Category Archive: Community Relations

In the News business, you get what you pay for

Back in the day, gossip rags and celebrity media were frowned upon as second-tier. In the new age of citizen journalists, bloggers and a shrinking traditional media – the celebrity press is acting like the leaders of the pack.

All hail TMZ – the entertainment medium is the industry standard in breaking stories that people actually talk about and share on social media.TMZ exclusively released the audio tape of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling sharing his feelings about who should attend basketball games for his NBA team.  This led quickly to Sterling’s banishment by the NBA.

Then, the media company followed that up with the release of the elevator fight seen around the world between Beyonce’s sister Solange and rapper Jay Z.

These are just two examples of TMZ lapping the field in “talkable’’ stories. Of course, they do come with a price. The company pays big dollars for quality content that will raise their brand above the competition.

What can normal businesses take from the TMZ model? To start with, it shows that quality stories may very well be worth the investment; and it does not hurt if that content has star appeal, either.

Controlling the message has its limits

A good Public Relations professional knows the media inside and out. They know what stories will soar and which ones will flop. They also know the limitations of their job.

One of those limitations is the ability to control the message once it gets into the hands of the media and the public. This topic has been top of mind this week since the firing of Oakland Raiders’ Public Relations Director Zak Gilbert. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, owner Mark Davis was unhappy with a Sports Illustrated story that was critical of Davis and his late father Al Davis. Gilbert lost his job over it, and the Raiders have been taking some heat for the decision.

The biggest take away from this week’s event is that PR professionals do not have complete control over the conversation surrounding their organization. It’s nearly impossible to know which stories will soar and which will flop. On the same note, once a story gets out we can’t control it. Don’t trust a PR firm that tells you any different. We do our best to build goodwill and broadcast a positive narrative, but we can’t always predict when a journalist or angry customer will decide to voice their opinion.

The best way to avoid or weaken the blow of negative PR is to build a good defense and look at the big picture. First, remember who your fans are. Community and customer goodwill goes a long way and can overpower less-than-desirable coverage. Second, consider the true impact of the story. Bad PR often feels worse than it is, which may have been the case with the Raiders.


Social media a part of FCAT’s Path to Success to better communication

In light of public outrage from FCAT scores drastically plunging this year, the Florida Department of Education launched two websites Monday as part of its campaign to communicate with parents. One website,, provides them with information about the department’s goal of transitioning to tougher standards, while the other,, serves as an outlet for them to ask questions and express concerns on a discussion board. In less than 24 hours of its debut, three topics were posed by parents on the discussion forum, with a FLDOE representative already replying to two of them.

This response by the Florida Department of Education showcases how the organization is taking steps to communicate better with its core audience and increase transparency in the communication process. At a time when many parents are up in arms about recent headlines, creating these channels to interact directly with parents is a smart move on FLDOE’s part to take control of the situation. Instead of letting all the worry and frustration from parents fester, the department is tackling this challenge head on and trying to remedy the situation by supplying an appropriate space for them to vent and get answers to their questions from an authorized source – a commendable effort by the FLDOE and certainly a good public relations example of using online resources to foster two-way communication.

A call to marketers: do not discredit the new dad

Recent findings have revealed that marketers should not be so quick to disregard dads as a target audience when it comes to advertising. New data from a study conducted by The Parenting Group and Edelman reveals that dads believe they are playing a bigger role than ever before helping out with household activities.  When asked how often they are responsible for various tasks like grocery shopping, diaper changing and disciplining children, dads said the responsibilities were evenly split. What’s more, a staggering 82 percent of men whose oldest child is less than 2 years old believe an anti-dad societal bias exists. So not only do dads feel that they are equally contributing to the household, but also that they are being denigrated by society for it.

So what gives? Well, this concept is definitely not new to us. We can see why dads feel ignored when it comes to acknowledging their presence in the household. How often do you see commercials with men using Swiffers? Or doing the laundry? Even television sitcoms have helped to perpetuate negative portrayals of fatherly figures. Just look at Ray in “Everybody Loves Raymond,” or Hal on “Malcolm in the Middle,” or better yet everybody’s favorite animated father, Homer Simpson. Time and time again, these dads have been stereotyped as dopey, inept father figures.


The best way to fight this stale archetype is for marketers to embrace the new role of dads in society, as highlighted by research from The Parenting Group. Advertisers need to stop marketing solely to women and flippantly ignoring the growing population of males making household purchases. Just ask Huggies, who recently pulled a video from its Facebook after sparking outrage from disgruntled dads. The video poked fun at fathers by evaluating the strength of a diaper after a baby’s been alone with a dad for five days. It wasn’t long before a backlash of negative comments erupted and Huggies issued a formal apology on their Facebook recognizing that “a fact of real life is that dads care for their kids just as much as moms do” and should have an opinion on product performance too.

Well, at least someone gets it now.

Marketing to Mommies

Besides the usual suspects of Facebook, Twitter and traditional outlets, two big time fast food giants are marketing to the person who knows best – mom. We_Can_Do_It!

Recently McDonald’s rolled out a down-sized French fry portion and added apples to every kid’s meal. Burger King just announced a new ad campaign focusing on fresher and healthier food options.

Both of these chains are refocusing their messages to mom. Now, mom bloggers are regarded as key influencers with the ability to spread news quickly. According to the BSM Media, moms are the family decision makers for everything from food products to cars and electronics, spending trillions each year.  Another study revealed 96 percent of moms value the recommendation they find on blogs.

In an age of social media, as marketers we have to embrace non-traditional media, because some mom bloggers have more readers than city newspapers.

In short, mommy dearest is a force to be reckoned with.


SOS JapanTwo tweets to @AmbassadorRoos were all it took to mobilize aid from U.S. troops to Kameda hospital in Japan.

A USA Today article explores the ways help was deployed through social media and more specifically, Twitter, after Japan’s catastrophic earthquake.

Nine days after the disaster hit two urgent pleas for help appeared on the Twitter stream of U.S. Ambassador John Roos.

“Kameda hospital in Chiba needs to transfer 80 patients from Kyoritsu hospital in Iwaki city, just outside of 30km(sic) range.”

“Some of them are seriously ill and they need air transport. If US military can help, pls contact (name withheld) at Kameda.”

These tweets instantly sent an S.O.S. to the top U.S. diplomat in Japan.

During all the chaos Twitter proved to be more reliable than phones, emails and even, Facebook. Two hours after the disaster Red Cross teams in Virginia seized a tweet from a housewife in Japan who reported the roof of a school gym in Kokubunzi had collapsed with students trapped inside. Soon after helicopters were hovering overhead, rescuing everyone inside.

Twitter is quickly leading the way in sharing breaking news and communicating in times of emergency. It’s only been five years and Twitter is already alerting first responders to emergencies, creating crisis maps for rescue teams in disaster zones and helping friends and family find lost loved-ones. What we are learning is it’s not the experts who know something; it’s someone in the crowd.

Bigger is not always better

AOL’s Patch is in 11 states and targets cities with a population between 15,000 and 100,000.

AOL’s Patch is in 11 states and targets cities with a population between 15,000 and 100,000.

So what is a better hit – the Wall Street Journal, or a community paper in Topeka?

Most PR people will think this is a foolish question and answer “the Wall Street Journal, you dummies!”

Let’s look at this a little deeper. The WSJ is certainly better for your portfolio, but the community paper in Topeka may be better for the needs of your client. If you are trying to reach people at the community level, it’s far more important to go local.

The mantra in newsrooms has always been local-local-local, and that’s especially true today.

Look at the growth of hyperlocal news sites. Datasphere is churning out hundreds of web sites that will focus on neighborhood news. AOL’s Patch is in 11 states and targets cities with a population between 15,000 and 100,000. These sites join the ranks of community papers and radio stations that can be a great resource in PR. No, they won’t make for a killer resume, but they might make for a killer event for your client.

Think local, and remember that bigger isn’t always better.