Monday, December 28, 2015

Taking a break

After two straight years of weekly PR Architect blog posts, I'm taking a break this week.

I hope you'll return in January, when I plan to resume this blog.  

Happy New Year.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Avoiding your biggest PR mistake

By Theud-bald from Paris, France (Galerie Lafayette -
Christmas decoration 4) [CC BY 2.0],
via Wikimedia Commons
What's the biggest mistake a public relations practitioner can make?

Misreading the target audience. Pitching your story to the wrong individual.

And I'm not about to do that.

It's the last few days before Christmas. You're last-minute shopping. Wrapping gifts, roasting chestnuts, shipping packages, or tipping the postal carrier.

You're not chasing down PR tips. Whatever modest audience this blog attracts isn't wondering about some company's PR blunders just now.

So, this week, I'm respecting my audience. 

Go celebrate your holidays. Hug your loved ones. And Happy Christmas. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

PR wisdom from a CEO named Steve

No, it's not Steve Jobs. 

I'm referring to Steve Ells, Chipotle's CEO, whose company has been having the worst weeks ever. Maybe the worst quarter. Unexplained illnesses linked to Chipotle's fresh-food menu have resulted in more than 120 customers taking sick, and the temporary closing of 44 restaurants in Boston and the Pacific Northwest.

By Aude (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons
To his credit -- and at some professional risk -- Ells took to the morning TV news circuit last week, and took full responsibility for these problems. On the TODAY show, the first words out of his mouth? "I'm sorry."

No royal "we're sorry." No PR aphorisms along the lines of,  "We regret..." He took responsibility. And explained in very plain English what the company's doing to sanitize the restaurants and make them safe.

And, even when asked about the impact of the bad news and closings on Chipotle's stock price, Ells stayed on message. He told Matt Lauer: "That's not what we're thinking about now. We're thinking about the safety and quality of our ingredients. (And) to put in place practices that will not enable this to happen again."

No outlandish promises. No placating messages to Chipotle's stockholders. Just plain speaking. A prompt, direct apology. No criticism of Chipotle's suppliers or employees. Just what they're doing to make sure this never happens again.

Hell, I'd work for this guy.

Ells' on-target, take-responsibility candor -- both at the start and finish of the TODAY Show interview -- should be a required viewing for anyone looking for crisis communications strategies. Chipotle's recovery from this issue won't be quick -- and may be costly -- but fast-food contamination history suggests the company will do better than Jack In The Box did in the wake of its foodborne illness crisis.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Is Snapchat a storytelling tool?

I'm struggling to figure out how Snapchat fits in a public relations strategy. This may be akin to
By Snapchat, Inc. (
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
asking your grandfather to join Instagram.

Admission: I'm in learning mode with Snapchat. The app peered into my device's address book, and served up two names of contacts with Snapchat accounts. I haven't spoken to these individuals in more than a year. And neither are people with whom I'd want to share images from my daily life.

(Aside: while writing this blog, I had to force my fingers to type "Snapchat" and not "snapshot." Old habits die hard.)

But a colleague tells me Snapchat is a viable marketing communications platform for her needs. She works in undergraduate admissions, and is using a version of a university mascot to promote followers for the university on Snapchat. In the battle for hearts of prospective young enrollees, a plush-toy animal might be a differentiator.

I'm over 50. For me -- at the Neptune end of Snapchat's demographic solar system -- the phone-only app is a little baffling. Temporary photo posts? I get that. I don't sext, never have, so if that's still part of Snapchat's milieu, I'm not interested. Especially since anyone with even modest smartphone skills knows how to capture a screen image that could acquire a 100-year afterlife online.

Can we use Snapchat for storytelling, the heart and soul of PR? 

Last week, I read that Snapchat is now venturing into news, assembling content from users on a hot issue. Last week's devastating attack in San Bernardino, CA was captured in a collage of content from Snapchat users. So it won't take long before other newsworthy events -- and later, PR-worthy announcements -- find audiences on Snapchat. (Whether this is competitive with news that breaks on Twitter or Facebook, however, is anyone's guess today.)

I'm going to need to dig deeper into this. Look for my Snapchat user name: davekny57 and tell me a story. Opinions welcome. Stay tuned.