Wednesday, July 28, 2010

BP stops the leak and its leadership gap

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

I’m jokingly wondering if BP read my last blog about BP’s Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward’s public relations gaffes and that is why he was replaced on Tuesday with BP executive Robert Dudley.

Dudley, with a proven track record for handling difficult situations for BP, was first selected in early June to take the lead in the gulf oil cleanup, removing Hayward as the public face for BP regarding the spill. On Tuesday, Dudley became the first American to lead the British company.

What’s not a laughing matter is the combined sigh of relief among Americans who seem to feel more comfortable with Dudley’s leadership. Almost immediately after Dudley’s transition into the lead role for the Gulf cleanup, there was a noticeable change in how things were being done. Dudley got the team on track with messaging and began airing and printing ads on what BP promises to do to make things right.

Equally important was that the ads feature BP employees, all of whom live and work in the Gulf states and share messages that are believable. Coupled with that is the gushing pipeline has been capped, the leak has stopped and plans are to completely “kill” the well in the next few weeks.

Can Dudley take the credit for capping the well and stopping the leak? No. That would have eventually happened no matter who was leading the effort. What he gets credit for is showing compassion, a deep concern and understanding of the situation and, most importantly, offering hope that things can and will get better.

On another more positive note, reports today from the Gulf are that oil is dispersing and deteriorating faster than expected thanks to weather and water conditions. Although it will take years to fully realize the spill’s impact, all Americans are closely watching with concern and tempered hope that it is far less than feared and that everyone in the Gulf region gets their “lives back.”

BP has a long way to go to even remotely begin rebuilding its reputation, but the first steps have been taken. Under Dudley’s leadership, there appears to be a glimmer of hope.

What do you think? Can BP ever recover from this disaster?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How’s Your Atmosphere?

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

It’s official. Facebook is taking the world by storm. Now with 500 million users, if Facebook were a country, it’d be the third largest in the world. While it’s impressive how fast the company has taken off, there’s another very impressive part of the company that many aren’t aware of.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with Diane Sawyer, Facebook CEO and Co-Founder, Mark Zuckerberg, talked about the workplace atmosphere at Facebook. Among free food every day, 21 vacation days and the ability to come and go as you please, Facebook also pays 100 percent of its’ employee’s benefit premiums, they give unlimited sick days and daycare reimbursement, as well as up to four months of paid parental leave for employees (watch the interview at

During the interview, Zuckerberg explained the reasoning behind all the perks is that he doesn’t want any of his employees to be distracted while at work. While many of us don’t work at companies with this many extra incentives, more and more businesses seem as if they’re looking for and implementing unique perks for their employees. Think about it. There’s a pretty good chance that if you aren’t able to wear jeans all week long or even get to bring your pet into work with you, you know someone who can.

So, why are companies implementing all these perks? Well, there are many reasons, but ultimately, it’s good PR. Often times, business focus so much on creating good relations with their external audiences, such as neighbors, customers, media, etc., that internal audiences are over looked. A company’s employees are walking advertisements so if they are disgruntled, it will ultimately affect the businesses’ image as well as how other people perceive them.

If you’re a business owner, take a minute to think about what perks you have for your employees. Even if unlimited sick days and free food aren’t exactly realistic, what about supporting an employee’s work with a local non-profit? Maybe you allow employees to volunteer at a local fundraising event rather than coming into the office? Perhaps you let everyone leave a half-hour early on a random day? Whatever it is you do for your employees, just be sure to always keep them in mind when you’re making plans and goals for your business. You may even want to consider taking a look at this when you review your overall PR plan.

So, now it’s your turn. What does your company do for its’ employees? Do you know of a company whose image has improved from good-workplace atmosphere? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Have an opinion? Get out your credit card!

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

The Sun Chronicle, a Massachusetts daily newspaper, this week put a new policy into place – readers have to pay $1 and register their name, address, phone number and a credit card number to comment on any articles on the newspaper’s website. In addition, the name that appears on the credit card is the name that will automatically be attached to the poster’s comments.

Certainly this isn’t the first time that a media outlet has looked to institute charges for its website, but typically it has been to access web content and the results have been mixed, at best. At first blush, with my news reporter background, this would seem to be a step back for free speech. It’s certainly an approach that could stymie anonymous speech and dialogue on important issues making the news.

But if you’ve spent any time reading the comments that are made at the end of newspaper articles online, you can also understand the approach that The Sun Chronicle is taking. The Chronicle’s publisher said the change was being made “to eliminate past excesses that included blatant disregard for our appropriateness guidelines, blind accusations and unsubstantiated allegations.” We’ve all seen some of the excesses that they’re talking about.

Of course, the World Wide Web is often viewed as the Wild West where just about anything goes. It has exponentially accelerated the flow of information and opinions and torn down geographic communication barriers. In just a matter of seconds you or I can comment on the latest stories in the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, or even the New York Times. While most of us will follow a website’s “appropriateness guidelines,” there are many who do not and their actions have obviously influenced one media outlet that has responded with a fee and full disclosure policy.

If you’re like me, when I’m told I have to pay to access something online, I quickly move on, keeping my credit card in my wallet. Even at just a dollar a comment, I won’t be adding my opinion to the stories on The Sun Chronicle, or any other website that sees fit to follow suit.

What do you think? Is The Sun Chronicle’s approach a good one? Are you willing to pay a buck every time you feel compelled to comment on an online news story?

Please add your comments to this blog posting…free of charge.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mid-year PR check up

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

No matter where your business is in its fiscal year, now is a good time to pull out your PR plan for 2010 and see how you’re doing. Like most business activities, PR requires consistency and persistence to be effective; but flexibility and a recognition that things will change over time are also important.

If you have a PR plan in place, take time to review what you set out to accomplish and determine if you’re still on track to achieving your PR goals by doing the following:

  • First, review your PR goals and objectives. This is how you develop and refine key messages. By reviewing your goals and objectives you can make sure that what you are saying, and how you say it, reflects what you’re trying to achieve.
  • Second, review your PR activities. What worked and what didn’t work? Whether it’s social media, traditional media relations, community outreach or sponsorships, take a few moments to look back and evaluate how it played out. Is there something you need to improve or change? Is there something that worked really well and should be continued?
  • Number three on the mid-year tune-up list is identifying potential new opportunities that might occur during the rest of the year, such as major milestones, product launches and new service offerings. You can then develop a list of action items to organize activities that will enable you to achieve your objectives.
  • Finally, adjust and update your plan. Hopefully your PR plan is a written document as opposed to something you “just do.” Every PR plan should be a living document that you refer to on a regular basis.

If you haven’t created a PR plan, this is a great time to review past PR efforts and develop a plan to meet your PR goals. If you don’t have the time to put together a complete PR plan, at a minimum put your goals and objectives in writing so you can refer back to them and evaluate your success.

Remember, planning and reviewing your PR strategy now will not only help generate new ideas and opportunities, it’ll give you guidelines for day-to-day activities. While PR plans are subject to change, planning ahead enables your business to stick to your overall goals and maintain a focus. What is your business doing to make sure its PR goals are met this year?