Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Want to build trust, be transparent

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

There aren’t many rules when it comes to social media. People can pretty much say whatever they want, whenever they want. Sometimes comments spark heated debates and, at other times, what you might consider to be a comment that would start a vigorous debate, goes unnoticed.

But one thing almost every social media user agrees on is being transparent with your comments. A misstep in this forum, purposeful or not, will almost assuredly create serious backlash against you and whatever item, activity or business your promoting.

What does it mean to be transparent? It means acknowledging that you have a personal stake, directly or indirectly, in what you’re promoting on social media.

A positive example of transparency I recently saw on Facebook was that of a well known and respected Green Bay area TV news anchor who promoted that an area store was having a sale. She also noted in her post that the store was owned by her husband. That’s a great example of showing transparency and she received positive responses from her friends including me.

I’ve also witnessed other scenarios on social media where someone had posted a glowing review about a service or product only to find out later that the person posting the comment didn’t acknowledge that it was a client of theirs. I felt my trust was betrayed and so did many others judging by the number of people calling that person out on the carpet for not acknowledging the client relationship.

If you plan to promote a product or service and you have a client relationship or personal stake in that product or service, be forthright and mention it. Doing so will strengthen your relationship with the people that feel you have something important enough to say that they chose to want to read about it.

Have you ever felt misled by a social media review? What did you do about it?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Should you tie PR efforts to the 9/11 anniversary?

By: Susan Finco, President, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

In the PR world, we often recommend clients tie some of their PR efforts to seasonal events, activities, holidays and even anniversaries. But 9/11 is another story. When this terrible tragedy occurred, and in the subsequent years following the terrorist attacks, no one would have even considered promoting their company or organization by linking it to the 9/11 anniversary date (at least you hope not). Now, ten years have gone by and there are indications that the “off- limits” approach is starting to change.

Advertising Age® recently ran an article “Marketers Tread Carefully into Sept. 11 Anniversary” explaining that many of the major broadcast and cable networks are going to air programming relating to the anniversary and there will be paid sponsorships of these programs. The feeling now seems to be is that it’s OK to pay tribute to the anniversary date rather than avoiding it. But, the programmers are being very careful as to what those sponsorships and commercials look like and where they’re placed.

What does that mean for PR; especially on a more local level? At Leonard & Finco, we’re advising our clients to be careful. If your firm or organization has always recognized the day by volunteering, holding a memorial or doing something to mark the anniversary, you should be OK letting the media know about it. Likewise, if you’re sponsoring a memorial event, that’s OK too. I wouldn’t recommend sending out a news release announcing it to the world; rather, call or email a journalist you know and fill them in. Approach it from a “If you’re looking for a local story relating to 9/11” perspective. Keep in mind the seriousness and meaning of the anniversary.

We do not recommend you hold an event or activity related to 9/11 simply to generate publicity or in the hopes you’ll receive coverage. Not only is it inappropriate, you could face serious backlash. If you do something, do it for the right reasons.

I realize this may be a very conservative approach and viewpoint. Is your company or organization commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11? If so, how are you handling the PR? Love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The only constant is change

By: Angela Raleigh, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

Any person who has worked in the PR industry would agree that one of the only constants is change. Target markets are constantly subject to change; consumer tastes and preference can be unpredictable; and the platforms in which we receive information continue to change with new developments in technology. But most people dislike change for the fear of the unknown.

However, change is essential to your survival and the survival of your company. Every day we deal with change. The change that happens to us as individuals and the change that happens to the environment in which we work. Today we have competitor “x”, tomorrow it will be competitor “y”. Today we have a front page feature story and tomorrow we have a small mention on page 13.

For years print, radio and television were the main avenues for receiving information. Today we still have print, radio and television, but we’ve added the internet and hundreds of social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

How you handle change from a PR perspective should be determined on a case by case basis since most situations can vary. Be sure to consider the following:
  • Does the change benefit the business or client goals?
  • Will key messages change? If so, how will you communicate the changes to those involved?
  • What strategies need to be developed to implement the change?
  • Based on the strategies, are there new work practices and protocols that need to be implemented?
  • Will employee responsibilities change? If so, what training will be required?
  • Review the pros and cons of implementing vs. not implementing the change.
As PR professionals we must embrace change because it is a part of our daily working environment. One of the most important aspects of effectively implementing change is ensuring that everyone involved clearly understand the reasons for the change, the likely impacts, as well as the methods used to create the change and the expected benefits. How do you best address and manage change in your organization?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It may be their right, but is it the right setting?

By: Scott Stein, Senior Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

Having spent many years as a news reporter, it’ll come as no surprise that I feel strongly about the important rights included in the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights…freedom of the press and freedom of speech among them. So when it comes to those who protest every move that Gov. Scott Walker makes, or those who choose to picket outside military funerals, I won’t argue that they don’t have that right.

In fact, I’ve been to a couple of events where protesters were present. At one location the protesters were picketing outside of the event I was attending. At the other, the protesters made it rather difficult to hear what the governor was saying. Nonetheless, they were certainly within their rights to be there and take those actions.

But at some events, I feel the protests are simply out of place, including the protest against the governor at a ceremony honoring the Special Olympics. Granted, it was a silent protest, but those participating still disrupted a program that should have been all about and for the Special Olympians here in Wisconsin.

The most recent event was the opening ceremony for the Wisconsin State Fair. Reports indicate that about 60 protesters disrupted the ceremony, trying to shout down the governor during his brief speech. The State Fair has a long history of being a family-friendly event with a strong emphasis on Wisconsin’s farm heritage. It’s a tremendous honor for the kids who win the right to exhibit their animals or other projects at the fair. And some of them were among those attending the opening ceremony and witnessing the protests last week.

Then there are those who protest outside the funerals of military personnel killed in action. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that “such speech cannot be restricted simply because it is upsetting or arouses contempt.”

I have to wonder if these are appropriate settings to protest and picket. Certainly there are many other venues where protesters can carry their message to the public without intruding on a special event for kids or causing further pain for a grieving family. Yes, I will continue to argue for people’s rights to protest, but I will also argue that there are times and places that are more appropriate than others to carry on those protests.

Let me know what you think.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Foursquare – More than a game

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

The growing popularity of social media globally is also leading to a boom in social media tools. The most popular are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Another tool that is quickly growing in popularity is foursquare. It hit the social media scene about two years ago and since its launch has gained more than 6.5 million users worldwide.

Foursquare is a location-based application that encourages users to “check-in” from wherever they are using their smartphone. Users can see where their friends have checked-in, write reviews and receive tips about businesses, find nearby businesses, receive special deals and more.

At first, businesses were slow to embrace this application because of its “game-like” features. As a game, the user collects virtual badges and points for checking-in at different locations. If you check-in to the same location more than any other person, you become the “mayor” of that location. What does being mayor mean? Nothing really, it’s just a game.

However, foursquare is more than a game. It can be a useful tool to attract new customers, offer promotions and discounts to consumers and for businesses to monitor what is being said about their products or services.

Similar to a rewards card that you punch every visit, businesses can attract customers by offering them special discounts when they check in. It’s a great way to build customer loyalty. For example, the following foursquare promotion took place in the Green Bay area; Check in at Aerie in Bay Park Square and unlock a 15% discount toward your next merchandise purchase.

Monitoring what is being said about your business or product is another benefit. Every time you check-in, you have the option to review tips about that business or write your own review. As social media grows and people become more and more dependent on peer reviews and word of mouth marketing, these types of reviews and tips can serve as a great marketing tool or a way to learn how to improve your business or product. From getting comments about weekly specials to learning about bad service, foursquare has endless potential for connecting with customers. It’s almost like a virtual comment box!

Personally, I use foursquare and I love it. Do you currently use foursquare? What advantages or disadvantages do you see?