Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Modesty is NOT the Best Policy

By: Kristin Rabas, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

In the world of public relations, honesty is always the best policy. However, there are too many times when companies are also taking the route of modesty being the best policy. Personally, we may be hesitant before we go around "tooting our own horn" about something great we accomplished, because we don't want others to think we are "full of ourselves" or conceited. In the business world, this should almost NEVER be the case. I can't tell you how many companies that are doing awesome things in the community and the business world but don't tell anyone about it!

Many times, businesses think what they are doing in the community isn't a big deal because they've been doing it for so long it seems natural, they think others are doing more so nobody cares about them, or that it makes them look bad if they tell others these efforts. That's simply not true. Promoting the good your business and your employees are doing shouldn't only take place when you have a new product to offer or are running a sale.

There are a number of ways to promote the great things your business is doing, but the one that is commonly overlooked or forgotten about is awards. Many organizations such as local chambers, non-profits, industry associations and more have some sort of annual award or recognition. Businesses often wait and hope for others in the community to nominate them for these types of awards. However, if you're one of those companies that doesn't tell anyone about the good you are doing, how will anyone even think to nominate you? Nominate yourself! Many are surprised to learn that awards and recognitions do not require a third party nomination. Or, if you still feel a little uncomfortable giving yourself "a pat on the back," ask a business colleague or client that you have a solid relationship with to nominate you.

Winning awards and receiving recognition for your work not only increase your credibility as a company or business leader, but gives you another selling point and avenue for reaching potential customers.

Some annual awards and recognition programs in Northeast Wisconsin include:
Green Bay Chamber Small Business Recognition Awards
Fox Cities Chamber Small Business of the Year Award
Ethics in Business Awards
Volunteer Awards
Athena Award
Manufacturing Awards of Distinction

What other awards have you applied for or won in the past? What other award programs are out there that aren't listed here?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The World Cup with Ear Plugs

By Kristen Paquet: Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

Whether you are actively keeping track of the World Cup or just stopping every now and then to catch the highlights, you have probably heard a loud buzzing sound coming out of your TV. No need to worry – it’s not an angry swarm of bees; it’s just the vuvzela, the long, plastic horn that has been blaring without end since the first game began.

The vuvzela gives off a loud, buzzing sound that is just downright annoying and has been subject to a lot of criticism from all corners of the World Cup. It is interrupting the enjoyment of the games for fans both at the stadium and at home, coaches and players are having difficulty communicating with each other on the field and sport commentators are having trouble yelling over the loud hum of the stadium that never seems to end.

It has gotten so bad that hearing specialists have come forward saying that the loud blaring of the horns can actually cause hearing damage if a person is exposed to the constant humming for too long (it has a decibel level higher than drums). ESPN is working on a way to change frequencies for their broadcasts to help lower the background noise level and fans have said that the horns have taken away all spirit of the game, drowning out their singing and chanting for their team.

If you haven’t heard the sound of the vuvzela, check out this six second clip:

Now imagine that sound being constant not only during the entire game, but before it, on the streets after a game, and just about everywhere you go.

So will the vuvzelas be banned from the rest of the World Cup? According to FIFA (the International Football Association) president, Sepp Blatter, the answer is no. The reason? Because the vuvzela has long been a part of South African tradition and history, emulating a horn that was once used to call meetings to order. And the vuvzela is a staple at most South African sporting events, not just the World Cup. Blatter later tweeted: “Would you want to see a ban on the fan traditions in your country?"

So did Blatter make the right call, even with global criticism from fans and players? What would you have done if you were the president of FIFA? Listen to tradition or listen to the crowd?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Practicing: Something Even CEO’s Should Be Doing

By: Beth Kneisler, Account Assistant, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

Ever since we were children, we’ve learned the importance of practicing. Whether it was getting ready for a music lesson, a big game or even our drivers license, without practice, we would not have done as well as we had hoped. Even though we may not have to get ready for these types of activities anymore, as adults we have presentations, demonstrations, meetings, conferences and media interviews to prepare for. And, while we often take the time to prepare a PowerPoint presentation or write out talking points, all too often, practicing the actual speech or doing a run-through of the presentation gets overlooked.

You assume that because you’re talking about something related to your profession, the words will just come to you or if questions are asked you’ll know all the answers. More often than not, something unexpected happens and because time wasn’t taken to troubleshoot potential snags, you find yourself in front of a group of people looking unprepared.

This exact thing happened recently to none other than Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs. During a conference to unveil the next-generation iPhone, Jobs was touting its more than 100 new features, such as video calling over Wi-Fi networks. As he began demonstrating the new iPhone’s display, he found himself struggling as he realized he couldn’t get web access. He asked the audience to help him out by shutting down their Wi-Fi and he was then able to gain access to the Internet. Despite the rest of the unveiling going smoothly, as a PR person I still found myself asking, “Doesn’t Apple care enough about their brand and image to take a few minutes to practice the actual demonstration?”

Luckily for Apple, the problem was quickly resolved, but can you imagine if Jobs was unable to get any web access? Even despite the many Apple fans out there, I think it’s safe to say that there would be people doubting not only their products but their overall image and brand as well.

No matter how seasoned you may be in your career, you can never outgrow practicing. Even if video can be edited to “erase” your blunder, the people who watched your mistake won’t forget. Remember, your company’s brand and image is everything and you don’t want to be the one putting that in jeopardy.

Have you ever witnessed an unpracticed presentation? Maybe you learned the importance of practicing the hard way? I’d love to hear your lessons learned!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

BP - Practice What You Preach

By Cole Buergi, Senior Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

As the environmental disaster continues to unfold in the Gulf, so does the BP public relations team that is developing, refining, scrapping and then re-developing messages for the public in an effort to save the company’s reputation as well as BP’s existence as a business.

BP is trying to position itself as a caring company that understands the impact of this disaster and what it takes to correct it. However, their actions don’t mirror what they say. For instance, BP is employing local fishermen, displaced from their jobs due to the spill and whose livelihood has been devastated for who knows how long. These fishermen are being hired by BP to help with the cleanup. Yes, it’s a great way to ensure they have some form of income during this time. However, very early on when hiring these fishermen, BP was requiring those accepting jobs to sign an agreement holding BP harmless for any damages caused by the disaster. The federal government had to step in and require BP to remove that clause in their employment agreement.

Another instance is when BP, Halliburton and Transocean were testifying in front of congress regarding the well platform explosion that killed 11 people and created the problem in the first place. During the testimony, it was almost comical to watch these company representatives point their fingers at each other as to who was responsible for problem and the cleanup. It was almost like watching school kids in a classroom when asked who put the gum on the teacher’s chair.

Probably the biggest lapse in judgment was the recent comment by BP CEO Tony Hayward when he spoke to the media regarding the disaster saying, “There's no one who wants this thing over more than I do, I'd like my life back…..” Eleven workers were killed during the explosion and thousands, if not millions, more people are and will continue to be impacted by the disaster now and for many years in the future.

This doesn’t sound like a company that means what it says. Instead, it sounds like a company that is willing to say whatever it thinks it needs to say to manage its reputation, what little of it remains.

The fundamental flaw in BP’s messaging is they don’t live what they preach. You can’t say how much you care about the environment and the people impacted by this disaster and then have your CEO quoted as saying all he wants is his life back. A sound public relations strategy means you need to believe in and live your corporate messaging. The companies that live their corporate philosophy tend to have outstanding reputations. There are some companies that don’t practice what they preach and manage to maintain a positive reputation. However, much like BP’s reputation, eventually not living what you preach will catch up with you. In this instance unfortunately, it took a disaster of epic proportions to shed light on it. And, once the world’s microscope is on you, there is no escaping it.

My best advice, live what you’re preaching. Prove you have compassion for the people and environment impacted. Most of all stop the leak and work on rebuilding that area.

Does anyone believe that BP will live up to its promise to compensate for lost damages to everyone impacted by the disaster?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Yo Yo Hoaxster: Funny or not?

By Susan Finco, President, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

You may have heard about K-Strass, the man who recently appeared on several Midwest morning news shows, claiming to be a yo-yo master. Turns out, he was anything but a yo-yo master, which was apparent literally seconds into his interviews with local hosts.

Videos of his appearances have been making the rounds (one sample: I have to admit that, if this were in a movie, I would be laughing right along with everyone else at what was a very uncomfortable situation. It was totally bizarre (think “Borat”) but, as a former journalist and now as a PR professional, it gives me heartburn!

Newsrooms are stretched thin these days and unfortunately it means that sometimes they are scrambling to fill interview slots on morning and weekend shows. My understanding is that the stations were contacted by someone claiming to be his promoter / PR person. The pitch sounded like K-Strass would be an interesting interview and would provide visuals with his yo yo tricks. I felt bad for the news people who suddenly found themselves dealing – live on air – with someone who was obviously not who he was supposed to be. It’s tough to be punk’d when you’re just doing your job.

The whole thing also made me a bit angry. As a PR firm, we regularly reach out to journalists, encouraging them to book interviews or appearances with our clients. We work hard to make sure the guests we’re promoting are interesting and newsworthy. If a news anchor or host is at a TV station we haven’t dealt with before, we make an extra effort to get to know them and what kinds of things they’re looking for in a guest. I don’t blame the journalists / producers who were duped if they make it twice as tough next time for someone to get a booking on their show.

I can hear some people saying at this point, “So what? It was funny!” Well, humor depends on your point of view. It’s clear the line between news and entertainment is already getting blurred and for those of us who take pride in our professions, this kind of “reality comedy” is making our jobs a lot tougher.