Posts Tagged 'good public relations'

Smart Marketing & Corporate Social Responsibility: Beyond A Marriage of Convenience

Infographic of corporate reputation and social responsibility by Boston College professor

We’ve said before that we’re big proponents of “smart marketing”:  Companies that show they “get it” by marrying their business mission and vision to also serve some public good. By another name, it’s also called corporate social responsibility.

That approach to business, articulated with authority by Henry Ford in the early 20th Century—has been a proven model for “good,” as well as for effective business practices. Today it’s carried forward by many visionary companies.

We like to call it “makes-sense marketing” because, in effect, these companies are paying it forward and stockpiling public goodwill, as well as managing their “bottom line.” Periodically, we like writing about those companies and their campaigns on these pages.

So it brings us great pleasure to share this round-up of “smart marketing” companies, first published by Hubspot, who have made their “giving back” programs an integral part of the company culture. These companies include American Express, Lowe’s, General Electric, and others you may not be aware of.

And, more recently, another natural disaster, the incredible Typhoon Haiyan, motivated another corporate giant—Google–to get creative and show how it could help. Melissa Agnes writes about how Google is combining its business mission and tools with public service to provide critical help to those suffering during an enormous crisis.

Please take a few moments to check out these stories, take a few notes, and perhaps a few lessons from what they’ve done. And, by all means, tell us what you think. We’d like to see smart marketing—makes-sense marketing—become a real movement!

*A final note: As if made to order, shortly after publishing, we ran across this Forbes article on “Purpose” that we think summarizes the ethos quite nicely. The only thing we would add to the writer’s bullet list is be certain to “act” on your purpose!

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Stockpiling Good Will: Media Lessons from Gen. David Petraeus

Gen. David Petraeus giving interview in Iraq.

Taking a few weeks offline was good for gaining a healthy and considered perspective on some major stories in the news. We’ll be looking back on these stories over the next couple of weeks. But first, like everyone else, we were saddened by the downfall of Gen. David Petraeus. His uncharacteristic lapse in judgment and resulting fall from grace were both surprising and disheartening for a nation in need of heroes and leaders. Yet, some media reports suggest he may not be out of the limelight for very long. Why? Well, clearly, Gen. Petraeus is man of considerable intellect and talents. But if he emerges from this fray faster and stronger than some others have, it may well be due to his well-documented skills in cultivating media good will. So Petraeus’s fall from grace may hold a cautionary tale for PR pros and the C-suites they report to about building good relations with the media.

Gen. Petraeus was reported to have enjoyed good press for at least the past decade by careful cultivation of the media. In sum, his behavior can be described as what we at MediaWorks call “stockpiling good will.” Here are some clues on how he built up such enviable relations with the press and, perhaps, some lessons you can take away in kind:

Access. Gen. Petraeus understood that carefully doling out access was the “coin of the realm” for building trusted relations, and he did so, not simply by providing access via formal channels, but by providing access, up close and personal.  He was known for his regular phone “chats” with reporters; he took select reporters on his jogs; he took them behind the scenes in the command rooms and quarters where decisions were made. In one instance he even took a reporter with him aboard a Black Hawk helicopter to survey a battlefront. And wherever he took them, he gave each of them the sense he was taking them “close to the action.”

Engagement. Petraeus no doubt also scored major points with media by engaging them on flexible terms.  In granting such unusual access, Petraeus followed through by being agile in how he responded to reporters’ queries. Recognizing the limitations within each situation, he demonstrated he understood the “rules of the game” by providing information however it would be helpful—on record, off-record, on background, etc. In each case, reporters no doubt felt they were experiencing access, engagement, and ergo, candor, of a rare or unprecedented kind.

Enthusiasm and Insight.  Media love sources who can deliver good information in digestible chunks (the proverbial ‘good sound bite’.) Beyond­­­ the basic news release, news pitch, or one-time story strategy, Petraeus and his staff clearly understood what was required to advance a progressive story—and, apparently in most instances, they provided an impressive combination of insight and information that gives even the most complex story real “life”, with real human dimension. Yet, even in cases where the insights provided weren’t especially profound, the combination of access, engagement and enthusiasm made reporters feel they had been taken on a “unique” adventure and encouraged them to find meaning in the interaction.

So these appear to be some of the ingredients to Gen. Petraeus’s steady increase in popularity, with the media. While not exactly “top secret,” they are lessons missed frequently by companies in handling their media relations. Will Petraeus be able to use these tactics deftly in a public comeback? Are there lessons here you can extract for creating your own helpful media environment? Only time will tell ….

The Definition of Public Relations, Google on Privacy and Other Issues

There’s been a lot of buzz of late around the public relations profession. The national Public Relations Society of America is currently undertaking a 21st Century definition of PR, which they’ll likely unveil in the next weeks. They solicited input far and wide to try to come up with some encompassing definition for the widely diverse practice of public relations. (View the current definition of PR here)

But this is only one aspect in which public relations is generating news: Many people are excited about the rosy labor forecasts projected for the profession during the next few years. The US Labor Department expects “employment of public relations specialists to grow 24 percent from 2008 to 2018–much faster than the average for all occupations.”  That is, presumably, good news indeed.

So why is all this buzz important? Well, one consequence, for certain, is that more people are caring about the practice of public relations. And how does this help clarify what’s good PR practice, and what’s not?

While we would certainly be hesitant to pre-empt PRSA’s studied process for redefining the profession, a look at recent headlines regarding some companies and their public relations crystallized a few thoughts about what PR is, about what works, and what doesn’t.

For example, within the past few weeks, two iconic brands—Google and Apple—have been uncharacteristically broadsided by bad PR:  Google, on privacy issues for its data-gathering processes on Safari browsers and Apple for the working conditions at some of its overseas manufacturers and suppliers. While neither company can be happy about such publicity, it’s worth noting that for each company, thus far, the fallout has been minimal. (See final note below) Which got us to thinking—why are some companies brought to their knees over news that’s a lot less damaging than these two companies faced, while other companies are able to withstand major hits and continue virtually unscathed?

Public perception of the companies beforehand accounts for a lot; and what plays a major role in shaping those perceptions—good public relations. Another way that we view good public relations is “stockpiling goodwill.” Companies do this everyday by paying attention to the details of business operations and marketing; correcting errors—proactively, as often as possible; and adopting a consumer-sensitive, if not consumer-friendly outlook. In short, they do the right thing most of the time, they do it willingly, and they’re good a creating feedback mechanisms to understand what their publics want, or at least what they’ll tolerate. (Panera offers the most recent example of this kind of corporate citizenship). So when issues flare up, their credibility helps buffer them from a major public debacle.

So that’s our working definition of public relations: conducting business everyday so that you stockpile goodwill. In the meantime, we’ll continue reading the headlines and looking forward to the PRSA’s consensus definition of the public relations profession.

By the way, it’s worth noting that Google has lobbed an impressive pre-emptive strike to try to contain the damage from its recent bad press. Check out the photo below …

Google's print ad campaign to offset negative publicity regarding the privacy of its searches.


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