Archives for category: Uncategorized

Rule #3: If you don’t share bad news candidly to the same degree you trumpet good news, kiss your credibility good-bye.

It’s hard to imagine a more crushing message to your own employees than allowing them to find out about negative developments involving their organization in the morning newspaper or from a competitor’s email… before management has bothered to tell them.

DPPR Employee Comms 4Talk about a blow to morale and ultimately productivity. Why not just send an all-staff memo that says “Sorry, but management doesn’t have sufficient confidence to trust you to properly deal with bad news.”

The most damning indicator of an ineffective or failed employee communications function happens when employees learn first about something important from any other source. That goes double for bad news.

If you want to insult your most important productive asset with “you can’t handle the truth,” regress back to the Mushroom Strategy. Shut off the flow of information just when it’s most needed and demanded.

When addressing negative developments, organizations get only one chance to avoid appearing defensive or prevent being tarnished with implied guilt. That one chance occurs before any other party reveals it.

So, if you know that bad news is going to come out anyway, tell your own people first. In doing so, you will effectively release it proactively and preemptively, which can also be an important signal to the news media and public that you are not hiding. Remember, in our culture, no comment implies “guilty as charged”.

Take all your hits in one round. Get all the bad news out at once. You’ll appear forthcoming while tamping down damaging rumors and speculation. And admit it if bad decisions or mistakes were made. People will view you favorably as a “stand-up” organization.

Yes, this is tough advice to take. Management’s commitment to candor and transparently will be severely tested. Nobody likes to deliver bad news, especially when it’s embarrassing and reflects negatively on their competence. But the alternative is far worse.

The best way to answer tough questions is to answer them before they’re asked. So address anything you think reasonable people will wonder about. You’ll actually enhance your own credibility if you do.

And yes, if the news is bad, important, potentially controversial or explosive, it will be leaked to the media and/or posted on-line nearly instantaneously. See Rule #1. Yes, it applies to unpleasant news just as it does to happy.

But this is not a bad thing. Remember how critical employees are in today’s social world. Having your own ambassadors become messengers for the company’s side of the story (faster and more persuasive than the news media) is the best guarantee that your information regarding the negative developments will be incorporated accurately with greater balance in the discussions and coverage that follow.

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.

A brief interruption to my series on the importance of Employee Communications for this report from the Content Marketing World conference.

Randall Lane’s “mini-keynote” Tuesday at Content Marketing World 2013 had a curiously complex title: “The New Urgency of Putting Content Marketing through a Consumer Prism.” In the world of content marketing, where subjects project a distinctly different tone…Five Rules You Can’t Forget…12 Must Know Rules…How to Rock Your Content…the Forbes editor’s title was an outlier.


If he weren’t the warm up act for the full keynote address by Coca-Cola’s creative strategist, Jonathan Mildenhall, I’m not sure Lane’s title would have drawn more than a few dozen attendees. But standing before a Cleveland Convention Center exhibit hall packed with marketers who’d been feasting all morning on new content tactics and strategies, Lane quickly simplified his subject to a more compelling message:

“Think like an editor.”

Lane’s point of view makes it easy to take the mystery out of content marketing. Editors, he pointed out, do three things consistently:

One, editors think about their audience.  What are their interests, preferences, needs and wants? In seminars earlier in the day, virtually every presenter emphasized the importance of creating buyer profiles and personas as the foundation of any effective content marketing program.

Two, using their knowledge and understanding of their readers and viewers, editors practice good storytelling.  They identify and report on relevant, timely stories that matter to their audience. In content marketing, we follow the same approach generating topics we think will engage buyers.  We track them on editorial calendars that aren’t too far off the newsroom lineups I used as a radio assignment editor.

And three, Lane said, editors package their content in formats and styles that are appealing to the user.  Content marketers might take a premium white paper and repurpose (or package) it as an infographic, a meme and a video.

With his editor hat squarely on, Lane urged attendees to be transparent about their brands’ roles in their content. Fading are the days of “advertorials” that seek to blend in with editorial carrying only a mice type notice about its true form. Good branded content focuses on the user’s needs and interests – not the brand or its products.  But transparent content is clear about who the creators are and their connections to the brand. Forbes does it well, incidentally, at BrandVoice.

The benefit to marketers of thinking like an editor, according to Lane, are clear: “tell a relevant, targeted and transparent story and the world will share it.”

Makes the old newsman in me smile.

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.

On a very sad day, I share this brief post based on a message I sent to my colleagues at EMA today:

Occasionally, there are occurrences in the world that create unimaginable sadness. Such an event has happened today in Connecticut. In your work with clients, particularly in social media, please remember that people expect brands to be respectful when tragedy occurs. Frivolous, lighthearted or humorous approaches are insensitive at such a time. This is especially true regarding prescheduled posts which should be rescreened for appropriateness. It is a sad day. Be sure to assess client messaging in the context of the news of the day.

My thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected by this horrible tragedy.

My colleague, Steve Bell, was right in his Sunday, Nov. 4 blog post about the late decision to cancel the New York City Marathon. New York Times coverage on Wednesday shows how the organizers of the marathon are still suffering from their decision-making. Steve’s point of view is well worth reblogging here. Read more of Steve’s thoughts on crisis management in the digital age at

Steve on Crisis

We’ve written here in the last week about the deserved kudos for the quality leadership of the Northeast’s elected leaders, especially those in the New family, York and Jersey. Among the best was New York City Mike Bloomberg, who also managed to leverage a presidential endorsement into his dire warnings of storm damage.

But Bloomberg, who is first and always a capitalist, let the promised millions derived from the New York City Marathon muddle his values — and his crisis management chops. The marathon should have been cancelled Wednesday or Thursday, at the latest. Was there any doubt after the attacks of 9/11 that the NFL would cancel that Sunday’s and Monday’s games out of respect?

And it should have been the same result, nothing begrudging and pressured, in this case for the mayor and the New York Roadrunners Club, the marathon’s owner. Not only out of respect for those who died in Sandy’s wrath, not…

View original post 305 more words

WARNING: This blog post includes vulgar language. Somebody else’s. Not mine. Avert your eyes from the image below if you are easily offended.

Slip ups in social media that create embarrassing – and sometimes damaging – consequences are all too common. Another one occurred last Friday affecting StubHub, eBay’s online marketplace for tickets to sporting events, concerts and shows. I read about it in Adweek, thanks to my colleague, Chuck Beeler, one of the leaders of EMA’s Social Media Advisory Group.

I’ll summarize the story, although it’s a bit like watching a rerun of one of your favorite old TV shows. You know how its going to end, but you love seeing it anyway.

At the conclusion of what must have been a very long week, a StubHub employee with clearance to manage the company’s Twitter feed, posted an exultant — but offensive — TGIF message:

“Thank fu_ _ it’s Friday! Can’t wait to get out of this stubsucking hell hole.”

Of course, this employee intended the declaration for a personal handle, but mistakenly released it on the official @StubHub Twitter feed reaching its 19,000 or so followers. Oops.

In his timely story the morning after, Adweek reporter Tim Nudd rightly noted that brand social managers must carefully switch between their personal and professional feeds: “Let’s all say it together: If you have access to a brand’s Twitter account, make sure you log out before posting an offensive personal tweet.”

Tim’s advice is sound, but I think it misses the bigger mistake that was made. What made the StubHub Tweeter think for one second that this disparaging post was a good idea even from a personal social media profile?

The critical message for public relations counselors is this: nothing is personal in social media.

This is especially true for front line social media managers, but I believe this reality goes well beyond that. If you have a career you care about or a company you are accountable to, forget any notion that what you do in social can be personal.

Accept this truth, and you’ll never need to worry if you picked the right profile in your HootSuite account when you upload a post. And you’ll surely avoid throwing a social hand grenade that bounces back at your company and you.

P.S. If you’re wondering how StubHub extracted itself from this social fiasco, they deleted the Tweet and acknowledged it in a follow up Tweet shown below. Good recovery. More posts like the first one, though, and StubHub might be able to start selling tickets to follow them on Twitter.

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.

What’s the PR formula to get action from an unresponsive bureaucracy? In Yekaterinburg, Russia, the answer is a few cans of spray paint and a video camera.

Potholes are familiar sites in this city of nearly 1.4 million people located about a 1,000 miles east of Moscow. Common, too, is a lack of action by government officials to address the problem.  After running several stories about the pothole plague with no action from city leaders, staff from the news website took their case to the streets.

With the help of a talented graffiti artist, the website turned three appalling potholes into portraits of the governor, the mayor and the vice mayor.  Gaping holes in the pavement were used as the ugly open mouths of the elected leaders.

What happened next?  Click here and see.

With the faces of city leaders surrounding potholes, someone in city government immediately put a road crew on the job. The workers, however, didn’t show up with asphalt to patch the holes.  Just paint to cover the portraits.  Unfortunately for them, a hidden video camera caught them in the act and shared that video online, too.  That finally brought action and the potholes were repaired the next morning.

The bigger impact of this outstanding example of digitally powered PR goes beyond the fact that three potholes were filled.  It’s a story that documents the growing influence of online video.  Investigative journalism didn’t prod government to action. Just grainy video that caught government leaders red-handed doing something underhanded. After that, the sharing power of online media did the rest.

Yekaterinburg may be Russia’s fourth largest city, but it is by no means a household name.  Now, the city is gaining fame around the world.’s online video is spreading rapidly on YouTube.  When I first visited the link a week ago, it had only a few hundred views.  Today, it is over 130,000.

If city leaders were motivated by caricatures in the street to quickly fill a few potholes, imagine what they’ll do with people chuckling worldwide at their embarrassing behavior.  It should be smoother sailing on the streets of Yekaterinburg soon.

I don’t like infographics. There. I said it. In writing for the whole world to see. Given the explosion of the infographic in communications today, it feels like heresy. So let me qualify that broad statement by telling you why.

The majority of infographics just don’t work well at communicating information. They’re cluttered, confusing and hard to work with. They look like someone created them because it is the cool thing to do not because they provide a better way of sharing knowledge.

Infographic done right by Paychex

It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are four ways to make infographics better — even for someone like me:

1. Save the Cartoons for the Comic Section

The category is not, “graphicinfo.” That’s because the information is more important than the graphic elements. Don’t let artists over illustrate with cartoons and colors that don’t improve understanding or readability. The best design uses “white space” to make the information and graphic elements that matter stand out. That should be true for infographics, too.  EMA client, Paychex, gets it right in this infographic from the Huffington Post on small business use of mobile technology.

2. Offer a Second Format

Not everybody wants to view an infographic, and not all information you need to share presents well graphically or can be covered in an infographic. So it’s a good idea to offer a second format along with your infographic. A simple, “Click here for a 300 word summary of this infographic,” will ensure more users get your information. If a live link won’t work, include a URL that tells the reader where to find it on your site.

3. Keep it Short

Infographics that scroll on for what feels like a yardstick of space simply aren’t user friendly in any format – desktop, tablet or mobile. Users often want to reference back to something earlier in the graphic. Try doing that on your smartphone with a graphic that goes on multiple screens. Think of an infographic as a poster. Done right, your reader might even print it out and pin it in their workspace for future reference. Radian6 recently did that with information on social media metrics.

4. It’s the Information…

Infographics aren’t about putting lipstick on a pig. If your information isn’t new or relevant, then dressing it up with graphics isn’t going to make it any more meaningful.  Infographics should take complex information – most often data – and make it easier and faster to understand.

OK, so I don’t dislike all infographics, just the ones that are using graphics like a Halloween costume – to be something they are not. Don’t fall in to that trap. Follow my four tips and your hard work will stand a better chance of getting picked up by news media and bloggers.  And better yet, more users will engage with and share your information within their social circles.  More on that in a future post.

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.

The Technology page in the New York Times lamented Saturday that tech companies aren’t using phones for user support. According to reporter Amy O’Leary in Tech Companies Leave Phones Behind, internet companies like Quora, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn either don’t offer numbers for phone support or end up only playing a recording that drives callers back to their online customer support system.   The story suggests there is something wrong with this model or that it signals a fundamental culture shift in a digital world.

Not so.

Tech companies don’t leave phones behind. They’re an essential part of doing business, even in today’s online world. Having successfully reached Google and LinkedIn representives by telephone, I can assure you tech companies have phones for dealing with paying customers, in my case, an agency that wants to buy advertising. But internet and social media companies that offer a free service to users simply don’t have an obligation or revenue stream to support a costly telephone customer service system. A relatively small number of these companies have successful revenue streams, but virtually all would be driven under by labor intensive phone interactions with users trying to collect lost passwords or account for people who were mean to them on line.

You could argue that other “free” services offer users the ability to talk by phone. I could call my local television station and eventually find someone who would hear my complaint about commercials playing too loud or the sports action I missed due to a technical problem. But I wouldn’t find that after 5 p.m. or on weekends. Why? Because the phones at a TV station are there to serve advertisers not viewers. From my days in radio broadcasting, I can tell you that calls from the public with gripes about programming were an unfortunate side affect of needing phones to make and receive sales calls.

Online search services and social media sites are free to users. By maintaining that status, they already defy the conventional wisdom of, “You get what you pay for.” They deliver information, entertainment, communication and even commerce for free. There is no business rationale to set up call centers for users who pay nothing for their service.

The real travesty of this story will be when some opportunistic elected leader somewhere decides to grandstand by proposing a law that requires online companies to provide customer service support. When that happens, I hope legions of social media users get on their smartphones to call that lawmaker’s office and say, “No way.” Only I bet they won’t find more than an answering machine for most hours of the day.

Move over Lance Armstrong. Public relations may be headed for a doping scandal of its own. That’s the kind of advantage the injection of digital communications is giving public relations.

Welcome to the first post in my new blog, Digitally Powered PR. I’ll be sharing my observations and experiences about the incredible transformation of the public relations professional driven by the emergence of communications technologies Ivy Lee could never have imagined. The tablet I’m writing this post on is an amazing distribution point for news and information. Social media unlocks the ability to interact with target publics that would have required days and weeks of effort only a few years ago. Even the concept of blogging — being able to self publish your opinions and share them instantly around the world — was unthinkable.

In Digitally Powered PR, I’ll be chronicling examples of cutting edge practices that leverage digital communications. I’ll offer tips and advice based on my experiences practicing public relations in a digitally integrated marketing communications agency. I’ll share my opinions on how digital technology is changing relationships between organizations and their publics.  I’ll also be pointing out how the foundation of this noble profession — listening that allows effective two-way communications — is flourishing or being forgotten during this digital revolution.

It’s an amazing time to be working in public relations. When you compare the business we’re in today to the one I entered 25 years ago, we’ve got so much more power and potential, it feels like we’re cheating.


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.

%d bloggers like this: