Archives for category: Media

In a previous post, I posited that two-way communications define the new normal. But it bears repeating: today, consumers and stakeholders expect and often demand that companies and organizations interact by talking with, not talking at each other.

So who’s going to do all this interacting? 

Rule #2: If you want your employees to be company or brand ambassadors, you must give them plenty of content to work with… and permission to use it.

There’s a growing body of research evidence indicating that employees – not executives nor designated “official” spokesmen nor celebrity endorsers – make the most credible and influential advocates for any organization.

Word-of-mouth interchanges taking place everywhere online create a natural arena for ordinary employees to participate in discussions about the organizations they work for. And why shouldn’t they? Who knows better how their products are madeDPPR Employee Comms 3? Why they’re made the way they are? Why they’re better? If the organization is doing important work that benefits society? If the company really is environmentally responsible? And by the way, what it’s really like to work there? Are the company’s future prospects bright?

Against this backdrop, any enterprise still trying to enforce sweeping policies prohibiting employees’ talking with the outside world is hopelessly out of sync with reality. Not only are such gag orders destined to fail, they can backfire should the organization be suspected of manipulating or worse, covering up the truth.

It is a far better situation to have fully informed employees who appreciate the trust placed in them empowered to talk proudly about their organization every chance they get. Thoughtful employees easily recognize that it’s in their own best interest to advance and protect their company’s reputation, along with winning fans and new customers by cross-selling products or services.

All they need are the facts, along with guidance on how to share them if they choose to.

Today, the best operating model for employee communications is that of a true news source that supplies a constant stream of information about the trends, developments, decisions, activities and impacts occurring in every corner of the enterprise.

The more diverse, multi-dimensional and far-flung the company, the more expansive this internal news coverage must be. Employees are just as unschooled in areas or functions outside their own as anyone.

Universal e-mail news digests or internal network home pages appearing at every logon make the job easy.

Nobody wants to work for an organization with a poor reputation. Right-minded employees want to be sincerely proud of their jobs, basking in company success and their role in it. It’s wholly counterproductive to deny any employee knowledge of what their organization is doing, along with the when, where, how and why.

Equally important, they should be given permission to share this news, with guidance on how, when and where to use this information as part of every news item.

Organizations following this strategy greatly multiply their influence by equipping and deploying a veritable army of committed, passionate ambassadors.

Greg Loh is the managing partner of public relations and public affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s leading independent marketing communications agencies. Views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the opinions of EMA.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThroughout the second half of the 20th century, the “Mushroom Strategy” characterized employee communications in most of Corporate America: “Treat employees like mushrooms… Keep ‘em in the dark and feed ‘em guano.”

Back when the Mad Men personified the advertising business, the concept of mass communications embedded itself into many business practices. With the advent of mass media – network television in the mid-1950s – companies could succeed simply by buying large amounts of airtime and shouting over the din. Business followed the mantra: “We talk. You listen. You buy.”

People – consumers, stockholders and employees alike – were talked at… not talked with. And it worked.

But starting in the mid-1990s (the Stone Age in internet time) with e-mail and chat rooms, the rise and mass adoption of web-based interactive communications technologies fundamentally changed the dynamics, to the point of consigning one-way communication methods to an increasingly unwelcome role.

Two-way communications define the new normal. People blogging and posting comments, stories, advice, opinions, images and homemade video via all forms of social media in breathtaking numbers expect and often demand companies and organizations to interact the same way.

Nearly all your employees live in this world every day, which explains why the Mushroom Strategy no longer works.

I still see too many companies and organizations that regard employee communications as the proverbial ugly stepchild or crazy cousin. Instead, I argue, there are enormous business opportunities and advantages just waiting to be unlocked by doing things differently.

So over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some new approaches and new strategies intended to encourage you to reevaluate the way you create, manage and deploy internal communications.

Greg Loh is the managing partner of public relations and public affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s leading independent marketing communications agencies. Views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the opinions of EMA.

Recovery reports from Superstorm Sandy are heartbreaking. On Friday, as neighbors cleared properties that were battered by flooding on Staten Island, the bodies of two more storm victims were recovered in a home nearby. Like most who were spared the ravages of Sandy, my thoughts and prayers continue to be drawn to the thousands of people still suffering along the Atlantic Coast.

The recovery is revealing important learnings about emergency communications in the digital age. Major shifts in how people are accessing news and information means crisis plans need to be rethought.

Most public safety agencies and emergency planners have long advised citizens to tune to radio and television for the most current advisories before, during and after the storm. As with so many other things in the digital age, fewer and fewer people are turning there for news and information. An Adweek Data Points last month showed that while television is still the leading source of news for Americans, 39% of the people who were asked, “Where did you get the news yesterday?,” responded  desktop and mobile devices versus 33% for radio.

At Eric Mower + Associates, preparations for Sandy gave us the opportunity to test our new emergency communications system. During the past year, the agency completed a comprehensive update of the our emergency plan, including the creation of a new employee notification system called EMAlert.  We could no longer accept the risk that an emergency situation that cripples our information technology system could also cut off communications to our staff. We worked with a world-leading provider of interactive and mass notification systems to ensure that the agency can now quickly and easily reach EMA people wherever they are with email, text and traditional phone messages. With a secure, offsite technology partner, we have greater assurance that we can help ensure the safety of our people and continue business operations in almost any type of emergency. EMAlert worked exactly as intended in our tests on the day Sandy arrived in the Northeast.

As the recovery from Sandy continues, I see three major lessons for communications professionals who have responsibility for emergency planning:

  1. Update crisis plans to address the reliance on mobile communications. Based on the size and scope of your organization, establish the right approaches (with built-in redundancies) to get messages to key stakeholders on mobile devices. For EMA, it’s a third-party mass notification system.  For your organization, it may be a simple “text-tree” supported by Twitter and Facebook messages.
  2. Maintain procedures that rely on traditional media outlets as a hedge against disruptions to mobile communications. Difficulties in restoring power and cell phone service quickly in hard hit areas can’t be ignored. A Saturday New York Times story, “Fractured Recovery Divides the Region,” carries a poignant reminder of that fact from a desperate Long Islander whose home was flooded. “I just keep waiting for someone with a megaphone and a car to just tell us what to do…I’m lost.”
  3. Closely monitor social media to debunk rumors and false information. Sandy brought many despicable examples of bad actors carelessly or deliberately sharing falsehoods during and after the storm. As exemplified by the good work of BuzzFeed’s Jack Steuf, though, it does appear that the social world can successfully “out” falsehoods and their perpetrators fairly quickly.

Superstorm Sandy shows us emergency plans that advise having battery operated radios and extra batteries on hand aren’t ready for the digital age. And with the near certainty that virtually every business will someday face a major disruption, now is the time to upgrade your preparedness.

PRWeek’s August issue tells the story of the PR agency industry’s near shutout at the 2012 Cannes Lions. Only two PR agencies won PR Lions. The rest of the honors went to advertising agencies.

There’s been some hand wringing about what it means for the future of agency public relations. I think it is simply more evidence of how the emergence of digital is blurring the lines between public relations and the rest of marketing. PR powered by digital makes it easier for organizations to capture attention, create engagement and influence opinions.

Another important factor in the outcome at the awards is the fact that Cannes is about “creativity.” In that regard, there is no doubt that advertising agencies have an inherent advantage. PR agencies are best at creating healthy relationships between institutions and their publics; advertising agencies win the day in creative ideas.

Which is why I feel so lucky to have spent last 25 years practicing public relations in an integrated agency. Eric Mower established a public relations division at the agency almost four decades ago. At Eric Mower + Associates, public relations people work side by side with the best creative talents in the industry. Because our agency’s roots have grown in integrated soil, we’ve also learned that big ideas can come from anywhere. Creativity is an intersection.

Earlier this year, EMA put this experience in writing when we introduced the Declaration of Inter-Dependence, a  500-word manifesto signed by all of EMA’s creative directors. Under the banner of, “You’re creative, damn it,” the Declaration invited all EMAers to join the creative process:

“Our industry is changing. Our lives are changing.

We’re influenced less and less by what we see and hear…and more and more by what we feel and experience. This isn’t news to anyone. This isn’t a revelation. It’s just the new reality.

Unfortunately, the old reality is this: Much of our industry is still clinging to a creative model that was born before the FIRST screen was created, let alone the second or third.

In this outdated model, copywriters and art directors are charged with coming up with the Big Ideas, and everyone else is charged with sharing them with the world.

Well, it’s time to shake things up. It’s time to take EMA’s core value of collaboration to the next level — beyond simply playing nicely together and working as a team.”

Creative development efforts at EMA are more open than they’ve ever been before. Teams solve problems together and generate more compelling and impactful solutions.

I have no doubt that the Declaration of Inter-Dependence at EMA will mean better results for our clients. And with shared ownership of creativity, maybe a Cannes PR Lion is in our future.

Why not? We’re creative, damn it.

Greg Loh is the managing partner of public relations and public affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s leading independent marketing communications agencies. Views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the opinions of EMA.

It had all the makings of a social media disaster. NBC invested nearly $1.2 billion for broadcast rights for the 2012 London Olympics, but before the first competitive event began an #NBCfail hashtag movement was underway.

It started on July 26 with a single post by a web developer from Peoria who was frustrated that NBC limited online streaming of coverage to cable subscribers. The next day, 215 others used the #NBCfail hashtag. As the network delayed airing some events to primetime, 6,000 #NBCfails popped up July

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In my last post, I wrote about the clouds of doubt hanging over the newspaper business. Those same questions hover over the other traditional mainstream news outlets — magazines, radio and broadcast television. Even social media can’t escape uncertainty. Look at the recent sale of Digg for what amounts to practically pennies.

In a news and information landscape that changes as quickly as the tides, there is one fundamental truth for public relations people:

It’s the news that matters – not the medium.

People can and do get their information from many sources. Much of what they get originates from PR people.  I don’t see that changing. In fact, I think it will grow, so PR people need to be able to create and deliver news themselves.To prosper in this digitally powered reality, every business needs to have a communications foundation with four strong corners:

1. Open Community

Maintain a living network of connections with the broadest collection of the people and institutions that represent your stakeholders. Create your own community that incudes those who support you and those who don’t. It must be both an analog community that includes direct physical contact and a digital one, with feedback and transparency enabled by social media.

2. Honest Content

Have a robust, cost-efficient system in place to generate news and information yourself – in text, pictures, video and graphics. Content should be persuasive, but it also must be must be “meaningful.”  That means solid, useful, relevant information that has value to the user.  People are smart, and they are getting smarter. The more they use search, the better they get at choosing between reliable sources of information and promotional junk. Expect the technology behind search to get even better at helping people make good choices.

3. Many Channels

Create multiple distribution vehicles so you can reach your community directly. Email. Social media. Direct mail. Live events. Publicity is important, too, but you need to give your organization the flexibility to make media coverage in whatever form it takes a bonus. Always use your channels first to talk to your community.

4. Strong Metrics

Know what you need to measure and create the most customized measurement tools your organization can afford. Digital tools make collecting quantitative and qualitative data more achievable than ever. Metrics are essential because they ensure what you’re doing is working, but they’re also needed because the highly visible and tangible proof once documented in clip reports is no longer as relevant or as thick.

Like media relationships that lead to great news coverage, the four corners can’t be built overnight. They take hard work and investment over a long period of time. If you’re organization wants to thrive in whatever the news media world becomes, make sure you’ve got the building blocks of your communications foundation in place.

The Post Publicity Era is coming. Are you ready?

Greg Loh is the managing partner of public relations and public affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s leading independent marketing communications agencies. Views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the opinions of EMA.

I love reading the New York Times on my tablet.

I catch up on the local news every morning on Syracuse.com, the digital version of the Post Standard, at my desktop.

I don’t, however, like thinking about a future without the printed newspaper. When I really want to engage with the news, I pick up the paper. I’m a loyal subscriber to the Post Standard, and I will be until it carries my obituary.

Recent events in publishing and some news coverage last week made me wonder about which might come first – the demise of the printed newspaper or me. Assuming a fairly long timeline, I hope it’s me, but increasingly, the future of newsprint is looking gloomy.

It’s been well documented that newspapers are the official record of news and information. Even with all the cutbacks in newsrooms, newspapers still have the biggest and most experienced news gathering teams. They do more investigative work and have the ability to dive deeper on matters that need attention and understanding. Their opinion pages have been and continue to be the influential voices on societal issues. A strong editorial can still swing thought leader opinions and activate people to solve important problems.

Because of these truths, conventional wisdom is that the demise of the “paper” will be bad for the public relations business. It means one less place to generate clips for our clients. I sure don’t want to see that day come, but if it does, I see opportunity for public relations. At least for the organizations that are ready.

In my next post, I’ll explain what it takes.

Greg Loh is the managing partner of public relations and public affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s leading independent marketing communications agencies. Views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the opinions of EMA.

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