it will go away. It will not, so don’t try it. You will only make the situation worse. Lesson 9: “No comment” is NOT an option.

PR Crisis Management in a Nutshell

If you follow these basic tenets for managing and communicating a crisis, you and your organization stand a much greater chance of surviving a crisis. You may not escape unscathed. In fact, most rarely do. But it is much more likely that you will avoid a meltdown.

Don’t be Chernobyl.

Is Artificial Intelligence a Threat to Authentic Public Relations?

A new era of artificial intelligence and “deepfake” videos are sure to shake up the world of PR.

The textbook definition of public relations is: The management of communications between an organization and its publics.

Public relations professionals manage an organization’s reputation, community engagement and outreach, public persona, social media strategies, all public content and media relations. We create messaging strategies, long and short form content like white papers, thought leadership articles and blogs. Very rarely we are called upon to manage crisis communication, which could be anything from a product recall, to a workplace injury or accident, to an accusation of criminal behavior. Thankfully, in my 40-year career I have engaged in crisis communication on behalf of a client just four times. Contrary to what many believe, the vast majority of public and private organizations are managed legally and ethically.

Where AI and Public Relations Meet: “Fake News”

An increasing threat to authentic public relations is viral misinformation, what the media and political sphere has named “fake news.” Cordell Hull, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Secretary of State once said, “A lie will gallop halfway round the world before the truth has time to pull its breeches on.” With the assistance of social media, this timeline has been vastly accelerated.

Fortunately, fake stories that appear in print on social media are easily debunked if the reader takes the time to do a little basic research. One can often revert to existing video to determine what the person actually said versus what others say they said.

But what if an emerging technology made it possible to create video images with voice that was completely undetectable as fake? What are the ramifications of a social media post suddenly appearing showing your company’s CEO giving a racist rant? That technology actually exists today.

AI Generated “Deepfake” Videos

On September 5th, 2019 in the MIT Technology Review, an article in the newsletter “The Algorithm” by Will Knight discusses Facebook’s fear AI-generated “deepfake” videos could be the next big source of viral misinformation—spreading among its users with potentially catastrophic consequences for private organizations, individuals and elections.

Here’s what “The Algorithm” article discussed:

“Facebook’s solution? Making lots of deepfakes of its own, to help researchers build and refine detection tools. Facebook has directed its team of AI researchers to produce a number of highly realistic fake videos featuring actors doing and saying routine things. These clips will serve as a data set for testing and benchmarking deepfake detection tools. The Facebook deepfakes will be released at a major AI conference at the end of the year.

The rise of deepfakes has been driven by recent advances in machine learning. It has long been possible for movie studios to manipulate images and video with software and computers, and algorithms capable of capturing and re-creating a person’s likeness have already been used to make point-and-click tools for pasting a person’s face onto someone else. Methods for spotting forged media exist, but they often involve painstaking expert analysis. Tools for catching deepfakes automatically are only just emerging.

Facebook’s CTO, Mike Schroepfer, says deepfakes are advancing rapidly, so devising much better ways to flag or block potential fakes is vital.

‘We have not seen this as huge problem on our platforms yet, but my assumption is if you increase access—make it cheaper, easier, faster to build these things—it clearly increases the risk that people will use this in some malicious fashion,’ Schroepfer, who is spearheading the initiative, said last night. ‘I don’t want to be in a situation where this is a massive problem and we haven’t been investing massive amounts in R&D.’

Comparing the effort to the fight against spam email, Schroepfer said Facebook may not be able to catch the most sophisticated fakes. ‘We’ll catch the obvious ones,’ he said. But he said Facebook isn’t employing any methods yet because the forgeries are improving so quickly.”

A New Era of AI and Public Relations

As is we didn’t have enough on our plate helping organizations manage their authentic communications, a new world is emerging, and public relations professionals need to stay abreast of the technologies that could be manipulated with malicious intent.

If you need help with traditional pr, or you need assistance with crisis communication, we can lend a hand.

B2C Versus B2B PR: The Biggest Differences

Understanding the differences between B2B and B2C is key when developing a smart PR strategy.

To the uninitiated, B2B and B2C might sound like rival boy bands from the 90s. But in marketing communications, they’re the two biggest differentiators to consider when it comes to strategy. Is your business marketing to businesses (B2B) or consumers (B2C)? 

Is Your Business B2C or B2B?

A B2B business’s customers are other businesses. There are usually bidding processes involved, and decisions can take up to months to complete. However, the monetary amount of the sale, once complete, is often significant and warrants the length of time it takes to complete the sale. A manufacturer of fire detection systems selling a high quantity of their products, along with an installation and service contract, to a chain of hotels would be an example of B2B business. 

B2C businesses deal directly with consumers. The decision-making process, between establishing initial awareness of your product or service and its features and benefits, and the customer deciding to make the purchase, is normally quite fast. While price points are typically lower in B2C transactions, the volume is far higher. A customer visiting a store to purchase an article of clothing is a good example of a B2C transaction. 

One of the keys to creating good content is knowing your target audience. While the products and services we promote for our clients vary widely, the marketing communications industry has historically divided the audiences for all products and services being marketed into B2B or B2C buckets. And for a good reason! Think about it, it makes sense. People who purchase products to help them do their jobs better are going to have different motivations than those shopping for food, clothing or entertainment. So it follows that the right way to reach these people will differ, based upon their corresponding bucket.

An article by Forbes describes a couple of the differences between the two audiences as B2B having a longer decision-making process and a greater number of stakeholders than B2C. So applying this knowledge, how might your B2C and B2B PR campaigns differ?

The Strategy Behind B2B PR

Casablanca: "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

B2B PR is in it for the long haul. Strategies to set potential customers down the path to conversion might include creating thought leadership articles to build awareness, or securing your SMEs as sources for trade media articles targeted at different levels of your customers’ organizations (from leadership down to the shop floor). You might publish well-researched white papers or bylined articles to demonstrate and share your knowledge on general industry topics. You want to put your company on the map and establish yourself as a credible expert in the space in which you operate. 

How B2C PR Differs

Raccoon grasping for a bite of food

In comparison to B2B PR, B2C PR aims more at grabbing a potential customer’s attention to create an immediate need for your specific product or service. B2C customers typically won’t conduct a large amount of research before purchasing your product. Rather, they’ll convert to meet a need you created through a well-placed product review on social media, or interview on the morning news.

PR Strategy is Important (Whether It’s B2C or B2B PR)

Hopefully this helps you see that PR is more complex than simply sending a press release. Whether B2B or B2C, there are nuanced approaches to effectively reaching your desired audiences. But if you need help, we’d love to hear from you!

A Few Thoughts for Future PR Professionals

Thinking about a career in PR? Lisa shares her four tips for future PR professionals.

With back-to-school messaging everywhere right now, I’ve been reflecting a lot about school and how I have been lucky enough to end up in a career I love. Judging by my early report cards and teacher evaluations, it was pretty clear I would one day end up in a communication role because apparently, I couldn’t seem to stop chattering in class. That got me thinking that in addition to the gift of gab, what else should current high school and college students consider when contemplating a career in PR? Here are a few attributes and skills that have proved to be particularly helpful to me and my PR roles.

1. Multitasking

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I am continually working on multiple different accounts, projects, and pieces of content simultaneously. A PR professional must be able to toggle between numerous initiatives and efforts seamlessly. Excellent time management is critical here, and so is identifying priorities. However, bottom line, you must like variety and have a little bit of a squirrel brain to keep all the balls in the air.

2. Relationship Building

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Relationships are essential in most professional roles for sure, but the sheer amount of interpersonal relationship you have as a PR professional can exceed the norm. From your internal team to client contacts, other vendors to members of the media, etc., there are many folks you interact with daily. Each relationship is unique and has its own separate requirements for effective navigation. As cliché as it sounds, being a “people person” really is imperative.

3. Resilience

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This is key. As a PR professional, I hear a lot of no’s…or a lot of crickets… Many times, you pitch what you think is a home run, and you’re super excited to share with your client all the great buzz your story is going to get but then, no one bites. Ugh, it’s the worst. It’s hard to explain to your client, and it stinks telling your boss you weren’t able to secure any coverage, it just plain stinks. Moreover, it’s ok to be disappointed; that shows you care. However, you can’t think about it for very long because you have to pick yourself up and figure out a new way to tell that story, you must have thick skin and bounce back better than ever.

4. Creativity

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Often as a PR professional, you’re looking for new and unique ways to tell your client’s story. And let’s face it, not every client or brand is exactly exciting. But that’s ok! This is where, as a professional, you get to dream and stretch your brain. You have the opportunity to think of new ways to pitch and new angles to take. As a PR pro, you also have to be a PS pro – Problem Solving. Being able to think of new ways to tell the same story, or to make a not-so-exciting announcement newsworthy goes with the territory.

A career in public relations is exciting and rewarding, but it’s also a lot of work. There are skills to hone that contribute to your success. If you’re headed back to high school or college and thinking about joining the world of PR, I encourage you to reach out to someone currently in the role to help you along the way. You’ll find most of us are receptive to helping newbies out. After all, relationship building is kinda our thing (wink, wink).

Want to work with us? Let’s connect!

The Elle Woods Guide To PR Pitching

Lisa explains why Elle Woods is the ultimate PR maven and offers tips to help you pitch better.

Be Responsive & Buzzworthy

Personally speaking, and I’m convinced Elle Woods would agree, few things get the endorphins going quite like exercise and good PR. While good PR might not keep one from shooting one’s husband like exercise, it can help you increase brand awareness and foster goodwill, which are equally as important! That said, if you want to get those endorphins going and don’t have the time to sweat it out at the gym, here are a few tips to keep in mind when pitching your story.  Here’s our Elle Woods approved guide to PR.

Not Everything Is Newsworthy

Here’s the deal, not everything you and your company does needs to be communicated via earned media. Utilize your website and social channels to communicate less monumental news. These platforms are great because you can control your message, and you won’t run the risk of annoying your media contacts with your emails and phone calls.

You might be asking yourself, “How do I know if it’s newsworthy?” This can sometimes be difficult to determine, especially if a boss or client is convinced their story is the bee’s knees.

When I’m in these situations, I like to ask myself a few questions to establish if I should whip up a pitch or look to owned (website) and semi-owned (social media) platforms to communicate the message.

Is it timely?

If the moment has passed, it’s probably not newsworthy. If someone else has beat you to the proverbial punch, it’s probably not newsworthy. If you only have half the details you need to tell an engaging and convincing story, it’s probably not newsworthy…yet. Timing is important, so make sure yours is on point.

Is it buzzworthy?

Is there already chatter about the overarching message that you could piggyback on? For example, does your story ladder up into the gender equality discussion or climate change? If you can ride the wave and maintain your uniqueness, do it!

Will it appeal to the general public?

If it’s timely, buzzworthy, AND has mass appeal; you have yourself a winner. Craft your pitch and press send! If not, don’t get too discouraged. You can also look to targeted media outlets with more specialization. 

Does it connect to the heart?

Does your story have a feel-good message? Human Interest stories are always a crowd pleaser, and you should be seeking out opportunities to pitch these when you can. We all need shining lights to get us through the day, and your brand or employee story could be one of them.

Know Your Pitch Target

Do your research and know whom you’re pitching. You don’t want to pitch the Grand Opening of The Buttery Baking Co. to the local health reporter. You also don’t want to pitch a story to anyone and everyone you see on Cision. Take the time to figure out the best fit and craft a unique pitch for them. You might even want to reference some of their recent work, so they can see you’re sincere. Journalists are people too, and they want to know they’re not just on your copy-paste-repeat list.v

Be Responsive and FAST

Our media friends are on constant deadline and don’t have time to lose waiting to hear back from you or your brand.

Be mindful of this, follow up, and provide them with the answers they need. If you need time to collect that information, it’s fine to say that, but make sure you do indeed follow up with the information requested. Just like you remember who ghosted you at the sorority date party, they remember who ghosted them on their story.

So, there you have it! Now you can pitch like a PR pro!

That said, if your happy place is on a reformer and not behind an iPhone and MacBook, feel free to call O’Keeffe PR and we’ll make sure you’re pitch perfect!