Tag Archives: public relations

Considering The Optics

The President fired the Director of the FBI yesterday. Even though such a thing had only happened once before (when the FBI Director was accused of using funds for personal stuff), it is well within the rights of the President to do so. In fact, the head of the FBI, like US Attorneys and White House staff, serve at the pleasure of the President (which always brings to mind this scene from The West Wing in which the staff pledges loyalty to the President using exactly that phrase).

No, I’m not (finally) wading into politics, but there is a tremendous business point to be taken from yesterday’s action. The FBI is investigating if and how the President’s campaign was (is?) tied to Russia. Firing the man who is heading an investigation into your campaign is bad optics, especially when you do so on the day when subpoenas go out. It’s also bad optics to give as a reason something for which you praised that same person a few months earlier.

Bad optics is a phrase typically used in politics which describes when politicians fret about the public perception of a decision more than the substance of the decision itself. It has little to do with right and wrong and a lot to do with the perception of right or wrong. We’ve seen a few cases of this in business very recently:

  • United Airlines kicked doctor off a plane and he was beaten up when he refused to go. Were they within their rights to involuntarily bump a passenger? Yes. But the optics, both in front of other passengers and, since everyone has a camera, the rest of the world are horrible.
  • When public schools refuse to give a hot lunch to a child or give them a cheese sandwich instead of what the other kids have because the kid’s family can’t afford to pay, are they within their rights? Yes, but the optics…
  • When a business asks workers to train their (foreign) replacements, they’re helping their bottom line but killing their reputation because the optics are so bad.

One thing we all need to do as part of our decision-making process is to consider the optics. How will this appear, regardless of the right and wrong? It does little good to be in the right when you seem to be very wrong. You with me?

 

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Filed under Consulting, Helpful Hints, Huh?

A Gift From The PR Gods

I received an invitation a couple of weeks back that I thought I’d share with you all today. It’s a wonderful example of so many things gone wrong that I hardly know where to begin. Sorry if I sound delighted, but I’m always happy when fodder for the screed pops into my inbox.

It begins innocuously enough:

This Friday, Keith, we are doing a last minute gift guide mailing to the top 30 influencers who need products for their short lead holiday gift guides and long lead Valentine’s Day gift guides and we thought Consult Keith, might be a good fit.

Let’s stop there and think for a moment. Does anyone give blogs as gifts? I certainly don’t but maybe I’m behind the times. Had I already done what I’ve repeatedly threatened to do and turn these 2,000 or so posts into a book, I might have something tangible to send along. Still, I’m always up for increasing the readership of this thing so let’s keep reading, shall we?

Next, there is a list of 33 media outlets (yes, 33, not “the top 30”) of various sorts which reach widely divergent targets. Some skew very female, some quite male, some fairly old and some quite young. Now while I get that a gift guide might contain things the target would buy for a different demographic, it strikes me as odd that this is as untargeted as it is. No offer to segment the list either. But what do I get?

And what do I need to give you?

  • 30 pieces of product (with a press release attached to each)
  • A paragraph descriptor of your product
  • Photo of the product on a white background

Nothing like getting included in a group of indeterminate size, right? The invite doesn’t mention any limit on how many products will be placed on the desks of these influencers, and one can only imagine how the 30 pieces of your product will be divided across the 33 names on the recipient list. Of course, given what I know about building security in New York (where many of these outlets are located), there is a very good chance that the “direct delivery” won’t happen, especially since the product is to be shipped to Los Angeles. The cost is only $849. Oh – plus the product cost. And shipping the product to LA. So if you have an item that costs you $35, that’s $1,050 in product cost plus shipping for 30 items (let’s figure $10 each) plus $849. So for just under $2,200, you can be included in a bunch of stuff that gets given to someone at a media outlet for possible review and/or mention. Such a bargain…

I don’t mean to be a total cynic here. PR is important, especially at this peak shopping time of the year. But I back up to the very fact that I received this invitation to send along product in the first place. My product is this blog or maybe even my consulting services. Neither are a fit for this, obviously, but the note calls into question how carefully this PR firm will execute the program since they can’t even screen the recipients of this invitation and the target list is a scattershot approach to messaging. They can’t seem to count to 33 either, and if PR NewsWire is the extent of the marketing they’re doing, I’m underwhelmed. Those are  pretty big red flags. Then again, we’d never do anything as off-target as this, would we?

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No Place At The Table For Bad PR

I had planned to rant today about some smart marketing I came across the other day when a bit of really awful marketing slapped me in the face. I guess I’ll save the good stuff for after the holiday! Instead, let me present some terrible PR work to you. It’s almost a textbook example of what not to do in the modern age. I’m not going to name names because maybe the client has no clue what this person is doing (which is bad too!) in the client’s name. The names are unimportant; the bad PR work is what matters.

English: Olives in olive oil.

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first thing that catches one’s attention is the release’s headline:

Olive Oil Give Box Celebrated After Investigation

My first thought is what the heck is a “give box”? Something that solicits charitable donations? No, what it is in actuality is a typo. In the headline. He meant “gift”. That’s strike one.

Next comes the meaning of the headline. A gift box celebrated after an investigation? Not exactly. There has been an ongoing investigation of fraudulent labelling in the Italian olive oil world for quite a while. The report came out last week. It made no mention, however, of either gift boxes or the brand that is behind the release, which is a Greek olive oil. As an aside, every olive oil producing region has issues with fraudulent labelling, so I’m not sure that “celebrated” is the right term, since the fact that some Italian producers were doing some bad stuff doesn’t celebrate your Greek oil.  In fact, it sort of makes me wonder if I should wonder about this oil. There is a ton of hyperbole in the document too.  If the oil is “priceless”, why is there a price stated? Strike two.

The body of the story pitch/press release (I can’t tell which it is which is a bad sign right there) reads like a direct response ad. It describes the product along with selling points and has an affiliate link into an Amazon store for purchase.  It goes on to suggest “ideas for this story.”  What story?  Why do my readers (you folks!) care one iota about a premium Greek olive oil?  How does the knowledge of what’s in this release benefit you?  Strike three.

My inclination here is to rewrite this and show you how he could have turned it into something that might be of interest.  Instead, let’s just remember that what’s “news” to you must really be news to the reader (or blogger).  Please don’t ask me, or any other outlet, to serve as your vehicle for unpaid advertising.  Please don’t ask me to waste my readers’ time.  And for goodness’ sake, proofread the release!

There is a valuable role for good PR.  Bad PR such as this has no place. You with me?

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Filed under Consulting, food, Huh?