A lesson in bad media relations

There was an old Saturday Night Live sketch that featured a character named Leonard Pinth-Garnell . He was an arts critic who showcased the worst in everything; Bad Playhouse, Bad Cinema, Bad Opera, etc. The audience got to witness a truly awful performance.

Today we’ll borrow a page from Leonard Pinth-Garnell for an installment of Bad Media Relations. KGO-TV in San Francisco was doing a story looking at how money in a hospital patient gift fund was being spent.

Watch as the hospital community relations director touches investigative reporter Dan Noyes a couple dozen times and then shoves his hand in a camera lens. It’s one of the most bizarre PR-media encounters you’ll ever see.

The station says it went to a community meeting to try and get an interview after the hospital ignored its phone calls. This is a standard practice, and an excellent reason to not ignore repeated phone calls from a reporter. Not calling back is basically an invitation for the I-Team to show up unannounced.

The PR person says the reporter purposely disrupted the meeting and the hospital says the story was unfair and distorted the facts. You can read statements from both here.

This ugly scene was easily preventable. Call the reporter back and find out what they are working on. Work with the hospital administrators and defend your position if you believe what you’re doing is right. Do a sit-down interview with the reporter, or at least provide a statement or written answers to his questions.

Handle your media relations properly and you have a story that you may not like on one TV station. Bungle your media relations and your story is now all over major news sites and the video of your bizarre tactics are there for all to see.

To quote Leonard Pinth-Garnell: “Stunningly bad!”

Modern-day Public Relations: Social vs. Traditional Media

Pew Examines how blogs and social media agendas relate and differ from traditional press

Pew examines how blogs and social media agendas relate and differ from traditional press

Public relations isn’t just about getting in the local newspaper these days. The new mantra, for some, seems to have become “Extra. Extra. Read all about it (on Twitter).”

While traditional media should never be disregarded, it is important for your PR team to take a broad approach and deliver your message, brand or service to as many eyeballs as possible.

Step one in this process: understand the different types of stories/messages that social and traditional media gravitate toward.

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, new media (blogs, Twitter, YouTube) and traditional media (newspapers, magazines, TV) focus on different issues most of the time. Blogs, for instance, led with the same story as traditional media in only 13 weeks (of a 49-week period).

Social media site Mashable noted that the study underlines a large disconnect between what mainstream media thinks is “top news” and what social media users consider newsworthy.

Still, traditional media remains important. While the leading stories differed most of the time, 80 percent of blog stories still come from just four legacy networks or newspapers: the BBC, CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Let us know what you think via our own social media networks. Join Wellons Communications on Facebook and Twitter, or check out our new multimedia clip book, using the Endavo Media Player.

Former Florida Senator Graham to serve on Gulf Coast oil spill panel: A lesson in crisis PR

Former Fla. Sen. Bob Graham to head presidential oil spill panel

Former Fla. Sen. Bob Graham to head presidential oil spill panel

The Orlando Sentinel reported in its Sunday edition that President Obama has selected former Senator Bob Graham to lead a bi-partisan panel looking into the devastating oil spill. The spill threatens an untold number of industries including the Gulf of Mexico seafood and tourism.

The administration and oil giant BP have come under fire for their handling of the crisis.  Graham was gracious in accepting the assignment. He gave a subtle lesson in media relations and crisis communications when talking to reporters over the weekend. He addressed questions frankly and honestly without casting aspersions.

Graham told the Orlando Sentinel:  “I have been following it all, but I’m reticent to talk about any personal assessment because we are going to get to know a lot more over the next few months; I don’t want to pre-judge our conclusions.’’

The senator’s quote is well done. In one sentence Graham said he was educating himself, not going to get personal, open to solutions and will say more when the facts are in. Too bad not everyone involved is this crisis is as thoughtful with their public statements as the retired Senator.

Oh, Snap. It’s the Story that Sells…Sometimes.

Silly Bandz

Silly Bandz

–by Sarah Harmon, Account Executive at Wellons Communications

As an over-eager 20-something working in public relations—and with several exciting clients at Wellons Communications—I thought I knew it all. My axiom: The better the story; the better the media coverage.

Enter “silly bandz.”

The generation gap must cut off at 27 because I just don’t get it. These are multi-colored rubber bands shaped like animals, food, musical instruments and anything else not resembling a circle. And at nearly 4 bucks a pop and up, they’re the hottest accessories (worn around the wrist, I’m told) since slap bracelets and biker shorts.

On the surface, there’s no story. I mean, seriously, we’re talking rubber bands here. Yet these silicone squigglies take up entire feature stories in The New York Times, CBS News and the Orlando Sentinel (with a focus on the Disney bandz, of course).

While the better stories are still going to get the most attention, this goes to show you—with enough hype—almost anything can sell.

Jump on the Wellons Communications “bandz” wagon by joining us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Internship Pursuit: What Not to Do

Intern PursuitForget about the “official start.” For us in Central Florida, the love bugs, humidity and heat say it all. Summer is here. And for us at Wellons Communications, that means the summer interns have arrived.

This past week, Alex, Joel, Megan and Rene joined our team. They’re top-notch students from some of the state’s best universities, and they’re already fitting right into our team.

But they weren’t the only ones to apply. In fact, we had quite a stack of resumes and met with several qualified candidates. Earlier this year, we headed to internship fairs at the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida. While many of the students were articulate, intelligent and affable, some were immediate cross-outs.

So to help future job and internship seekers, we’ve compiled a list of what NOT to do at an internship fair (and yes, all these things really did happen).

1. Committed Relationships & Fido. Always have your “elevator speech” ready. This is a brief explanation of who you are professionally and why you are qualified. Many interviewers will ask: “so tell me about yourself.” This is not an opportunity to talk extensively about your committed relationship, your lovable pet dog, or that you really enjoy sushi.

2. Dress for Success Not the Club. Overly tight clothes, short skirts, low blouses and jeans are not the best interview attire. Bottom line.

3. The “Nope” Answer. When asked if you have any questions for the interviewer, avoid saying, “no.” Always follow up with a question. This shows you’re eager, and if you’ve done your research, can put you on top of the resume stack.

4. You’re not a failure. Never bring up a weakness if you can’t follow up with how you overcame it or how you learned from it. Saying you switched from journalism to PR because you couldn’t pass the reporting class is never a winning answer.

5. What to do: Thank You Notes. Out of everyone we interviewed, we only received one handwritten thank you note. That person got an immediate call and offer.

If you’re interested in interning with Wellons Communications for the Fall, check us out online: http://wellonscommunications.com/, on Facebook or send an e-mail to Sara at sara@wellonscommunications.com.

Law & Order: Two decades of storytelling, and the powerful producer still does not control story placement

Law & Order

Law & Order

One of my favorite shows – Law & Order – could be bidding adieu later this month.  The Wall Street Journal reported in its weekend edition that the longest running drama in the history of TV will have its final show May 24.

Law & Order has been a mainstay on NBC for a generation. The show, in its 20th year, has spawned multiple spinoffs. The most popular, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is set to return for another season, the Journal reported.

Show producer Dick Wolf and NBC have been in talks to extend the original series. But NBC reportedly has said, “No.’’

The Journal speculated that the death of Law & Order could be a “casualty of changing tastes.” NBC’s decision about Wolf’s show highlights that no one can control the media or a powerful medium. Wolf’s  Law & Order series and its spinoffs have generated billions in advertising and syndication rights for NBC and its cable networks. Yet Wolf still lost his show spot.

What does all this mean for public relations? Especially for small businesses? When a business is lucky enough to get its positive story told on national broadcast – it should celebrate and never take anything for granted. Nobody knows when a good story might abruptly end. Just ask Dick Wolf.

Wolf noted through a spokesperson, “Never complain. Never explain.’’

Learn more about Wellons Communications and our PR services.

Mirror Mirror on an attraction

Mirror Maze

Often times, hospitality companies do not look themselves in the mirror and ask the tough questions like: How can we better position ourselves for growth? Ripley Entertainment has taken that hard look and is on a pathway to open more Mirror Maze attractions in tourism destination spots across the country.

The company announced this week its first attraction is El Paso. The company already has successful Ripley attractions in Dallas and San Antonio.  Could Texas be big enough for more Ripley expansions? For the latest in Ripley news go to http://www.ripleysnewsroom.com.

In Public Relations, sometimes it is the small audiences that matter

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Barnie’s Coffee & Tea held a pep rally this month in Baldwin Park for the Orlando Magic playoff run and to announce its new limited-time-only coffee appropriately named Orlando Magic Blend.

The rally generated coverage from NBA Web sites, Orlando TV, The Orlando Sentinel and even far away coffee trades. From a pure public relations standpoint, the event was a huge hit. Barnie’s Coffee & Tea owner Phil Jones was gracious and charming with the crowd as they waited to get autographs from former Magic Player Bo Outlaw, get pictures taken with the Magic Girls or spin the Magic prize wheel.

But the real hit of this event cannot be judged solely by media coverage or the number of blue & white Magic Blend coffee bags sold. The best word-of-mouth advertising came from a group of school children from Audobon Park Elementary School, who took a lunch break from their studies and visited with the Magic Girls and played with Stuff. The kids too young for Orlando Magic Blend quenched their thirst with tasty peach lemonade.

A few days after the event, Barnie’s received hand-written notes from the kids thanking them for the event and expressing the fun they had. Those notes can now be seen at the Baldwin Park Store for all Magic and Barnie’s fans to enjoy.

Goes to show you: Uplifting the community provides its own great PR.

See the complete photo album on our Will Wellons Communications Facebook page.

Shifting into PR Overdrive: A Look at GM

When you think of General Motors, let’s face it. Straightforward, honest and clean aren’t exactly the words that come to mind. It’s more like: hefty bailouts, billion-dollar bankruptcy and teetering obliteration. Talk about PR scrap yard.

Yet GM is going for that straight-talk approach, and is attempting to jumpstart its once all-American, good-guy image. And taking the helm is GM CEO Ed Whitacre, who strolls through TV commercials all too often these days—declaring that his company has paid back its government bailout loan in full, with interest, years ahead of schedule.

Just recently, GM ran a full-page crisp, clean ad—with no images, just words—in USA Today claiming the same message: “We know a lot of Americans didn’t agree with giving GM a second chance and that we have a lot to prove,” it reads. “But we want to make this a company all Americans can be proud of again.”

Convincing.

Well, almost. An article in Forbes—aptly named “Still Government Motors”—delves a little deeper into the facts. Turns out, when Mr. Whitacre says GM has paid back the bailout money in full, he is not referring to the entire $49.5 billion worth of total loans and equity. He only means the $6.7 billion that the Obama administration handed over as a pure loan.

Even further, according to the article, GM is using escrow money—a.k.a. money from the government—to pay back that $6.7 billion loan (in other words, they’re not paying it back with profits).

Bottom line here: A straightforward message can work and even rebuild squandered public trust, but it has to be backed up. Otherwise, you risk the media revealing all your flawed facts. As for GM, we’ll see if the quality of its cars drives sales in the future, and gets them out of this PR pothole.