Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Can Tiger Come Back?

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

Can Tiger Woods come back after the scandal? Will he ever be marketable again? What about damage to his brand? Every one of us at L&F have been asked these question a number of times during the past month. Because of our extensive work in reputation and crisis management, they’re very good questions.

But, there are no simple answers. A lot will depend on what happens next. Generally, over time, the public has been willing to forgive (and to some extent forget) public figures who “do wrong.” The problem in Tiger’s case is that he dug in hard when things started to unfold. He asked, actually demanded, that the media and the public give him and his family privacy. He totally underestimated today’s media culture, not to mention public interest. His story just didn’t add up, so none of us at L&F were surprised when the original story started to unravel and seemingly got worse literally every day.

What’s amazing to all of us at L&F is that he was able to live a double life for so long. We’ve all heard the saying “nothing good happens after midnight.” Change that to: “Nothing good happens after midnight when you’re a married superstar and you’re out partying at Las Vegas night clubs with porn stars.” It’s the ultimate “What was he thinking?!”

So, where does he go from here? He’s going to have to live through the ugliness for a while. This will dog him for a long, long time. He has to man up and take the criticism; working to prove he’s worthy of a positive superstar status again. Getting back on the golf course – and winning – will certainly help. If his wife doesn’t divorce him, he needs to be squeaky clean and repentant; keeping a very low profile. Even if he gets divorced, he needs to clean up his act. Did he really think the type of women he was having affairs with weren’t out for something more than sex? Stop texting, emailing and leaving voice mail for women you don’t really know, or be prepared for TMZ to be running a series of stories on your exchanges.

Yes, with time, it is possible for Tiger to gain back his reputation, but it will never be quite the same. There won’t be an asterisk in the records book, but in many people’s minds there will always be an asterisk when they hear his name. What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What are your company traditions?

By: Angela Walschinski, Account Assistant, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

We tend to think of holiday traditions as part of our personal and family lives, but building and sharing holiday traditions in the office is a productive concept. Let's face it, most workers are caught up in the glow of the season. Working together, preparing to celebrate a holiday tradition in the office means building team work, cooperation, drawing workers into the group and giving everyone a sense of community. You may find that what you do as you share a few holiday traditions in the office will give everyone a new respect for one another and a better sense of congeniality that will last through the work year ahead.

If we look closely, most companies have traditions and they bind staff to the company and to each other. Here at Leonard & Finco, we’ve developed a set of traditions. These traditions include: a summer outing, recognizing one another’s birthdays with an in office celebration, playing an active role in the community, and a holiday party…this year we decided to add some fun to the holiday party by having a pot luck with an ugly sweater theme.

The traditions have become part of our culture and we continue to add new traditions. It’s part of what we as staff have come to expect. Traditions are a fun way to bring the office staff together to celebrate the season or event. I, for one, think that businesses ought to recognize their office traditions, no matter how small, and celebrate them, for they make work a better place.

How about you? What traditions does your company observe? What do they mean to you?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Remember what the season’s all about

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

It’s the holiday season and everyone is busy running from here to there. Whether it is Christmas shopping, checking out a client’s holiday get-together, the office Christmas party or planning a family gathering at your house, there’s so much to get done.

We get so busy that we often forget that the holidays are really about giving. That’s especially true this year as many people continue to feel the sting of the down economy. Yes, there are signs of improvement, still we all know someone who’s out of a job and local non-profits are feeling the squeeze with increased demand and declining support.

Promoting charitable giving is a great way to celebrate the holidays. Simple office discussions about Bell Ringing or the impact a local charitable organization is having may spur others to donate or help out in some other way.

Even in small office, there are simple things that can be done…

  • Volunteer – Supporting a charitable organization doesn’t have to mean writing a check. Volunteers are the key to success in helping others for most non-profits. The Christmas season is a great time to ring bells for The Salvation Army. Giving your time and energy is a great gift during the holidays and at other times of the year.
  • Collect food or toys – Many organizations are looking for non-perishable food donations or toys during the Christmas season. If everyone in the office donates a can of food or a toy, those items can collectively make a difference for a less fortunate family’s holiday season. But don’t limit yourself to the holidays, food pantries need your help throughout the year.
  • Plan an office fundraiser – How about an office bake sale or even a silent auction to raise money. Or even a special weekly or monthly lunch can be a good fundraising activity. If everyone gets involved, then the nickels and dimes can add up to a healthy donation to a needy organization.

Charitable efforts in the workplace can lead to improved teamwork. You’ll also reap the benefits of knowing that you’ve done something to help those in need. What types of things are you doing this holiday season or in 2010?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Send the Right Message - Internally

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

In the world of communication and public relations, we spend hours upon hours building up a positive image of companies to the general public and customers. (That’s the ultimate goal, right?) While it make sense to continually promote your company and make its abilities known to the public, sometimes we forget to include our biggest fans (and sometimes our biggest critics), our employees.

Internal communication with a company’s employees is essential. In an economy where individuals are hesitant about spending, it’s their friends’ and neighbors’ opinions they trust. Your employees have the power to spread positive messages or negative images just as easily as the company can. With the holidays here, many of us will be spending time with our friends and family and ultimately, sharing our opinions about a variety of matters. My point is that your own employees are great spokespeople for your organizations and sometimes we forget that.

So how do you ensure your employees are speaking positively about your company?
  • Share information with them – good and bad. If your firm is struggling financially, be sure the employees understand that and know why. A lack of information will only fuel rumors.
  • If your company has cut back on nonessential spending, including, holiday gatherings or bonuses, let them know far in advance. Last minute surprises never go over well. Give some thought about non-monetary things you can do to show your appreciation. Or maybe let employees hold an afternoon, at-the-office pot luck gathering.
  • Ask for their input on how to improve process and procedures. But, if you’re going to ask, be ready to implement ideas that have merit. Nothing turns off employees faster than asking for their input and then ignoring all of it.
  • Do the little things that matter to employees. Whether it’s recognizing their birthdays or celebrating a business success, people like to know they’re appreciated.

The moral of the story is, no matter what situation your organization is in, it’s important to remember to communicate efficiently and effectively with your staff. What do you do, or what does your organization do, to ensure your employees are speaking positively about you? What low-cost ideas do you have to show employees appreciation?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Interview Ready?

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

Have you ever watched someone being interviewed on TV only to cringe at their awful answers? Or what about when someone answers a question by talking and talking, not realizing that they are making things worse? Chances are they weren’t as prepared for the interview as they should have been.

Whether you have done several interviews or are a novice, the key to a successful interview is being prepared. We work with our clients every time they have an interview so they are sure to state their message clearly, logically and consistently. We review talking points, discuss the interview location and suggest visuals to use if appropriate. No detail is too small, so we also review things like what to wear, how to sit and how to project your voice properly.

So, are you interview-ready? Take a moment and complete the pop quiz below to find out. Don’t worry, it’s not too hard, but it does get the point across that the details do matter when it comes to effective PR. Proper planning and practicing in advance will get you the results you are looking for.

1. When doing an interview, it’s always a good idea to have ____ messages (or points) you want to make.

A. 6
B. 3
C. 25
D. 1

2. When preparing for a radio interview a key thing to keep in mind is:

A. Don’t talk too fast – watch your pace
B. Just wing it
C. Mumble
D. Radio interviews really aren’t that important

3. For a television interview it is best to:

A. Try out a new hair style
B. Wear a crazy patterned shirt
C. Dress professionally, but appropriately
D. Wear all black – better to be safe than sorry with colors

4. When asked a difficult question or a question you are not sure how to answer during an interview you should:

A. Say “no comment”
B. Tell the reporter they are crazy
C. Repeat a previous answer
D. Be honest and tell the reporter why you can’t answer the question or that you will have to get back to them with the answer

5. When preparing for an interview it is important to consider:

A. Opportunities to discuss with the reporter such as ideas for b-roll footage and additional people they could interview
B. Just focusing on the facts
C. Prepare? Who prepares?
D. Setting extra time aside to meditate before the interview

So, how did you do on the quiz? Are there other questions you think should be included? Any answers you would argue with? Let me know!

Answers: 1.) B; 2.) A; 3.) C; 4.) D.; 5.) A.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Building a Brand on Turkey Day

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

Another Thanksgiving is here, which means it’s time for turkey and pumpkin pie. But, even better yet, it’s time to watch another Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Each year I, along with some 44 million other people, park myself in front of the TV all morning to watch performers, groups and floats march down 34th street in New York.

Did you know that this parade has been a Thanksgiving tradition in the United States since 1924? It was first started because some of Macys’ employees (who were first-generation immigrants) wanted to celebrate their new American heritage. There were floats, live animals, people dressed in costumes and yep, you guessed it, Santa Clause riding in his sleigh at the end of the parade.

There’s no doubt that this is a very impressive parade but what’s even more impressive is that Macy’s has been able to keep the parade associated with its name for eighty-five years. This is brand building at its finest!

Establishing your brand and reputation takes a lot of time. It involves getting and keeping your name in the limelight as well as being consistent with your messaging and practices. Although Macy’s has been working at its brand for decades, I think we all can agree that their hard work has really paid off.

What are some things that your company is doing to help create a solid brand and reputation?

Need some ideas? I encourage you to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. I mean, they have to be doing something right after all these years and, if nothing else, it gives you a chance to see one of your favorite performers trying to unsuccessfully lip-sync. What’s not to love about that?!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


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

In our business, words are the foundation of our existence, so we often discuss which are the best terms or words to use in our PR efforts. It’s incredibly important that you keep up to date on the changing nature and meaning of words. Recently, we were discussing the Wisconsin Tourism Foundation’s decision to change its name. The decision came because the group often used its initials, WTF, instead of its full name. When the group was founded a number of years ago, those initials were just that – initials for a trade group. But now of course they mean something very different; hence the need to change the name.

We had the same thing happen with our company name. When Charlie Leonard and I started the business in 1992, we were called Leonard & Finco Communications. What started to happen in the mid-90s was that people would mistake our company for a telecommunications firm. Even the listings in the phone book were changing. Under the communications heading, it was almost all telecommunications firms. So, even though we consider ourselves communicators, we decided it was time to change our name to better reflect our core business: public relations.

There are lots of examples of word meanings that have changed over the years: Tweets (social media posting vs. the sound a bird makes), bad (it could mean bad or it could mean good), artificial (in years gone by it meant being full of artistic skill and now it means “not real”), hot (temperature, energized, radioactive or someone who’s very attractive) and bomb (which has so many different meanings you have to hear it in context to figure it out).

As with everything in life, things change and evolve. Words are no different. In our business, we have to keep up with those changes. Love to read your examples of words that have changed meaning throughout the years.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Take Time to Thank Our Veterans Every Day

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

In honor of Veterans Day, it’s only fitting to thank the men and women who serve our country. These individuals are among the most selfless individuals. They volunteer to put themselves into harm’s way to protect an ideal of democracy and freedom.

Not only do they risk harm to themselves but, in times of war such as now, they leave their loved ones behind, not knowing if they will return. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of the men and women serving in our armed forces, as well as to their families.

In my job, I have an opportunity to travel a fair amount and, when you are in the many airport hubs in the larger cities, you will see a number of people in uniform – either heading overseas or heading home.

On one such trip, I was waiting in line to grab a bite to eat before my next flight. Behind me entered a First Lieutenant from the Army. I struck up a conversation by thanking her for her service and asked if she was heading overseas or just returning. I was being polite because I could tell by the look in her eye and, in the way that she was carrying herself, she was just returning home. She responded that she had just returned from Iraq. In a very small gesture of appreciation, I paid for her lunch and then went about finding a place to eat as the restaurant was packed. When she received her meal, to my surprise, she walked over and asked if she could join my table.

As we talked, she informed me that the reason why she was returning home was that her father was very ill with cancer and there wasn’t much time left. Her mom had passed some time ago and she was an only child.

I realized how much she missed spending valuable time with the remaining member of her immediate family. We talked about that, and she admitted it was difficult to be away, but her father was a Vietnam veteran and understood. After our short conversation, I excused myself to catch my flight. She thanked me again for the lunch without even realizing that it was the least I could do for the sacrifices she has given to our country.

I personally make it a point to thank the Veterans and current service men and women whenever I have the opportunity and encourage others to do the same. If you know someone serving, or are friends with their family, give them a call and let them know how much you appreciate the protection they provide.

How have you shown your appreciation to our veterans? Are there any tips you can share? Your ideas might help others feel more comfortable thanking our service men and women.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What to do to manage multiple social network accounts

By: Angela Walschinski, Account Assistant, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

Do you ever feel like you have too many online accounts and passwords to keep straight? Well, be assured that you’re not alone. If you have the right attitude and a simple system for managing all your personal social media accounts, you will be able to easily navigate the growing number of online social networks:

  • First, you will want to have one e-mail address that you use for all of your social media accounts. This way all site registration and notifications can be kept separate from your personal messages.

  • Next, as soon as you hear any buzz about a new site, register your name right away. Even if you do not have time to explore the network, you will be assured that your name is saved for you when and if you decide to actively use the account.

  • Third, use the same username and picture on your social network accounts. With the increased popularity in social networks, you can make it easy for people to remember you by using the same name and the same picture on each site. It’s an easy way for you to build a consistent personal brand for yourself.

  • Contrary to the above, as a safety feature, I recommend not using the same password on each of your social network accounts. This will save you a lot of hassle if one password is compromised.

  • Lastly, to keep track of all of your social networking accounts, make a list with all of your social media logins and passwords and store this list in a secure location. You may even want to keep multiple copies of this list, one on your computer and also a printed hard copy.

Social networking sites are great ways for individuals to connect with others and to share information. With the above tips and the right attitude, you will be able to navigate numerous social networks without getting tangled in it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

David Letterman: Good PR?

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

If you haven’t seen or heard much lately about David Letterman and the alleged plot by a TV producer to extort money from the late night talk show host you’re not alone. It’s been rather quiet on that front since the story broke, due in large part to the way the situation was handled.

While it’s not often that you’ll hear the name David Letterman mentioned during a discussion of crisis management, the Letterman situation is actually a pretty good example of how to deal with a crisis situation.

It started when Letterman went public in early October, telling his audience that he has had sexual relationships with female staff members and that he was being targeted by a related extortion plot. The situation is very interesting from a crisis management standpoint.

Letterman followed one of the basic tenets of crisis management – if you’ve got bad news, tell your story before someone else goes public and tells the story for you. Letterman also chose to publicly apologize to his wife and his Late Show staff a few nights later, showing a very human side. While the story continues to receive some attention, particularly as the court case unfolds, Letterman’s proactive approach has gone a long way to minimizing the impact.

There are lessons in the Letterman case that can be applied in many crisis situations. It’s a demonstration of the importance of telling the truth. In most crisis situations, getting out front, accepting responsibility and being honest with your audience will minimize the negative attention. The key is you have to mean it and be sincere. If you don’t follow through by being a “changed person” your credibility will be gone.

Celebrity scandals certainly aren’t anything new, particularly in today’s technology savvy world. But the way Letterman handled the situation is rare and a solid example of proper crisis management.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Live Television – You Decide Your Fate

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

Live television can be a scary and unpredictable place. Personally, I love live television. Why? Because as a viewer you never know what’s going to happen. However, if you’re on the other side of the camera, live television has the potential to make you or break you. If you do well, it can do wonders for your business and image. If you don’t do well, it can ruin a reputation or image in a matter of seconds. As I’m sitting here putting this post together, one specific live television incident comes to mind (one I’m sure everyone remembers hearing about, if not actually seeing first hand).

• Taylor’s “un-acceptance’ speech. During the 2009 MTV Music Awards, Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for best female video of the year was cut very short by Kanye West jumping on stage, grabbing the microphone and giving his opinion on who he thought the real winner should have been.

This situation has been pretty impactful – in a negative way – to West’s reputation, record label, sponsors and so on. Ok, this instance is pretty extreme but my point is that a couple of seconds can change the opinions and views of a lot of people. That is why media training is so important.

Media training is essential to any business or organization. From what not to wear to how to present yourself, media training can be the key to getting through a crisis or help you make the most of a television appearance where new products or goodwill are being promoted.

While Kanye’s outburst appeared to be spur of the moment, think about his appearance on the Jay Leno Show the next day. There is no doubt that he was coached and prepped before this live performance. Kayne was calm, sympathetic and apologetic for his actions. He was prepared and knew what he needed to say in order to restore his image and the respect he may have lost from some of his fans.

Media training can help you know how to answer the questions you really don’t want to answer, how to gain public support, how much information you should share, how long you should wait to address the public, and more. When a crisis or even a celebratory event happens, being prepared and knowing how to address the media will help make the best of any situation.

Do you have an upcoming interview or television appearance? What are some of the things you or your company does to make sure you are fully prepared? What’s your single, most important piece of advice that you would share with someone about doing an interview?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Is Twitter Just Junk?

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

I came across an article in Newsweek earlier this month called “Don’t Tweet on Me” that, based on the amount of feedback it received, got a lot of people going. In the article, author Daniel Lyons writes that although some people use Twitter to share articles and thought provoking questions, the majority of what it posted on Twitter is just “junk.”

Although Mr. Lyons acknowledges in his article that Twitter can be used for good (sharing articles and photos and hearing thoughts on national issues from the likes of “serious people” such as Al Gore and George Stephanopoulos), he dedicated most of the article to saying that Twitter is popular because it is like driving by a car accident – you can’t help but look and see what is going on no matter how stupid it might be.

In the article, Mr. Lyons goes on to say that “Twitter is so stupid that it is brilliant” because it draws in millions of people who will follow every word of famous people, thereby giving a celebrity a much larger audience for themselves than if they were on a television show. In other words, “Twitter is not useful, or important or deeply revolutionary. …Twitter is entertainment.”

So, is Twitter just entertainment? I would argue that you tend to hear more about celebrity tweets because they are – well – celebrities and they are undoubtedly going to attract a large crowd. But I also know from experience in working with our clients that by incorporating Twitter into their PR campaigns it can extend their reach and impact. Whether sharing information, cross promoting a Web site, answering customer questions, starting a conversation with a larger audience, or addressing a crisis issue, Twitter can be a valuable part of a company’s communications plan. Just because you don’t read about it every day, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

So what is Twitter to you? A place where you can follow celebrities or make a contribution? Is Twitter a valuable PR resource or a form of entertainment as Mr. Lyons claims? Let’s start talking.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Once Upon a Time, Walt Disney Company Made a Very Wise PR Move

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

Walt Disney Company recently announced it’s going to give up to as many as 1 million amusement-park passes to people who volunteer in their communities for one day. What Disney has done is team up with HandsOn Network, which is a clearinghouse for volunteer opportunities and helps connect people with volunteer projects, as well as certifying the work was done. Once the day of work is complete, volunteers will be able to print out an online certificate which can be redeemed at a Disney park through 2010 (for info visit

Regardless how you feel about this promotion, or if you’d even care to spend a day with Mickey and all his friends, I think we all can agree that this is a very smart PR move for Disney.

Initially, Disney was looking for new promotional ideas that would help increase business at its parks and resorts since their profits have taken a pretty hard hit this past year. So, rather than simply discount or give away free tickets, they tied a community service component in with the promotion. The minds at Disney know that establishing community good-will by placing an emphasis on volunteering or giving back is good business. Period!

Everyone likes a business or company that is community minded and, if you’re like me, you actually choose to support certain companies over others because of this.

Think about your own business or place of employment. Chances are you aren’t giving free tickets away to theme parks, so I’d love to hear how your business or organization gives back to the local community, and what value you see from that activity. If you’re currently not doing much, remember, it’s time to start thinking like the minds at Disney, because they’re definitely on to something!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

iPhone's Niche Apps Appeal to the Masses

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

What’s next? I recently purchased the iPhone and even I’ve been blown away by what it all can do. I expected to have some great technology applications which is why I bought it but, wow, the variety of applications is endless.

There are serious applications for work, some fun games just to kill time and a host of apps for just about every interest. Heck, there’s even a compass for those challenged by direction. And, if the compass doesn’t help, simply go to MapQuest.

The newest iPhone feature highlighted in today’s USA Today is its app that works with Zipcar is a Cambridge, Massachusetts based car-sharing service. The new app lets you locate and reserve one of its vehicles, unlock it using the iPhone's touch-screen and drive away. This is incredible and what a new, handy way to obtain a rental. If you want to read more about this amazing technology, here’s the link to the full story:

I’m bragging up the new phone because it’s truly a case of Apple tailoring its services to meet its customer’s needs, even if those needs are relatively niche. The iPhone and its apps are the perfect example of target marketing. Instead of developing apps that appeal to the masses, Apple develops apps that appeal to smaller, more select niche groups. Of course, you still have the basics such as web browsing, etc. , but it’s the niche apps that really make this phone so exceptional and, ironically, attractive to the masses.

Businesses should take a page out from Apple’s marketing strategy and work to identify and meet the needs of its clients. Targeted marketing may prove to have mass appeal.

If you’re using a cool application for work or fun, share it with us. Our readers might find it useful.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Does your company have a social media policy?

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

In recent weeks, a number of people have asked if our clients have social media policies. My answer: “Many do, but not all of them.” The next question is, inevitably, why not? Usually it’s because the companies or organizations are grappling with just how to use social media as well as whether or not to allow employees to use social media during work hours. We work with them to sort out those issues, but it’s always an interesting discussion with some widely varying opinions. Here’s what we’re seeing and hearing among our contacts and clients:
  • Some simply refuse to allow any employees access to social media. Big mistake. Whether you like it or not, someone in your organization is using social media during work time. People just find ways to do it.
  • Most companies are developing / implementing social media policies that will allow some use of social media among employees as well making it part of their communications efforts.
  • A smaller number of organizations allow all of their employees to use social media with the understanding it needs to be appropriate, professional, not divulge any proprietary information about the company or its clients, or make subjective, judgmental statements about the company or its clients.
  • And there are companies that allow social media use by clearly spelling out their policies, educating their staff about social media and the responsibility that goes with it. They also spell out what is prohibited (confidential information, threats, etc.) and what the consequences will be for violating the policy.

As you might guess, my preference leans toward the last bullet point. You aren’t going to stop the social media train, so it makes sense to identify appropriate use of it and clearly communicate your policies, procedures and consequences. Like just about everything else at work and at home, good communications are the key to success. What is your organization or business social media policy? I’d love to have you weigh in with your thoughts and comments.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Looking to enhance your PR skill set?

Submitted by: Angela Walschinski, Account Assistant, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

There is no doubt that public relations has changed significantly within the last few years and the way in which we communicate is evolving. It’s hard to deny the importance of tweeting, blogging and the impact online conversations can have on a business’ brand. However, even with the growing popularity of social media, we can’t forget the importance of our roots. The skills and attributes of traditional media are still just as valuable as they’ve ever been in successfully communicating a message. For example, in today’s public relations world, try launching something using social media alone. You’ll quickly notice the gap that traditional media can leave if it’s lacking and vice versa.

So, it’s a combination of understanding and utilizing a combination of PR tools that will help you grow in your role as a public relations professional. As a recent college graduate who is rather new to the public relations field, I wanted to provide some insight into the skills that not only future college graduates should have, but skills that all public relations professionals should have.
Entry-level public relations professionals still need to be proficient at writing, communicating, paying close attention to detail and being proactive. They also need to be business savvy, a team player, understand basic media relations and, above all, have a good work ethic.

With the recent development of social media there are new skills that public relations professionals should have related to the Web. Whether you’ve worked in public relations for years or if you’re just entering your career, here are three skills all PR professionals must learn and use:
  • Social networking platforms – Having a basic understanding of the leading social media tools and how to engage in them is key to building a social media profile for yourself. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, take the time to review and learn the tools and determine which one(s) best fits your needs.

  • Social Media Releases (SMR) – This is a spinoff of the traditional media release and a SMR allows you to create an interactive experience with your message. You can include photos, audio and video, Web links and logos to compliment your information.

  • Blogging – You don’t necessarily have to have one, but having an understanding of the importance of blogs and how they can be used is key.

These are my thoughts on the skills that should be incorporated into a public relations professional’s skill set, both new and old, what would you add?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Social Media: What are you waiting for?

Submitted by: Scott Stein, Sr. Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

For those of us immersed in social media, it’s almost unthinkable not to be using this valuable communication tool. Still, many businesses are holding out, waiting to see what will happen; thinking that social media is a separate form of marketing and public relations. But, while they wait, others jump using social media as another tool in their arsenal.

For example, Procter & Gamble is building brand awareness of its dish detergent, Dawn by establishing a clear link with wildlife rescue and animal rehabilitation. It’s a brilliant use of branding and cause marketing. The campaign promises to donate $1 per bottle sold to the International Bird Rescue Research Center or the Marine Mammal Center. The goal is to generate $500,000 through October.

There are television ads, re-branded labels and packaging and, yes, social media.

The social media tactics include elements such as the Web site that also links to the Everyday Wildlife Champions Facebook page. Visitors are urged to get involved and become an Everyday Wildlife Champion. A visit to the site clearly shows that Dawn is building a community of supporters for its product and the cause. Brand loyalty is being built with every click, visitor and bottle sold.

It’s hard to imagine that when a business hears of an example like this, it would still be hesitant to include social media as part of its marketing efforts. Obviously, I’m a champion of well planned social media use in business. That’s why I’d love to hear from you as to why you’re hesitant about using social media for business reasons.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Does it Make Sense to You?

Submitted by: Kristin Rabas, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

Do you ever feel like companies are trying to talk to you in a language you don’t speak? Recently, I was searching the web looking into some home improvements in order to take advantage of a current tax credit. The first site I went to informed me that new windows or doors need to have a less than .30 SHGC. What does that mean?! No explanation, so I had to look it up. I found that SHGC stands for solar heat gain coefficient. OK…I found the definition, but I still didn’t know what the heck it meant as far as what I should be looking for in a product.

Ok, this is a pretty industry-specific but still, why couldn’t this site just say that SHGC measures how much solar heat is allowed to pass through the window? And then explain what kind of rating I should look for and why. I’m guessing most people aren’t familiar with the energy star ratings of windows, so if you’re trying to get me or anyone else to buy these windows we need to understand what you’re telling us!

Whether you’re promoting a new product, explaining a catastrophe or talking about a community outreach program, it’s important that you use language that everyone will understand. In some cases it’s impossible to use a word that the general public knows. Maybe you make widgets and that’s just what they’re called. Instead of just using the term, take the time to explain exactly what a widget does and why it’s important – in plain English.

One of the most important aspects of public relations is communication. This means communicating coherently, accurately and concisely. I think we’ve all been in a situation at one time or another when a colleague, friend or maybe even a stranger has used some language or terminology that we weren’t familiar with, but why would you want anyone to be confused when you’re selling a product or promoting your business?

I’m not saying we have to treat everyone like they’re idiots. I’m just saying that if you make me feel like an idiot or make things confusing, I’ll be less likely to read your news release, buy your product or tell others about it. No one has the same experiences, backgrounds or culture. So remember, even if you and I speak the same language, it doesn’t mean I’ll always understand what you’re saying.

I hope I’m not alone on this one. Anyone else ever been in a similar situation?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Get the picture?

Submitted by: Kristen Paquet, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

I like taking pictures. And like most people, I have my trusty digital camera at the ready for birthdays, vacations and all major holidays. But a photo can also be an important element in garnering some great PR for your business or company.

A great picture can do lots of things. A picture can help draw more attention to the story you want to share and lend a new dynamic to your web site, tweets, fan page – you get the picture (sorry, had to do it).

Including a picture with a news release can help enhance the story you are trying to get the media to cover. Just make sure the picture you choose represents what your news release is about. In some cases, a good picture can do a better job of getting your message across!

Now, sending a picture along with a news release or story idea doesn’t guarantee that your photo will be featured in the story. You still need to have something newsworthy to attract the media. But a picture is a great way to let the media know there are photo and video opportunities available at your company or business which is something they are always looking for. And for those times when an event or program doesn’t really warrant a story, I would suggest taking a few key shots of the event anyway. Write a short caption for each photo and submit them to your community section.

If you are connected to the world of social media, including a picture with a tweet or posting it on your company’s Facebook page is a great way to get some attention from your followers or friends. A photo provides interest to your readers and makes them feel more connected with who you are and what you are doing.

Don’t worry if you aren’t a pro photographer – you don’t need to be. Play with angles, frame your photos evenly, take distance shots as well as close-up and be sure to capture action shots of people having a good time or taking an interest in something. Most importantly, always take more pictures than you think you need. A shot might look good on your 2-inch LCD screen, but it can look a lot different once you download it on your computer.

You never know when you might need a photo, so you should start building a library for your company to draw from. And don’t let your pictures pile up on your computer. Keep them organized and back-up often. Pictures can be a powerful resource when looking to take your PR to the next level, so start bringing your camera to company events or when company news is worth sharing.

Say Cheese!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Take it from me, damage control is better when you do it sooner rather than later!

Submitted by: Beth Kneisler, Account Assistant, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

I recently transitioned from an apartment (which was approximately the size of my foot) to a spacious three-story duplex with a large yard. Having the extra space has been wonderful, but with my new home comes responsibilities I didn’t have when living in my apartment, one in particular being lawn care. The problem with taking care of my lawn isn’t that I don’t have a lawn mower, it’s that I can’t get it started. I’ve actually been told by someone I know, who very well could be a lawn mower expert, that my mower is one of the easiest to start models currently on the market.

Anyway, not being able to start my mower really hasn’t been a problem this summer since it’s been so dry but, with the recent rains we’ve had and given the fact that the last time the lawn was mowed was mid-June, it’s getting to the point where I can’t let my dog out without being on leash as I’m worried he won’t be able to find his way back to the house. So, currently I’m in a bit of a bind. I don’t want you to feel bad for me, I mean it’s my own fault. I’ve known since the first day I got my mower that I couldn’t start it, but rather than be proactive and get an electric starter installed or at minimum lift some weights, praying for a drought seemed like the better option (and boy did that backfire).

Businesses that have this same train of thought of not worrying or preparing for a problem or challenge until it happens are breaking one of the cardinal rules of good PR. Even if your company has been around since the invention of the wheel, has never had to deal with a crisis or has never had to work to repair a damaged reputation, a crisis could still happen to your business. Getting prepared now for when that day does come is crucial to your brand and survival. A good crisis management plan should outline possible threats and how you’re going to address them, as well as internal and external communications strategies for those situations, a strategy for dealing with the media and updated information about your business as well as a list of contacts. By planning for a potential crisis now, your business can not only survive, but may also come out with an even better reputation than before. This is a much better plan than having to do damage control after the fact, which is what I’ll be doing with my yard (a.k.a . “The Jungle”), as soon as I can find someone to bribe.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Walmart creates “cookie controversy”

Submitted by: Cole Buergi, Sr. Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

After rebuilding its image of “killing the little guy” and, more recently, acquiescing to the controversy regarding benefits to its workforce, Walmart is facing yet another potential black eye with the public, this time it’s the Girl Scouts taking the swing over a “cookie controversy.”

Walmart is bringing to its shelves cookies that are very similar to Tagalongs and Thin Mints, two staple brands that the Girl Scouts rely on during its annual cookie sales fund raiser. Limited access to these delectable favorites is what helps generate sales for the Girl Scouts by creating a desire to buy far more boxes of cookies than usual, just to have a supply that lasts longer than one day.

The Scouts are afraid that if Americans can purchase similar flavored cookies anytime they desire, sales will diminish during their fund raising season, threatening the Scouts ability to raise money to fund their programs. These programs provide opportunities for all girls to build character and skills for success in today’s world.

If this story gains traction in the national media, Walmart will once again be scrambling to defend itself against a new image threat, ticked off moms and their daughters.

There are several ways for Walmart to handle this potential PR crisis. They could stop selling these imitation cookies, offer a percentage of the profit from each imitation cookie sale to the Girl Scouts or just ignore it and hope it goes away. If history holds true, the latter will likely be Walmart’s stance and, once again, company executives will be wondering why their image is tarnished and there again left picking up the crumbs.

My suggestion for Walmart: address this issue before it becomes much more public than need be.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Social media: the great equalizer….or not?

Submitted by: Susan Finco, President, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

A lot is being made of social media these days and with good reason. There are exciting tools and applications that are changing the way the world communicates and does business. But recently I heard someone remark that social media is becoming the great equalizer in the world; giving everyone a voice in whatever discussion was being held. On the surface, I couldn’t argue with that thought. But as I’ve been compiling research on social media, I’m having a change of heart. I’m not saying social media isn’t revolutionizing the world of communications, but I do have some doubts about it being the great equalizer.

The number of overall users of social media is skyrocketing on a daily basis; it leaves little doubt about the impact. But, it’s important to keep in mind that worldwide there are just 500 million computer owners (with an average of 2 users per computer). The world’s population is 6.77 billion. That means there are a lot of people in this world without access to computers and related technology. As communicators (whether you’re in PR, advertising, marketing or just want to spread your opinion), it’s important to keep that in mind. We’re not communicating with “everyone.” While the conversation may be instantaneously worldwide these days, it doesn’t mean the conversation truly involves the world. Keep that in mind when you’re communicating.