Tag Archives: PR

Whoops! New PR, New World

Oh dear. Those nasty activists. It looked at first like PR gone bad. me thinking it was dumb of Shell Oil to send a press release huffing and puffing about “activists” making fun of it. It looked like a press release. Curse you, activists! And like that. Shell is supposedly considering suing. The press release says: 

“These people have gone to great lengths to mislead the public about the age and reliability of our Arctic vessels, and otherwise damage Shell’s credibility,” said Smith. “Shell can obviously not allow this sort of misinformation to proliferate, and we are taking the firmest legal measures against the perpetrators of this campaign.”

It talks about an evil social media campaign using the hashtag #shellfail and other supposed sins. It also links to the offending website, arcticready.com.

So I went to visit the website, which is serious spoof. How clever of these “activists,” I thought, and how dumb of Shell Oil. And a nice spoof, even a collection of funny ads and a make-an-add game going on too. 

But there’s the rub. I went back to the press release to discover that the email with the supposed press release is also a spoof, by the same activists. So Shell’s not as dumb as this campaign makes it look. But, on the other hand, the campaign is smart, clever, and effective. Brave new world. 

Here’s a picture of the email press release supposedly from Shell Oil:

I can’t work up any sympathy at all for an oil company drilling in the arctic. But also, wow, these are very effective tactics. No? 

Read This Before Hiring a Coach or Consultant

May I call it the expert business? It’s kind of like a zoo (no offense intended). There are coaches of all varieties, from business to life to style, to executive and leadership and others. And management consultants, planning consultants, strategy consultants, marketing consultants, public relations consultants, etc. And designers and programmers, project managers, event planners, graphic artists … I’ve been both seller and buyer, and I’m thinking I can help you figure out which section to go to, and which cage to rattle, by sorting through some of the species, and some of the differences.

I worry that people use these terms indiscriminately. To me, a coach teaches you to do it better, helps you, and trains you to do things better. A consultant delivers a report telling you what you’re supposed to do.

A coach watches you do it, then reviews your performance. A consultant studies, listens, concludes, and delivers the conclusions.

Can you tell I lean towards coaching? Maybe because I made a living consulting for 20 years, both on my own and as an employee of brand-name firms. And in my specialty, business planning, having it done for you doesn’t work. It’s like paying somebody to do your exercise. Coaching is more likely to work better. I’ve done strategy consulting, and that’s very similar. Strategies are to develop and implement yourself, over a long term. A coach might help, a consultant, not so likely. I’m immersed in social media, and I think that’s another example of something you so yourself, ideally, rather than have done for you; which means it’s another area for coaching more than consulting. And PR? Maybe you have somebody do the press releases, and arrange the meetings, and suggest tips and techniques, but do you believe in anything actually said by a spokesperson?

Ideally, you look for a relationship in which you are buying, and paying for, just the expertise. Pay the expert to coach you as you do it yourself. You pay for fewer hours, but you still get the benefit of somebody else’s experience and expertise. That’s the best of both worlds.

(Note: as the conceptual author of Business Plan Pro software, I’m completely biased on this point, but I’m amazed that any business plan coaching or consulting relationship doesn’t include two copies of business plan software, one for coach and one for client. That empowers the client, who has to own the plan to implement it, and focuses the consulting work on coaching, not doing. Both sides win.)

(image: REDMIRAGE/Shutterstock)

You Probably Mistreat Your Best Clients

PR people, social media experts, marketing experts, not to mention lawyers, accountants, and consultants: do your long-term loyal clients get the worst treatment? Do they pay the highest rates? Do you take them for granted?

It’s not an idle question. I’m not trying to make trouble. It’s just that I think this happens a lot. I think it’s a natural result of efforts to generate more business and new business.

I confess that I did it at least once that I know of. Very early in the on-my-own portion of my professional service career, I had a retainer arrangement with a large textbook publisher. They paid me $1,000 a month to have me on call, while the rest of my business planning clients paid me a negotiated amount for each engagement. I built the thousand dollars into my sales forecast, but I hated it when they called. I wanted to deposit the money without any work. I took it for granted.

Telephone companies do it, don’t they? Give the new customers better rates than existing customers? The longer you’ve been with your provider, the more you pay? And don’t the cable companies give new customers better deals?

How about this: review your client lists. Make sure your longer-term clients get the best rates and the best treatment. In professional services, repeat business is golden; but there’s a temptation to focus on recruiting new clients instead of keeping existing clients.

(Image: istockphoto.com)

The First Three Commandments of PR

I guess many of us would like to think PR has fundamentally changed in the last 30 years, but frankly, not so much. At the core, some critical parts of it are built in. And they haven’t changed.

How would I know? I’ve been on both sides of this table. In the 70s I read press releases as a foreign correspondent for UPI and Business Week and others. In the 80s I read them as a monthly columnist for a software magazine. Then I became client of PR, company president, paying for press releases. Now I’m writing again, monthly columns in several publications, and this and other blogs, so I’m reading them again.

And wow, I have to say, so many of these things are boring and self-centered. They lead on themselves and why they care, rather than on what’s new and why anybody else would care. Person X has published a book is boring; give me something interesting about the book. Company Y announces a new product is boring; give me something the new product does for me, or for other people. Man bites dog, not dog bites man, please.

1. Make it Newsworthy

The news in media still matters.  I’m amazed at how many would-be press releases start out with totally self-centered boring “XXXX company announces the release of YYYY product” as if anybody really cared about it. Boring. What’s the news angle there? Give them a hint at the headline of the story. What’s new? Maybe it’s the first, or the biggest, or the oldest; it needs to be something worth highlighting. The first cell phone that shoots darts. The first manure-powered car. Put that in the first sentence.

2. Make it Interesting

Has everybody forgotten that fundamental principle of good business letter writing (emails too), that you start with “you” rather than “I”? That extends to press releases too. Instead of the I-focused “our company announces” how about starting with “Now you can get XXX” or “Do you need YYY”? It’s like headlines. Ask a question. Generate self interest. Focus on the benefit to the reader.

3. Make it Surprising

We’re talking here about media, so think of it as headlines again: surprising generates interest. This is great for surveys and research announcements, for example. Find the most surprising information in there, and make that the lead. A recent Kauffman survey found that typical founders are married with children and well-educated and strive to rise above their lower-middle-class heritage. So they led the press release with that. I found it surprising. And that’s a key. Even if it isn’t really new, surprising works very well.


Yes, I know the math of my saying the first three commandments is off, but it turns out that when you look at them, all three of them are essentially the same thing. It’s about the headline, or the lead. Make them read on. Make it the core of the first paragraph. Then quote somebody in the next paragraph, then get down to the which company announces what.

(Photo credit: Chepko Danil Vitalevich/Shutterstock)

Some Things You Should Never Call Yourself

Irony: seems like people who call themselves experts, gurus, mavens, and inspirational speakers usually aren’t.

Have you ever been inspired by a self-proclaimed inspirational speaker? I haven’t. I’ve been inspired by authors, writers, researchers, teachers, founders, entrepreneurs, poets, even, lately, by Presidents. But they don’t call themselves inspirational speakers.

The greatest collection of inspirational speakers I know of is at www.ted.com. Hundreds of people, many of them, maybe even most of them, inspirational, but not one carries that particular label around. That’s not what their name tags ever say.

Yesterday I read this on PR Workbench by Jack Monson:

Self-described Social Media Experts beware!

If you call yourself a social media expert, the rest of us will soon see that you’re saying nothing.

And then, in this second post following up, this:

Don’t misunderstand – there are many true social media experts out there. The best of them do not need to call themselves experts; their clients and peers are doing that for them.

That seems clear to me. Do you agree?

(Photo credit: Original cc by Memekiller on Flickr, modified)