Entries in Public Relations (11)


ND&P’s 2016 Predictions

Ranging from the serious to silly from agency pundits. 

Get smart. Reaching near universal adoption, decent smart phone models become available for less than $100, tipping mobile web usage well into the majority.

Accelerated use. Self driving cars will start public demonstrations in the U.S. and abroad, with automakers discussing options including leasing time in driverless car fleets. 

A bite out of Apple. Their dominance in mobile and consumer electronics will likely dip as Asian companies compete more effectively.

App with attitude. Look for a broader adoption of near field communications (payments, user messages, and ads.) 

Quality, not quantity. Focusing on quality in social content, brands will reduce social chatter, resulting in fewer, deeper conversations rather than numerous shallow conversations.

I thought it was just the Internet. Al Gore claims he invented the hash tag. Asks for billions in back payments on all tweets.

Competitive healthcare. Watch for a continued disruption in the industry, with the possibility of public companies publishing rates for procedures and experiencing surge pricing akin to Uber. 

Getting personal. Test "apps" emerge where people hand over mass data and are given prompts addressing major/minor choices ranging from when to wake up, to what gifts to buy for holidays.

Cubs win the Series. Not.

Financing: the American Idol version. The manufacturing specialization trend which saw its boon with Kickstarter continues. 

Wearables wear out. Ear buds, smart bras and watches, and the like flounder again.

So simple even a caveman can do it. Atkins and Paleo diets combine to form one super diet. It follows the same rules as Atkins but now you need to dress up like a caveman while eating.

The write stuff. Brands rediscover the value of story telling in long-form writing and blogs.

Think small. Large-scale institutions like nursing homes scale down, investing in home-like, intimate settings that house fewer patients.

What goes around, comes around. People learn that every time you post a vertical video, an evil internet troll becomes stronger.

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. Mark Zuckerberg gives money to someone who shares a post on Facebook.

Thanks to contributions from ND&P crystal-ball gazers including Dave Peterson, Drew Aronica, Brian Ritter, Thomas Becher, and Stefanie Brown.


Think before you click

The increasingly caustic mix of social media, 24/7 talking heads and instant technology can turn anyone into a broadcaster and pundit. That can make anyone – or any business – infamous in minutes.

That means businesses need to be ready to face an age where a local issue can easily become a global headline that sullies a brand.

Think about what can go wrong. List everything about your business that could attract outside attention. Is it a product failure, death on the job, industrial accident? How about workplace violence, bankruptcy or a lawsuit? Not everything will become a media maelstrom, of course, especially outside the region, but the first step is to identify what can go wrong.

Have a crisis communications plan in place. What happens when your company name is trending on Twitter – for the worst reasons? What if media trucks show up outside your door? Or you’ve had an industrial accident? Do you have a plan to respond to the media, your customers, your community? A crisis communications plan will help you respond to your audiences when you’re having a bad day.

If something does hit the fan, confront the problem.  Let’s say your company is responsible for, say, a recall, that’s affecting hundreds of consumers. Your lawyer might advise you not to say anything. I say wrong! Once you have the facts, address the issue quickly. Remember, the faster you respond the sooner the issue goes away. Say how you’re going to fix the problem, then fix it with actions. Show, don’t just tell. And be brief. No need for a lot of detail – that’ll make the lawyer happy.

On social media sites, don’t fight the trolls. People these days are bold behind the computer screen or smartphone. And sadly, many do so just to incite an emotional response. Don’t play their game. No matter how difficult, take the high road and don’t engage these types. Also, as much as you will want to, don’t delete comments. Unless the posts are defamatory to a person or culture, threatening or abusive, don’t delete posts – those who post them will just come back, and with a vengeance.

Of course, the best way to avoid any unwanted attention these days is to think before you click. Whether you’re communicating to an irate customer, commenting personally on a social media post or just making an off-the-cuff comment, your voice, whether you want to or not, can be broadcast anywhere at any time. If you’re mad while online, walk away to compose yourself. If you’re not sure about how a message will be perceived, have someone you trust read it over for another perspective. What you post and send will stick around forever, potentially damaging your hard-fought reputation and hard-earned business.

If it makes you feel any better, the same always-on world we live in is easily distracted and so if you’re the focus of some bad publicity keep in mind that this, too, shall pass.

~ Thomas Becher, APR


Trump’s campaign: Trail showmanship or smart PR?

Today I’m breaking my rule to never comment on politics. With that disclosure out of the way, please also realize I’m not endorsing any political party.
Instead, let’s talk about The Donald.
Sure, Mr. Trump has made a splash – leading very early polling among GOP faithful – but is this due to bravado or smart public relations?
In an election that’s going to be more technology savvy than ever – Facebook, for instance, has announced a new array of digital insights to help campaigns zero in on their supporters (and money) – what candidates say will be shared, liked, disliked, dissected, posted and prodded from here until November 2016 and beyond.  
And with such a crowded field, each candidate needs to position himself or herself just right to stand out from the pack. Trump has certainly done that. But, I maintain, not to win the nomination but to stroke his own ego.
From comments about immigrants to his mocking of a POW to how his staff is threatening some media with lawsuits for printing the truth, he certainly hasn’t done himself any favors. Or has he? In other words, does he care that he’s getting skewered because he knows his controversial comments are attracting media coverage and name awareness? Is he using a presidential run as a platform for his business – damned the cost?
As a strategist who helps companies and organizations communicate in the face of a crisis, my concern is that he has not back-peddled from his hurtful remarks. Normally I would advise clients who may have said the wrong thing to either apologize or find an opportunity to clarify as a way to rebuild trust, especially, in the case of Hispanics a large voting bloc. But Trump isn’t following this sage advice. Instead – because, perhaps, he’s really not in it for the long haul – he’s blazing his own trail and in the process forcing other candidates to react and pivot.
So in a way it’s smart PR. Just not the type that’s going to win friends or elections. Or even succeed in business.
My advice to the ever-growing field of presidential contenders: Stop the bravado. Drop the baiting. If you mess up, say so. Be yourself. Above all – we can hope – do what’s best for the country, not yourself.


~ Thomas Becher, APR


Ready or not, crisis lurks

Not to be an alarmist, but let’s face it: A crisis can lurk around every corner.

From corporate data breaches and shareholder revolts to inner-city riots and product recalls, in a moment’s notice your business, your organization – your reputation, your brand – is at stake when things go very, very wrong.

And, boy, can things go wrong. We’ve seen poorly handled crisis responses – Tony Hayward of BP, anyone? – literally cost millions of dollars and careers. But we’ve also seen crises handled well. Some hospitals that handled the Ebola hysteria come to mind.

And so it’s how you handle a crisis that makes all the difference, even when the crisis did not start with you, especially in our age of instantaneous information.

How can you be ready if you don’t know what will happen to you?

  • Plan. An organization of any kind should have a crisis communications plan. Not to be confused with a disaster recovery plan that deals with business continuity, this plan outlines what can go wrong, who will respond, and what some early messages are when media and other stakeholders want to know what happened. 
  • Practice. A plan is nothing without practice. I advise clients to practice their plans at least once a year to make sure their plan is up to date and workable in the event of a crisis. Involve as many people as you can because you never know who will be needed. 
  • Adapt. Leadership changes. Crises change. Facilities change. Adapt your plan to changes in your business and industry. Renew your plan to face ever-changing realities. Train accordingly.

You don’t have to be a professional communicator to plan for and respond to a crisis.

The other week I guest-lectured to a class of master’s degree students in healthcare management at Virginia Commonwealth University. For three hours I took these future hospital administrators through the process of planning for and responding to a crisis, replete with tips to communicate to media and other audiences.

They were wide-eyed knowing many things can go wrong in a healthcare setting. But after they practiced in videotaped sessions, I was emboldened knowing these future leaders would be prepared to face a crisis.

All it took was old-fashioned preparation and practice. And a video clip of Tony Hayward wanting his life back.


(Thomas Becher, APR)


When was the last time you were the only American in the room?  

If you have ever had that privilege, you know what a rarity it is for most Americans.  As I led a three-day crisis management and business continuity workshop last week for international development professionals from more than a dozen countries, I was reminded just how important (and challenging) communicating across cultural boundaries can be.  We were dealing with life and death scenarios where what you say and what you do have deep implications on the safety and security of those around you.  Communicating effectively was more important than ever. 

Here are five lessons I’ve learned over the years by being the only American in the room:

  1. Listening is more important than talking.  You don’t learn by talking; you learn by listening.  Spend time listening to those around you who have different perspectives, come from different cultures or simply think differently than you do.
  2. Asking questions is critical.  Be curious about those who are not like you.  They will surprise you.  As a result, you’ll be able to speak from a perspective that invites people to ask you questions of you.  Genuine curiosity has resolved many diplomatic conflicts over the years.
  3. Show some initiative.  Learn about your audience’s history, their culture(s) and their local news.  Find out what matters most to them.
  4. Capitalize on the human experiences that tie you together.  Every single one of us is a son or daughter. Most of us have had some sort of schooling.  Many adults have experienced the joy or pain of being a parent.  Find common human experiences and build on them to make connections with your audience.
  5. Don’t assume.  Own your own experience and knowledge, but be humble as you tell others about it.  Don’t assume they’ve has the same experience.

Last but not least, remember that a humble smile goes a very long way in establishing a relationship across cultures. 

The staff at ND&P have traveled to and worked in more than 60 countries around the globe.  We’re adept at being the only American in the room.  How can we help you increase your presence abroad.



(Chris Turnbull)