Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Undercover Boss"...Good or Bad Opportunity?

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

It has long been preached that time spent on the frontline improves management skills and employee relations. However, a new reality TV show “Undercover Boss” has taken this to an innovative level. For those of you who have not seen the show, it is based on the concept of top ranking executives going “undercover” working as frontline employees within their organization.
These executives are no longer sitting back, observing, surveying and reporting their views, they are experiencing them first hand.

As I watched, the thought of how this could be a great public relations opportunity for any company that appears on the show was in the back of my mind. I’d like to believe that the show does more good than bad because it reinforces that a strong organization uses efficient internal communication. Part of that internal communication involves the top executives understanding the job of an entry-level worker, which this show attempts to achieve.

However, the show makes me wonder if the top executive has to go undercover in order to understand job tasks, learn that the company policies aren’t being followed or that front-line employees don’t see promising career paths with the company. What does that say about the company’s communication environment? Could that environment be an obstacle to leaders getting the advice they need? Or on the other hand, what communication changes need to be made in order to keep top executives in touch with how front-line employees are thinking and behaving?

Of course opening your company up to the public also welcomes criticism because companies who participate in reality TV shows have no control over what’s shown in the episode. That’s a gamble in terms of the company’s public image. The owner or top executives have to ask themselves if that is a gamble they are willing to make. If yes, the company becomes vulnerable to the public, revealing everything within its operations.

It’s a public relations opportunity and potential nightmare all rolled into one. The companies on “Undercover Boss” take huge risks by exposing their companies at all levels of employment. But great risk is often met with great reward. The company’s brand is exposed to millions of viewers, business lesson are learned and the company is seen publicly trying to make the working environment better.

In either case, top executives who partake in “Undercover Boss” will most likely discover good or bad publicity, and good and bad things about their companies from working on the front lines. If you were a top executive at a large company, would you appear on “Undercover Boss”? Do you think the experience of being on the show would make the company better?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rebuilding your reputation…don’t do the Celebrity Apprentice

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

I really hate to admit this, but after several years of avoiding so-called “reality” TV shows, I’ve been sucked in by the Celebrity Apprentice. Each week I actually swear that I’m not going to watch, but I still end up tuning in on Sunday night. And now with disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich as one of the contestants, the train wreck of a show is that much worse and yet I get drawn to it each week.

I watch Celebrity Apprentice for the fun of it, at the same time wearing my PR hat and wondering what the heck Blagojevich was thinking when he signed on to be part of this Donald Trump offering. Here you have a life-long politician who was run out of office for trying to sell President Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder. He was impeached, but has not been convicted on the Federal charges he faces. And he thinks that going on a reality TV show is the way to rebuild his image. (BTW, he was going to take part in an earlier reality show, but a judge turned down his request to travel to Costa Rica where that show was being taped. His wife stepped in for him.)

His appearance on Celebrity Apprentice is a mockery. At one point in last week’s show the camera caught him on his cell phone apparently talking about his upcoming trial and he is overheard saying…“What did the lawyer say? This lying piece of [expletive deleted]. He betrays me in the job and then he goes and does this. There's no tape to corroborate that, right?”

This is really a classic example of what not to do when trying to re-establish your reputation. There’s no question that maintaining a positive image is easier than repairing one that has been seriously damaged. Had the Governor come to us, we no doubt would have advised him to maintain a relatively low profile, at least until his Federal court case is resolved, and focus on some small, positive steps to establish a base for repairing his reputation. I can guarantee we would not have suggested going on reality TV.

I’m curious to know if you feel that Celebrity Apprentice will actually help and not do additional damage to an already tarnished Blagojevich? Is there anything the former Governor could do to save his sinking ship?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Social Media Specifically for Business Professionals

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

Social media has hit the mainstream at full speed, turning heads and starting conversations about what, where, when and how among top executives. On the other hand, social media has caused a stir with school aged kids as well. And that’s just it - many business people see social media as a fad or as a personal tool for kids. While that may be true in some instances with Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, LinkedIn was developed specifically for business professionals looking to connect and network with other business professionals.

LinkedIn is similar to Facebook in that you post information about yourself. But in this case, the information is about your professional background, current endeavors and future aspirations. This isn’t the place college students are posting spring break photos but an area where you can find out what organizations a business associate is involved in or what type of educational background they have.

An advantage to LinkedIn is that you must accept an invitation from the other person before they can access your information, which helps control who can see your information and who can’t.

Linkedin can also be utilized for the following:

•Recruiting – A person’s profile is similar to a resume. It shows what organizations the person has worked for and for how long, any awards the individual has won and much more. It’s a great way to get a preliminary view of someone’s experience.

•Staying in Touch – Connecting with past coworkers or friends allows you to see where they’ve been and where they are now. LinkedIn also gives you the ability to send messages to your connections in a similar fashion of sending an e-mail. So even if your college roommate has changed jobs, you can still keep in touch.

•References – LinkedIn features a recommendations application. You can write or receive a recommendation from others you are connected with that others can view, similar to a reference on a resume.

•Associations – LinkedIn gives you the ability to display organizations you belong to or support. Through this application, you can find others who have the same interests or support the same causes.

•Making Connections – Networking is an essential part of almost any business person’s career. Meeting someone at a corporate function can be quickly forgotten but meeting them and then connecting on LinkedIn can keep that connection open.

Like any other social media network, the ways to use LinkedIn are endless. If you’re curious about LinkedIn or have any questions feel free to view my profile to see what LinkedIn is all about at the link below (I have my privacy set so anyone is able to view my basic information):

Are you currently on LinkedIn? If so, how have you used it and how do you intend to keep using it?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

And the Winner is…

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

The world seems to stop for a moment to see the Oscars. I know I watched last Sunday night even though I only saw two of the ten nominated films. But I wanted to see what stars were there, what they were wearing, what people would say on stage and how this year’s hosts (Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin) would rate.

But really, the Oscars started way before March 7. The Oscars are, in fact, a great PR window for celebrities and nominated films to get their “face” and name out there. And do they ever. Once the nominations were out, the talk shows and late night shows paraded one nominated performer after the other on their stage. This was their opportunity to say “Hi there - I’m nominated for an Academy Award! This is who I am!” After all, this is the rare moment when all eyes are on them and they better make the most of it in case they don’t win come Oscar night.

Then it all comes together for Oscar night, an event that has a five-hour pre-show and just about as long of an awards ceremony. Celebrities walk the red carpet stopping for quick interviews and photo opps. Designers are thrilled that popular stars are wearing their fashions. Each year, try as I might, I can never make it to the end. Sleep always wins and this year was no different. But, not to worry, I heard all about what I missed the next morning as I went though major news web sites. The Oscar winners, best dressed and memorable moments dominated every page.

And these great PR moments keep going long after the red carpet has been rolled away. The celebrity dresses donned on the red carpet, in some altered form, will end up as hot sellers in area department stores, the major flubs or greatest moments will be tomorrow’s water cooler conversations and those who haven’t seen The Hurt Locker will be heading out in droves to watch it because it won best picture.

So did you watch the Oscars? If you did, what was your favorite moment of the night?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Whale of a PR Challenge

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

In the business world, we know a crisis can happen to any company no matter the size or location. We also know that facing the crisis head on when one does happen is crucial in making sure a company can overcome and survive whatever the crisis may have been.

Recently, Sea World officials found themselves in this very situation when Dawn Brancheau, one of Sea World’s trainers, died from multiple traumatic injuries and drowning after being pulled into the water by a 12,000 pound killer whale named Tilikum.

Almost immediately, all upcoming whale shows were cancelled at all Sea World parks (not just in Orlando) while officials could digest what had happened and figure out how to respond to the public (this was probably one of the best things officials could have done at this point). In just the short time before the press conference was held, opinions across the nation were being formed about the park.

Sea World officials were in the midst of having to prepare for what could very well be some of the toughest questions they have or would ever be asked. Everyone wanted to know why such a well-known, nationally loved park would allow trainers to work with this whale, especially after he had already been involved in the death of two others in the past? They also wanted to know why the whale was not being released into the wild and, if as a spectator of a future show, they could be hurt as well.

When the news conference was held, Sea World officials faced the questions head on. They explained what had happened, why they thought it may have happened, as well as what they were going to do to make sure it didn’t happen again. Fortunately for Sea World, it has a solid reputation and people, for the most part, do understand that there is always some risk when working with wild animals, especially ones of this size.

However, despite all of this, officials are going to have to continue doing “damage control.” The debate of keeping wild animals in captivity is going to continue for a very long time and, when it does, there is a good chance Sea World’s name is going to be within the conversation. It will be really interesting to watch the next few weeks and months unfold to see what Sea World does to continue regaining the public’s trust and support.

But all this is just my personal opinion, so I want to hear what you think about the incident at Sea World? Do you think their officials did a good job at minimizing impact to their brand? What do you think they’ll do to regain support?