Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Are They Really This Stupid? Air Force One's Not So Excellent Day Out

Air Force One's dramatic and fright-inspiring flyover of Manhattan yesterday was supposed to be for "publicity purposes," according to The New York Times.

It worked.

Follow-up stories today will probably reveal that officials kept the flyover a secret from the public -- in fact, even from NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- so that the airplane wouldn't become a target. I can't imagine why else they would insist on such secrecy, but I have to ask, "A target for what?" The bad guys aren't interested in taking down an empty plane -- where's the drama in that? They like their airplanes full of innocent people.

I realize that many non-New Yorkers, particularly those incapable of empathy, have no sense of the terror and trauma caused by the September 11, 2001, attacks. For some, if you haven't lived through it yourself, you can't imagine what it must have been like. But does this describe the D.C. people who told the NYC officials they couldn't notify the public of this highly unusual and exceptionally dramatic flyover? D.C. experienced its fair share of trauma on September 11 so we should be able to expect them to "get it" more than we could from knuckleheads in any other part of the country.

This is yet another reminder -- you've read them here before and I'll keep posting them -- of the importance of communicating with all constituents or stakeholders. There is no excuse for traumatizing New York City's residents and workers. If you can't let them know in advance, then don't stage the photo opportunity. The backlash generated by the buzz just isn't worth the photos.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tips for Talking to the Press in a Crisis

I recently hired crisis communications specialist Jonathan Bernstein to provide crisis media training to clients. We addressed how to handle interviews in general but focused on what to do when it's a bad news situation.

Here's some of what Jonathan shared with the group regarding how to answer questions. Some of it is counter-intuitive to those who haven't done many interviews before:
  1. Attempt to get 3 good messages out during any interview. What do you want people to remember from the interview?
  2. The goal of any interview is not to answer the reporter’s questions but to use them as opportunities to deliver your message.
  3. Remember when answering questions that your ultimate audience is your client or customer.
  4. Always answer the question you wish they asked, not the question that was actually asked. “Bridge” to your message by saying, “That’s a good question but it’s important to understand …” or “Before I answer that, I’d like to say…” Use politicians as your role models.
  5. Before answering the reporter’s question, state your key message first, then respond to the question. When it's a TV interview, you don’t want the producer to have to dig for your message when editing the piece.
  6. Say what you did, not what you didn’t do. Bad: “We did nothing wrong.” Good: “We did everything right.
Sign up for Jonathan's Crisis Manager newsletter at http://www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com/.

Monday, April 6, 2009

For the UC Students: The 10 Truisms

I was privileged to be the guest speaker at the annual public relations/journalism awards event for the Raymond Simon Institute for Public Relations at my alma mater, Utica College. That's "Uncle Ray" on the left. Known in the field as the father of public relations education, Uncle Ray founded the program in 1949 and while he no longer teaches, he's still a major influence on the program and on people like me, who were PR "Simonized" in college. I remain his Number One Fan.

Uncle Ray presented me with the Outstanding Public Relations/Journalism Alumna award for 2009. I was particularly touched by his obvious pride -- I am still the teacher's pet!

14 remarkable students won awards ($$!) that morning. I was able to get to know many of the the day before, as I taught two classes and met with several PRSSA members after class. I was blown away by their accomplishments and maturity. They inspired the advice I shared that morning -- and one of the parents attending asked me to post my remarks online. So, my new Facebook friends, here they are, my top 10 truisms for success:
  1. You have so much potential. Don’t limit yourself.
  2. You can do anything. Any – thing. You can always find your way around, over, or under an obstacle. Trust me on this.
  3. Set goals. Create a plan to meet those goals. Be flexible and revise as needed.
  4. Move away from home. Get a roommate to make it affordable. Get 2 roommates. Push yourself.
  5. Be positive and optimistic.
  6. Avoid negative or toxic people. They will suck the life out of you.
  7. Hang around with people who are already where you want to be. They will challenge you to achieve their level.
  8. Respect the secretaries. They are awesome people. And they can make or break you.
  9. Don’t burn bridges.
  10. Evaluate yourself according to your own values, not those of anyone else.
And one more for good measure: Thing big. B. I. G. BIG. If you always think small, you will only experience small accomplishments and will always wonder, “What if?”

Congratulations to all of you! You should be very proud of yourselves -- and how wonderful that the RSI has recognized and rewarded your hard work.

And remember . . . Facebook me!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

May 15 is Deadline for Platinum PR Awards

While most of us see the PRSA Silver Anvil awards as the Oscars of the public relations profession, there are several other competitions that also recognize communications excellence,including the Platinum PR Awards offered by PR News.

I like the range of categories offered by this competition -- it combines PRSA's Silver Anvil awards for programs and its Bronze Anvil competition for tactics -- and adds to the entry categories, too. The Platinum PR Awards recognize excellence in categories ranging from word-of-mouth campaigns to satellite media tours to crisis management.

Enter by May 15. As I've noted here before, don't waste your time and money entering mediocre work. These awards programs are highly competitive and represent the best of the best. Ask yourself if your results or creativity truly exceeded reasonable expectations. If they did -- if everybody's talking about your project -- then enter. Be thoughtful as you create your entry, making certain that you communicate clearly and effectively what made your entry superior or successful. Follow the required format or run the risk of being disqualified because you didn't read the instructions.

Finally, feel free to ask me questions. I've been a Silver and Bronze Anvil judge and have a sense of what's outstanding and what isn't.

Good luck!