10 Ways To Publicize Your Small Business

10 Ways To Publicize Your Small Business

 Whether you run Dow Chemical or the Dairy Queen there is no substitute for positive publicity. Most successful small business owners realized early that marketing was a very important if not the most important part of staying in business. But where to start? Here are a few pointers for getting covered. 10 Ways To Publicize Your Small Business

There are plenty of ways to get newspaper, radio, and television publicity for the small business owner willing to invest in the activity on a consistent basis.
10 Ways To Publicize Your Small Business. There are plenty of ways to get newspaper, radio, and television publicity for the small business owner willing to invest in the activity on a consistent basis.
  1. Do something newsworthy. Media coverage in traditional outlets (not trade journals or business magazines) will not occur without some kind of event, happening, release or introduction. Remember that news worthy events almost always occur in real time and are finite. News is not open ended.
  2. What are some newsworthy small business happenings? A grand opening is the perfect occasion to get news coverage. While cutting a ribbon with a big pair of scissors might seem silly, it is a good photo opportunity and is newsworthy.
  3. Expansions, new products, new menu items, new services, new or expanded contracts are all newsworthy. 10 Ways To Publicize Your Small Business
  4. Sponsorships of local sporting teams, high school athletics, charity fundraisers are also considered newsworthy. Go to your county’s fair and bid on something and win it. Pose for a photo with the young person who raised the calf, chicken, pig or goat. Send the photo to the local newspaper. Boom, publicity.
  5. Monitor the news and see where what you do might fit with a reporter or news outlet. For example, if you repair computers or other high tech equipment, be ready to give advise on preventing a cyber breach at home or at work the next time hackers from Wikileaks release something or a major business or government entity is hacked. It’s only a matter of time before this happens. Own a drug store? Do a release on over the counter flu remedies. Travel agents can write about the best times to fly at the start of summer vacation or how to negotiate TSA during heavy travel times like Thanksgiving, Christmas, July 4, etc.
  6. Business professionals like accountants can do year-end publicity on how to prepare for tax season. Lawyers can schedule interviews when new laws come into effect. Public bathroom access for transgender people is one example of the law where professional advise would have been useful. The same is true for gun laws, licenses to carry concealed weapons and on and on. 10 Ways To Publicize Your Small Business

More Ways To Keep Publicity Going 10 Ways To Publicize Your Small Business

Publicity is not like a tattoo or statue where you do it once and forget about it. Business promotion via local publicity is a process and like all processes has to be attended. So here are a few more tips!

  1. Find out who covers business in your community and get acquainted. Reporters and editors receive dozens if not hundreds of releases and pitch calls every day. Yours is more likely to get read if the reporter/editor knows who you are.
  2. Write press materials regularly and send them out routinely. I used to have a rule that I would send out a release at least once a month. This was at a very large and already well known company. For those who are not already those things, it will take more work and more releases. For the new business clients I work for I recommend at least one per week if possible.
  3. Don’t forget trade journals. Local business and media will often cover the fact that a local person wrote for a trade journal.
  4. Invent your own media. Hosting your own podcast or curating news from your field of interest and posting it on line are just a couple of options for small business owners that were not available even five years ago.

Harold Nicoll, APR is the owner of Media Public Relations and can be found at www.media-public-relations.com.

 

9 Steps To Successfully Market Your Self Published Book

Use these 9 steps to promote your book, sell more copies and land a publisher.
Use these 9 steps to promote your book, sell more copies and land a publisher.

9 Steps To Successfully Market Your Self Published Book. Lots of people write and self-publish their own books. In the age of electronic publishing, nobody even needs paper never mind ink anymore. But the challenges for authors remains the same and that is this; how to get people be aware of and eventually read their books. Of course there are no guarantees but these 9 steps will certainly not hurt.

  1. Build awareness. You need to build recognition for yourself and your book(s). Think of this as your brand. The best place to start is locally. If you can start to garner recognition in your own backyard you have a chance of garnering some more nationally. Join a local book club and offer to share readings from your work. The same approach can be used with libraries by offering to give a talk about the book. You will not get paid but you can start to build a following.
  2.  Write a blog. Writers need to write and this is a way to share your insights with an audience. Blogging platforms are easy to come by and not expensive. The one you are reading is a good example.
  3.  If you do not have a twitter account and Facebook page devoted to your writing then start both. The key to success with social media and blogs is to contribute to them regularly.
  4. Make friends with local booksellers. I know the book store is becoming a thing of the past but given where you live there are bound to be some.Once they know you, see if you can do signings, or bring the talk you gave the library and the book club and give it again at the book store.
  5. Find a charity (like a local animal shelter) and arrange a book sale with 100% of the proceeds donated to the charity. It’s another way to start building that recognition as not just a good writer but a socially responsible one too.
  6. Contact the local schools and see if you can base a writing workshop for teachers with the book as the center piece. Schools are strapped for resources and the fresh insight a published author can deliver will be worthwhile and appreciated.
  7. Submit your work to publishers. I do not have to tell you that self-published writers have the most difficult time getting any traction. But to be taken seriously you will have to eventually get published. Yes, you will be turned down a bunch of times. But you only need one ‘yes’.
  8. For signings, workshops, charity events etc. write and send press releases to the local media. Be sure to include a photo of yourself and the book cover along with how to contact you for comment.
  9. Take the publicity you gain from number 8 and post it to your web site. Publicity from a third party will boost your credibility in the eyes of potential customers and publishers.

For anyone who acts on all nine of these or even a few, let me hear from you and how you did.

P.R. ‘Offensive’ Heather Bresch Doubles Down On EpiPen Price Increase

P.R. ‘Offensive’ Heather Bresch Doubles Down On EpiPen Price Increase. Admiration for public relations practitioners who are advocates for their enterprises  when they are mis-represented in the press is where the profession earns its merit and distinction. Scorn is what gets heaped on us when we are spinning bad behavior. Pity is what I feel for people whose livelihoods depend on working in such places where trying to explain away something terrible is the order of the day. Say hello to Mylan Pharmaceuticals and CEO Heather Bresch who blamed ‘the system’ for the massive price hikes on a pharmaceutical that has not been changed or improved lately. Rather than reconsider the price increase and her own salary boost CEO Bresch pointed a well manicured finger of blame at ‘the system’ for this failure, claiming further that ‘no one is more frustrated than I am’ at whoever this ‘system’ is.

Mylan CEO Heather Bresch ; a public relations disaster for her company. P.R. 'Offensive' Heather Bresch Doubles Down On EpiPen Price Increase
Milan CEO Heather Bresch; a public relations disaster for her company. P.R. ‘Offensive’ Heather Bresch Doubles Down On EpiPen Price Increase

Price Spike

Milan CEO Bresch is the daughter of U.S. Senator Joe Minchin, D-W.Va. Her company’s EpiPen’s are used to save the lives of people who experience severe allergic reactions that cause their airways to close. Mylan acquired the decades-old product in 2007, when pharmacies paid less than $100 for a two-pen set, and has since been steadily raising the wholesale price. In 2009, a pharmacy paid $103.50 for a set. By July 2013 the price was up to $264.50, and it rose 75 percent to $461 by last May. In May 2016 the price spiked again to $608.61, according to data provided by Elsevier Clinical Solutions’ Gold Standard Drug Database.

Bresch Interviewed; Blames Customers

During an interview on CNBC, CEO Bresch argued that a ‘lack of transparency in the complex health care system — with bigger cuts for everyone along the supply chain — “incentivizes higher prices” in the industry. She pointed out that copays and deductibles are on the rise, too. “This system needs to be fixed. No one knows what anything costs,” Bresch told CNBC on Thursday.The Mylan CEO compared the health care industry to the real estate mortgage crisis of 2008. “Our health care system is in a crisis…This bubble is going to burst,” Bresch said. Bresch did not cite increased costs of raw materials, new taxes, regulations, or demand for the increase in price. Nor did she explain why the same medicine is available in Canada for hundreds of dollars less.

When Corporate Governance Is Broken

Who To Blame For That Salary Increase? Bresch had no explanation for the over 600% in pay raises she has received as CEO, with her earnings going from approximately$ 2.5 million a year to over $18 million a year. No vague ‘system’ to pin that on.  Shareholders should look to the Mylan board of directors for an explanation since they are the ones who approve these increases.

What Is A P.R. Person To Do?

Everyone has bills to pay, I get that. Hell, somewhere someone is explaining how the Clinton Foundation is a good thing. But behavior like this from the Mylan CEO will get people killed. Someone is going to die because they could not afford an EpiPen.  And it may be lots of people who die needlessly because Heather Bresch needs the money (sarcasm). So Mylan public relations people, polish your resumes and get out there. No need to go down with this ship. Leave your CEO to ride this one to the bottom all by herself. She deserves it and you deserve better.

NOTE: the writer is an asthmatic who takes epinephrin in pill form daily.

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Mylan CEO Bresch Creates PR Nightmare

Move over Martin Shrkeli. Corporate greed and hubris has a new face. While her appearance is only slightly nicer than Shrkeli’s her ability to generate public relations troubles for her company are on an even par. And what of the public relations people who have to provide cover for this wide awake nightmare? Keep reading. Mylan CEO Bresch Creates PR Nightmare.

Heather Bresch 

Mylan is the pharmaceutical company that cornered the market on the life-saving EpiPen and then dramatically increased its price. Not coincidentally Mylan also jacked up the pay of top executives.

Mylan CEO Heather Bresch is under fire for increasing the price of the EpiPen and taking a raise of over 670%.
Mylan CEO Heather Bresch is under fire for increasing the price of the EpiPen and taking a raise of over 670%.

Between 2007, when Mylan acquired the patent for the EpiPen, to 2015, the wholesale price went from $56.64 to $317.82 — a price increase of 461 percent. Similarly, compensation for Mylan CEO Heather Bresch increased astronomically over the same time period. According to NBC News, Bresch went from making $2.453,456 in 2007 to $18,931,068 in 2015, amounting to a 671 percent raise over eight years. Good work if you can find it. While Bresch was not the only executive at Mylan to receive added compensation, hers was the highest and most egregious.

Fortunate Son Daughter

With apologies to Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bresch is the daughter of senator Joe Manchin, a Democratic U.S. senator from West Virginia and the state’s former governor. Heather Bresch’s career has risen along with her father’s, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by her critics. Her father got her a job around 1992 when her stint as an aerobics teacher in California did not go as planned. The future senator was elected Secretary of State in 2000 and in 2002 Heather was named the company’s lobbyist. There are plenty of other examples of how Heather’s responsibilities increased as her father won elections. Read them all here: How a senator’s daughter became CEO of the company at the center of the EpiPen controversy.

Bresch had other P.R. gaffes when her MBA from West Virginia was rescinded. Mylan CEO Bresch Creates PR Nightmare

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Bresch did not actually have enough credits for an MBA from West Virginia University, even though the news release announcing her new, high-profile job said she had earned one. The school, through its own investigation, found Bresch had been given grades “pulled from thin air” because of her “high profile.”

Her father was finishing up his third year as governor at the time, and Bresch’s critics were vocal about whether her connections led to this drama. The school took the degree back. But that’s not the end. She reincorporated her U.S.-based drug company in the Netherlands, which cut its tax liability. Ouch. Mylan CEO Bresch Creates PR Nightmare

Flack For Mylan

To their credit the company has a statement on their web site and puts the blame for the increase on ‘the current changes in the healthcare insurance landscape.’ To read the entire statement click here; http://newsroom.mylan.com/access. But the media is not buying it. Mylan and Bresch are buried in bad publicity.

The company’s twitter account makes no mention of the EpiPen but the rest of the twitter-verse is awash in negatives. These come from all parts of the media; left, right and all other ways media leans today. It amounts to universal condemnation. So what can public relations people learn from this?

Easy. Some leaders are terrible. Terrible at understanding the optics of juxtaposing their big raises along side of price increases for medicine that is life saving for millions. Terrible because they failed to learn anything from Martin Shrkeli. Terrible because they spent their lives above the rules based on their ‘high profiles’. Terrible because they have no shame. Could Bresch and Mylan recover? Sure. Reduce the price immediately, say you are sorry for the whole thing and promise to learn from these mistakes. Hands of those who think this is likely? No one? Okay.

What will hopefully happen is that the negative press and government investigations that will follow force the board to fire the well connected but hard to love Bresch from her job as CEO. Bresch will then claim she was victimized because of her gender. But no one will believe that either.

Mylan CEO Bresch Creates PR NightmareMylan CEO Bresch Creates PR NightmareMylan CEO Bresch Creates PR NightmareMylan CEO Bresch Creates PR NightmareMylan CEO Bresch Creates PR Nightmare

Delta Airlines Computer Outage Public Relations Failures

On August 9, 2016 Delta Airlines experienced a system wide computer failure that caused the cancellation or delay of over 2100 flights. The airlines crisis plan had all the right elements but fell short when executed. Delta Airlines Computer Outage Public Relations Failures Delta Airlines Outa

For Lack Of A Horse

For lack of a horse the kingdom was lost. But for the lack of a single router, all of Delta Airlines was too. On August 9, 2016 Delta Airlines entire network went down stranding thousands and creating an on line/news crisis. At first glance, it seemed like Delta had managed the crisis reasonably well. CEO Ed Bastian had issued two apology videos. The company waived re-booking fees for those left stranded, gave anyone delayed by more than three hours a $200.00 voucher and had CEO Bastian participate in a Q&A session led by the A.P. At first look, it seems like textbook crisis management, or was it? Delta Airlines Computer Outage Public Relations Failures Delta Airlines Outage. 

Bad I.T. Infrastructure

Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian speaks during one of two apology videos issued in the wake of the August 9, 2016 system wide network failure that stranded thousands.
Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian speaks during one of two apology videos issued in the wake of the August 9, 2016 system wide network failure that stranded thousands.

Scratch a little deeper and discover that Delta does not have the infrastructure needed to manage their I.T. needs including routing, ticketing, employee scheduling, or on line communications with the Delta App. “A single router should not bring an entire system down,” said computer software and Agile Development expert Ryn Melberg. “There should be redundant systems located at different sites around the country or even the world that can take over in the event of a crisis like this. That everything from networks to public relations is all run from a single location is a sign that redundancy is not built in at Delta.” Delta Airlines Computer

Lackluster Customer Communication

Customers complained that they could not get any real time information from the Delta App for several hours. Add to that the stumble and finger pointing between the airline and Georgia Power over who was at fault over the power outage that caused the Delta ‘house of cards’ to fall that ensued. That anyone stuck at an airport cared in the slightest who was to blame for the outage seems doubtful.

Delta later claimed responsibility. But why not delay assigning blame? This only diverted  resources at Delta that could have been better employed. According to a statement Mr. Bastian later made;

“About 2:30 Monday morning, we lost power to our core data center. The reason we lost it was that we had a power control module that failed. That caused a loss of the transformer that was providing the core power to the data center,” Bastian said in the AP interview. “We have redundant systems in place to take into account power failures. … Unfortunately, when the system tripped over to the B source, we did not have certain servers wired to protect against the power outage. As a result, it caused the entire system to come down.” If your redundant systems are wired incorrectly or just not wired at all, then there is not a redundant system. This statement strains credibility and would have been better left unsaid. Instead, Delta confirmed that their I.T. practices were lacking. “This makes you wonder what else is there at Delta that is not wired correctly or exists at all,” Melberg said. Melberg also stated that the computer infrastructures at most airlines was decades old. “All the new technology in the airline industry is inside the planes, not on the ground,” she stated. “From phones to ticketing etc. you expect to hear that screeching modem sound from 25 years ago when you call or log on to one of the airlines.” Delta Airlines Computer Outage Public Relations Failures

Two Hundred Dollars Not Enough

Consumer advocacy groups representing airline passengers sent a letter to Delta asking the airline to increase its $200 voucher offer, noting some displaced families paid far more than that to accommodate themselves in the wake of the outage, never mind what it would cost to re-plan, re-book another trip. Delta Airlines Computer Outage Public Relations Failures

In part, the letter read: “Families have missed weddings, organized tours and cruises. Businessmen have missed meetings. And, many others have been faced with financial repercussions because of Delta’s technology failure. Your airline’s customer service response has been disappointing. This event was not a cancellation of choice by passengers, nor was it an “Act of God.” This is a failure by Delta.” The letter goes on to say that the Aug. 21 date to rearrange travel affected by the outage is “unreasonable” and the $200 voucher is “clearly inadequate,” noting that European Union regulations require compensation almost three times that amount.

In a statement, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said: “After this catastrophic, system-wide implosion, Delta owes every passenger a full refund — no questions asked – or rescheduled flights without costs or time limits. This airline must do more than just waive change fees. It must make each and every customer whole again.” Delta Airlines Computer Outage Public Relations Failu

Sincerity Lacking

It takes more than ‘playing like’ you care to manage a crisis. While Delta’s crisis plan had all the right strategic planning and tactical elements, it failed because customers remained far worse off afterward in spite of anything the airline said or did. Choices on domestic air carriers are fewer and fewer, but who of those passengers will choose Delta if another choice exists? Delta Airlines Outage.

Avoid P.R. Problems: Cyber Self Defense When Playing Pokemon Go

Avoid P.R. Problems: Cyber Self Defense When Playing Pokemon Go. Pokemon Go is the most popular game of its type ever. The challenge for players and others in positions of responsibility is the worry that playing could open them and their employer up to hackers and other on line vulnerability. The lines between personal time and work are pretty blurry. Lots of people use their smart-phone for both business and their personal lives. Bad idea. You do not want to be the guy whose phone provided the opening for cyber bandits to loot the company of business and personal information. Adding to that pain is the negative attention your enterprise will receive from media and customers that will accompany such a cyber breach. Here are some ways to prevent these types of vulnerabilities.

Avoid P.R. Problems: Cyber Self Defense When Playing Pokemon Go. These steps will help prevent your personal information from getting into the wrong hands while playing Pokemon Go.
Avoid P.R. Problems: Cyber Self Defense When Playing Pokemon Go. These steps will help prevent your personal information from getting into the wrong hands while playing Pokemon Go.

Go To The Nintendo Site

All new Pokemon Go players need to register with Nintendo and not register from their Google accounts. Players who will go to the Pokémon Go site will receive a unique I.D. and password there. Using your own Google account to register will make you more vulnerable to cyber threats, so do not do that.  Another thing worth knowing for players and non-players is to keep your financial information separate from other information on Google. You need a barrier or firewall between yourself and all that financial information. Don’t keep everything in a single place.

Never Use A Debit Card On Line

Using a debit card on line for Pokémon Go credits is not a good idea. The reason is that it is too difficult to recover your funds if they are stolen from a debit card.  Use a credit card, but not your regular credit card. Get a low limit credit card just for on line purchases. Using a separate credit card with a low limit for buying Pokémon Go credits, iTunes songs, books, and movies and other on line purchases will not make your funds as vulnerable.  I have a card with a low limit that I use exclusively on line. With a low limit my exposure is lower if the card is hacked, lost or stolen. Plus the card I have covers losses from cyber and other theft. Everyone should have one if they are going to make any purchase on line.

Keep Locations Off The Internet

In the age of social media so many want to post the details of their lives, adventures playing Pokémon Go and vacation details on line. My opinion is that this is another bad idea. No one would consider posting a sign on their home that says ‘I’m away, please rob me’ so why would you post the same information on your Face Book or Twitter account? So be smart. Post the results of your Pokémon Go hunt when you get home. Same for vacations.

For others who do not want to be tracked on line or live and/or work near sensitive installations, playing Pokémon Go might not be a good idea. So if you do not want anyone to know where you are, just don’t play Pokemon Go or any other Geo-Caching type of game. Avoid P.R. Problems: Cyber Self Defense When Playing Pokemon Go

Physical Dangers Playing Pokémon Go

Unlike most web and app based games, Pokémon Go requires players to explore the environment in and around their neighborhoods and towns. Players should use good judgment while playing. Play in places where there are lots of other people around, in well lit parks or other places that are well travelled. Don’t go in places that look suspicious, and whatever you do, never play while driving.  Turn the alert off on your phone while driving to avoid any possible temptation. Rules for Pokémon Go in the car are the same as for texting. Just pull over if you have the urge to hunt for a bit. Avoid P.R. Problems: Cyber Self Defense When Playing Pokemon Go

Problems Averted

By following this simple advise, Pokemon Go players, their business colleagues and their loved ones can stay out of trouble by keeping their personal and business information safe from the prying eyes of cyber thieves who are always on the prowl, looking for easy Internet prey. The game they play has far more downside than any other. Avoid P.R. Problems: Cyber Self Defense When Playing Pokemon Go

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Top Radio Talk Shows

The Top Radio Talk Shows & How To Reach Them

Top Radio Talk Shows. Local talk radio used to be one of the best tools available to publicize anything! Every town with enough people had its own AM radio station and every one of those had at least one local host who was always looking for guests. While the number of local radio programs is a mere fraction of what it once was, there are still plenty of opportunities to book guests on national programs. The competition is fierce and you will need a really good pitch to get on any of them, but it can be done. By having these resources handy you will save a lot of time looking for contacts, phone numbers, emails, etc. Instead of spending time on those you can devote energy to crafting the perfect pitch.

Now some shows do not book guests, and that is fine. But you can still get a release or announcement read on the air by a national host. Rush Limbaugh, who does not book guests, once read a news release from me about a new treatment for bone cancer. It was epic. And while Limbaugh has his critics, he may be single handedly responsible for saving AM radio.

Top 100 Radio Talk Show Contacts
Talk radio still offers plenty of opportunities for public relations professionals.

Talk radio as a listener-participation format has existed since the 1930’s. John J. Anthony (1902-70) was an announcer and DJ on New York’s WMRJ. It was located in the Merrick Radio Store at 12 New York Boulevard in Jamaica, Long Island. After some marital troubles, refusing to pay alimony and child support, he sought professional help and began his own radio series where listeners would call in with their problems in 1930. Radio historians consider this the first instance of talk radio. Maybe, but who is going to argue.

Talk radio is not limited to the AM band. “Non-commercial” usually referred to as “public radio“, which is located in a reserved spectrum of the FM band, also broadcasts talk programs. Commercial all-talk stations can also be found on the FM band in many cities across the US. These shows often rely less on political discussion and analysis than their AM counterparts, and often employ the use of pranks and “bits” for entertainment purposes; the morning zoos which started in the 80’s are still around as is Howard Stern though you have to pay to listen to Howard now. In the United States and Canadasatellite radio services offer uncensored “free-wheeling” original programming. ABC News & Talk is an example of “repackaging” for the digital airwaves shows featured on their terrestrial radio stations.

To see our list of the top 100 radio talk show contacts click here: Top 100 Radio Talk Show Hosts. 

 

Virtual Teams Downside & The Death Of Camaraderie

Virtual Teams Downside. There are lots of people who champion the idea of working from home or some other location that is not the office. Most of the advocates of working from home are the people who want to work from home. They declare that they are more productive with fewer distractions or interruptions. In the age of the Internet and the knowledge worker if I get my deadline met at noon or 2:00 a.m. what difference does it make as long as the deadline was made? Compelling points all, but each misses an important component that contributes to the success of any work group and that is team work and better interpersonal communications between members.

The Charge of The Light Brigade was a series of miscommunications and blunders that got a lot of British soldiers killed by their own artillery.
The Charge of The Light Brigade was a series of miscommunications and blunders that got a lot of British soldiers killed by their own artillery.

Non-Verbal Cues

There is so much more to human interaction and communication than words on a page or spoken over a phone. Critics of those who work from home find that there are more misunderstandings or miscommunications as a result of the absence of non-verbal cues, which is also known as body language. Experts believe that 50% to 70% of human communication is non-verbal. There are also added costs of video conferencing equipment and licenses, added web security and the overall inconvenience of not being able to walk a few feet and speak to a colleague.

Death By Friendly Fire

In the military miscommunications cause death from so called friendly fire. The military factors the deaths from friendly fire into the cost of miscommunication. For military miscommunications, this price can be really high. The people killed by friendly fire pay the highest but there are consequences for the people who initiated the mid-directed weaponry.

For business, the costs are also high but instead of being “KIA” the costs manifest in security breaches and regulatory problems, which are high costs, but not life or death. That said, there is no reason not to take miscommunication very seriously. As stated above, in the military the people who died and those who caused the death both suffer greatly. So think  about what happens when both sides in a company miscommunicate?

We tend to blame one side (the one we are not on) when there is a disagreement over meaning and intent. Public relations people and employees in any industry need to remember that all communication is a two way street. One side of the communication needs to be receptive and the other needs to be clear. Stop thinking about and in terms of the blame game and think more about this problem of geographically diverse employees as an  issue of process that needs fixing.

Virtual Public Relations Teams

This article on the pros and cons to virtual pubic relations teams was published in SpinSucks on April 19, 2016 and was written by Gini Dietrich.

When I worked for an agency here in Chicago, there was one thing that drove me absolutely insane: They clocked you in every morning.

There was one day that I worked 22 hours, but by golly, if I weren’t at my desk by 8:30 a.m., I would be docked pay.

It drove me crazy. It didn’t matter if you were at the office until 9 p.m. working on a new business pitch (as it often happened) or traveling with clients and working more than 12 hours, you had to be at your desk by 8: 30 a.m.

Now, those of you who know me well, know that 8:30 a.m. is midday for me, but that’s not really the point.

The point was your butt in your desk chair was rewarded, not the billable hours or getting results or even happy clients (though I had a married client who cornered me in a hotel and then complained that I wasn’t doing my job, but that’s another story for another time).

Virtual office? Many people are skeptical of those who claim to be working from home.

And, let’s be real, when I’m told I have to do something, I don’t react super well. It’s that whole having trouble with authority thing and the main reason I went out on my own.

Productivity Doesn’t Have to Happen At Your Desk

Fast forward to today where I run an organization that is distributed across North America and Europe.

Because of time zones, everyone works their own schedules—with a few scheduled team and client meetings thrown in—with the goal of, I don’t know, getting their work done.

Let me give you an example.

On Friday, I took a SoulCycle class at lunchtime. On my walk over there, I talked to someone who might invest in Spin Sucks Pro and worked out a deal for next steps. I took the class and, on my walk back, I talked to a new business prospect who verbally agreed to hire us.

Then, I had a hair appointment on Friday afternoon and, on my walk there, I spoke with our web developer and got through six action items. While sitting in the chair, I got all of the Spin Sucks blog posts for this week read, edited, and scheduled.

I was incredibly productive like that and I didn’t have my butt in my desk chair.

If I were in the typical agency world, I would have had to take half a day off to do all of that. Or, in reality, I would have scheduled my hair appointment for a Saturday and I would have taken SoulCycle at 5:00 a.m.

Instead, I write at 5:00 a.m. because that’s when my brain is freshest and there are zero interruptions and I ride my bike at lunchtime when both my brain and my body need a break.

There isn’t anyone who a) sees me working at 5 a.m.; or b) is clocking me in every day.

And it is glorious!

Are Virtual Teams Becoming More Popular?

Yesterday, Spin Sucks reader and my friend, Travis Peterson, sent a picture of a friend of his who just set up his new office.

It’s a gigantic umbrella on a Florida beach, with a beach chair, a folding table, his smartphone, and his laptop. Literally right on the beach.

How would you like that set-up?

The world, it is a changin’.

When we got rid of our physical office location in 2011, it was pretty scary. No one had a virtual team back then and there were a couple of prospects who thought we were a fly-by-night organization (even though we were six years in by then) because we didn’t have an office.

I actually had a prospect tell me she couldn’t do business with us because she couldn’t get past the fact that we didn’t all congregate in the same space every day.

When I asked her if that was because she planned to visit us, she said, “Maybe on the rare occasion I’m in Chicago.”

Today, the virtual team seems a bit more commonplace and I often wonder if we were the right agency for her, if she’d still have a problem with it.

Even still, it seems like the only companies that are doing it today are tech. Even in the agency world, we are an anomaly.

The Pros (and Cons) to a Virtual Team

But there are some major pros to setting up a business this way, other than working as I did on Friday afternoon:

  • You can hire anyone, anywhere. If they are best for the job, it doesn’t matter where they live and you don’t have to disrupt their lives by moving them to your headquartered offices (not to mention not having the expense of the move).
  • Everyone is BYOD, which means the cost of equipment is pretty much nill. Today, everyone has their own computers so we allow them to use that for their work. Our IT professional services all computers and they are required to install the software we use (DropboxZoomSlackLastPass), but the expense of buying everyone a new PC every year or so is completely gone.
  • No land lines exist anymore. Clients have direct access to their teams through cell phones. There no longer is the need for a land line and almost everyone is no longer skittish about providing their cell phone numbers.
  • The flexibility is incredible. As you saw by my Friday, I don’t care where people work, when they work, or how they work, as long as the work gets done and the clients are happy. Of course, you do have to attend meetings and generally be around for clients on their work schedules, but I don’t care if you do it from the chair of the hair salon or on the beach.
  • When we were in an office, I would visually watch people take note of other’s schedules. We had a content manager who liked to go to the gym at 4:00 p.m. She always came back to the office, but it was usually around 5:30 or 6:00, when most people had already gone home for the night. So no one saw her “make up” those couple of hours. Instead, they got mad that she would leave that early. That no longer exists!
  • Clients are also distributed. Maybe not in the same way, but we work with clients in North America, Europe, and Asia. So the fact that we have the technology down pat to use video chat for meetings is a gigantic plus. If we were in an office together, we’d not have it as professional as we do today, just out of necessity.

The only thing I really miss about having a virtual team is the one-off brainstorms that happen after you have a really good client meeting and want to bounce ideas. We’ve tried to replicate that through video chat, and it’s a nice replacement, but it’s not quite the same.

And, for the team members who are a little more extroverted than me, I know the drop-ins to people’s offices is missed (I don’t miss that because I never could do deep work in the office).

Those truly are the only cons so the pros far outweigh any resistance to building a business this way.

For those of you who have a virtual team, I’m curious to hear if you love it and why.

And, for those of you who don’t, what do you think it would take—or is it even possible—to work this way?

image credit: zoom (but I will get a photo of us during our team meeting today and replace it)

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

Centerpoint Energy Public Relations Screws The Pooch

Centerpoint Energy Public Relations Screws The Pooch. A contract employee for Centerpoint Energy was taped hitting two family dogs with pipe wrench. He claimed the owner sent the dogs after him as he was there to cut off their gas. You can watch the video and decide for yourself which story seems more plausible.

http://www.breitbart.com/texas/2016/04/12/centerpoint-energy-contractor-smacks-dogs-face-wrench/

Granted there is little coming back from video of an employee attacking two family pets with a wrench. The company’s response? Centerpoint showed almost as much courage as their worker did by not doing anything to remake their reputation with their customers, shareholders, the national news media or any other stakeholder group. It was the grand slam of doing nothing. If there were awards for inaction, Centerpoint would win.  And its worth remembering that here in Texas, power companies compete. How many dog lovers will want to switch their service to Centerpoint after this? The answer is zero, in case you were wondering.

Dogs-Attacked By Centerpoint Worker
Brandishing a pool umbrella and a pipe wrench, this Centerpoint worker assaulted two dogs who were both inside their own fenced yard. Centerpoint has done a poor job of articulating their position.

And what about the other Centerpoint employees who still have to go into people’s yards? How welcome will they be? It’s difficult to imagine a conference room full of college educated adults sitting around and actively choosing not to do anything. Actively deciding that our side of things will go untold. Deciding that they are powerless to remediate a nasty negative, never bothering to consider that life’s lemons can be turned to lemonade. I guess it was too much work, or the ‘smart’ people who worked there really do not know how to do anything, or maybe they are ridiculously unqualified to work in public relations. There are plenty of public relations departments that are full of H.R. refugees who need a place to sit until it’s time to retire or die. I don’t know if that is the case at Centerpoint, but these amateurs are getting the public beat down they deserve, instead of the dog this time.

So, with the well-deserved criticism, here is what they should have done and still could but probably won’t.

Here is what the public relations people at Counterpoint did wrong:

  1. Never acknowledged the injury to the pet dogs. In the litigious age we all live in no one will ever apologize. But what would have been so wrong with offering to pay for the veterinary bills their customers now must because of their employee freely swinging a wrench and making contact?
  2. No public statement about this incident is on the company’s web site. The best way to make sure your side of the story never gets told is not tell it.
  3. “CenterPoint Energy did not return a call for additional information from Breitbart Texas.” Unreturned phone calls to national media mean that the lines in the story where Centerpoint could have told their side of things were used by someone else with a less favorable view of the company. Fail.
  4. Fire the asshole that did this. I mean, come on. Those dogs look about as dangerous as they actually were which was not at all. Even the mailman has mace for situations where they are actually attacked. This dick attacked the dogs, they were no threat to him.
  5. Announce renewed training for all contract employees to make sure this never happens again. At least this sends some kind of message that the company takes this seriously and does not want a repeat.
  6. Reviewing their procedures? Really? What kind of non-answer is that? Is there a ‘hit dogs with tools’ policy at Centerpoint that needs reviewing? I call bullshit.

When other public relations practitioners lament the reputation of the profession, I point to this and other incidents like this where someone had the ability to make something right, but did not. Unfortunately for p.r. people we get the reputation we deserve. So do sissy workers who are scared of the family dog.

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