The Price of Good PR: Paying for your own Championship Party

54400660[1]Does the price of an NBA Championship include the tab for the citywide celebration after the winning buzzer sounds? In Los Angeles, the answer is yes. 

The Los Angeles Lakers will likely be amending their annual operating budget to include a season-ending party.  In tight economic times, the Lakers ownership faced criticism last year after beating the Orlando Magic for the cost of a parade and citywide celebration. 

After this year’s defeat of the Boston Celtics, the Lakers wasted little time announcing they will pay the bill for the 16th championship parade through the city of Los Angeles. In coordination with city officials, the Lakers response to the potential negative community relations was swift and professional.

The direct response shows that businesses that step up, get in front of the story and take responsibility will be praised in the public light. The Lakers saga shows that even in the height of success, businesses must stay alert to protect their public image.

With this public relations move, the Lakers are champions on the court, as well as off the court.             

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The World Cup of Reputation Management

Shot bounces off Robert Green's hands and into the net in the U.S. vs. England's 1-1 tie. (Sohn/AP Robert)

Shot bounces off Robert Green's hands and into the net in the U.S. vs. England's 1-1 tie. (Sohn/AP Robert)

Advertisement for the 2010 World Cup touts that one game changes everything.

How right they are. One defender caught napping—or an unfocused goalie (need we mention England’s Robert Green?)—and a game, if not an entire cup, can be lost.

Lose a game. Lose a chance at greatness.

The same tagline also applies to reputation management.

Just ask Helen Thomas, the veteran White House correspondent, who made some inappropriate and untimely comments about Israelis. She was forced to hastily retire – ending her more than 50-year journalistic career in disgrace.

Just ask the BP CEO Tony Hayward, whose multiple gaffes have made him such easy pickings that the late night joke writers don’t even have to try.  A leadership change at BP would not surprise many insiders.

The only people likely happy with BP’s troubles are Toyota, who have fallen off the front page because their recent mistakes have been washed away by bigger, newer examples of poor reputation management.

One misstep…and years of golden reputation and favorable public image can be tarnished forever.

The Power of a Good Mea Culpa

-by Frank Wolff, Media Relations Director

BP CEO Tony Hayward

“What the hell did we do to deserve this?” BP CEO Tony Hayward

Here’s a PR tip that applies to BP and all businesses big and small: don’t underestimate the power of a good mea culpa.

Merriam-Webster defines mea culpa as a formal acknowledgment of personal fault or error.

Let’s say you happen to spill a few million gallons of crude oil into the ocean. That requires a super-size mea culpa. That’s the source of a lot of the public’s frustration right now. They’re hearing everything from excuses to rhetoric to things they can’t believe are coming out of the mouth of BP CEO Tony Hayward. Here are some Hayward quotes from a Newsweek story.

“What the hell did we do to deserve this?”

“…the Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume.”

“…the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest.”

“…there’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back.”

And the company wonders why the public is livid?

best-buy

"The manager at a major electronics store (we’ll call it 'Best Buy') would have been wise to opt for mea culpa"

Mea culpa also does wonders on a smaller scale. For instance, the manager at a major electronics store (we’ll call it “Best Buy”) would have been wise to opt for mea culpa after discovering that a customer (we’ll call him “me”) has been waiting for three weeks for an item to arrive that he was told would arrive two weeks ago. After several unreturned phone calls and two trips to the store, the manager discovered that her expert salesperson ordered the wrong item for the customer and the item that customer really needs can only be ordered online. She could be a graduate of the Tony Hayward school of PR , as she opted for a “not my fault” attitude. The customer was given $5 in free shipping, but all he really wanted was a sincere mea culpa and her best effort to make the situation right.

Regardless of whether you’ve fouled up a customer’s day or fouled an entire ecosystem and the livelihood of thousands of people, the advice is still the same: always start with a good mea culpa.

Fact is—The Media Likes Facts

arena-bathroomI enjoy The Count column in The Wall Street Journal. The column has interesting numbers and stats about sports or the sporting community. On Wednesday, WSJ reported in a big bold red number a fun fact about the new Consul Energy Center in Pittsburgh:

250Number of local college students that are being recruited to simultaneously flush all the toilets in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ new arena to test water flow.

The sophomoric teenager still lingering inside of me (thanks in part to my 12-year-old son) will always stop at a flushing toilet fact. But more importantly, people interested in getting quality public relations buzz should remember that facts – especially those that are easy to understand – will often get the attention of the media.

So don’t flush potential media coverage by filling your copy with marketing speak instead of facts.

Panhandle Tourism Takes a Hit Even Though Beaches are Beautiful

Destin, Fla.
Destin, Fla.

The beaches in Destin, Fla., were beautifully clear this past weekend for Memorial Day. Yet many of the visitors stayed away.

No oil or tar balls have hit the pristine Florida panhandle. Still, patrons are afraid. The key drive markets throughout the South have seen constant coverage of oil in the Gulf.

We have had the pleasure of representing resorts and vacation homes across the panhandle, and what is unfolding is another undeserved blow for the region. For the past three summers, many of the resorts suffered thanks to the economy. The mayor of Destin told CBS Evening News this was supposed to be the recovery year: The year when people from Memphis, Birmingham, Atlanta and points beyond ventured back to these wonderful Florida beaches.

Oil has caused the recovery to slide off course.

Florida officials have said it will take a concentrated effort to tell tourists that it’s still okay to enjoy the Florida beaches. They are right. No matter what happens with the oil, it is going to take consistent and honest reporting of the beaches’ conditions for the tourists to have the confidence to return in full force. Educational public relations is going to be key for full recovery.

Perception – unfortunately for Destin, Fla. – is reality. The facts say the coast is clear for now. Some tourists are not taking chances and have picked other summer fun spots.

Recovery is coming. But with an uncapped oil well not expected to be resolved soon, that elusive recovery will likely have to wait.

Destin is destined to give great travel deals this summer. This wonderful community deserves support.

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