Public Relations – blogging authentically with your customers

A public relations and crisis communications post worth the read at On the AOL Journals advertising mini-brouhaha.

Public relations has changed in a big way over the past two years. Sure, you still need a PR department, but the most important thing is to have your executives and product managers blogging authentically with your customers.

Here is the outline, and it is truly something out of a textbook with frankness, humility, actionable lessons.  Job well done on the post at least, although turning ads loose without warning isn’t a way to endear the public.

Here is the top level summary, and it is a well articulated PR post

  1. Huge disclaimer
  2. What happened
  3. Background
  4. What we did wrong
  5. What we did right
  6. What should we do next
  7. Reader Comments

He even has the class to discuss Mena’s success with SixApart crisis/honest communication.  As a typepad user, I appreciate that.

A9 Block by Block Photos – Maybe Storefront Advertising IS the “in thing”

A9blockbyblockviewScobelizer points out that A9 has block by block photos on their A9 mapping service.  Several large cities are already done, including Houston.  But surely the photos will be updated and this brings up an interesting cheesy marketing opportunity.  What exact DATE AND TIME are the photos taken in your city?

If you know WHEN they are going to take the photos, isn’t that the day to be sure your signs are lit up so they show up in the photo for permanent street level marketing?  Or to have a performance artists in front of your theater?  The photos I saw don’t seem to care about image.  Yes Houston is always under construction but even given that I don’t think we got a fair shake based on the construction in our downtown snapshot-in-time.

What about laser and/or infrared signs that blare in photographs but get past the city’s sign ordinances being invisible to the naked eye?  Perhaps draw an image on the road with lasers that only shows up in photos?  Tell me Red Bull wouldn’t jump on the opportunity?

As always, timing is everything.  I look forward to geospacial signage soon.

Social Software, or Web 2.0, requires changed behavior from the organization

Houstontheaterdistrictmax We recently launched a site for the Houston Theater District (awesome design Tim!).  In a meeting with them on Wednesday we talked about the reality of a content driven search engine friendly web site with distributed authors.  It not only gets a different reaction from the public, but it also requires changed behavior from the organization itself.  A brochure becomes a vehicle to provide content, to serve the public. 

The Houston Theater District gets this, which is precisely why I am highlighting them, but I have seen many clients that do not get this fundamental shift in their way of thinking.  It is more cultural than marketing, more servant than arrogance, and certainly more demanding than static sites.

But this is a very old lesson.  In the article below on Ivy Lee, arguably the father of public relations, the author highlights that Lee sought to actually change the behavior of John D. Rockefeller.  I don’t imagine it was easy, but it was the right thing to do.

Ivylee Lee even prefigured the mutual satisfaction phase.

At a time when other cutting edge (Public Relations) practitioners were trying to explain their clients’ activities in ways that were palatable to their publics, Lee was realizing some things just couldn’t be explained in a palatable yet honest way.

When Lee went to work for the Rockefeller family, John D. Rockefeller had a long and well-deserved reputation as a robber baron because he was one. He and several other well-known tycoons had achieved success and wealth by being ruthless, profit-driven businessmen whose actions were often harsh, arrogant, and uncaring. Some of what they did could be explained away, but much of it was beyond any hope of gift-wrapping. The public would never approve of such behavior.

Faced with this realization, Lee came up with a suggestion that was totally contrary to the robber barons’ prevailing philosophy of the public be damned. He concluded that changing Rockefeller’s behavior — or at least his companies’ actions — might be the best public relations of all. Initially, Rockefeller resisted, but Lee’s persistence and persuasiveness wore him down.

Instead of limiting his role to writing press releases and public statements and arranging special appearances for Rockefeller, Lee was soon advising Rockefeller on the public relations advantages of a broad range of business decisions and management policy that included mechanisms to redress workers’ grievances, the selection of new plant sites, setting employee wages and working conditions, and negotiating contracts with suppliers and vendors. In many ways this presaged the interactive adjustment and mutual satisfaction approaches to public relations that weren’t fully articulated until 70 years later.

(emphasis added by me) .. Finish the article on Ivy Lee here.

Picture of Ivy Lee and his papers link.