Five Reasons to Comment in Bad News Situations

20 10 2009

As communications professionals, we all run into situations where our companies or clients have to deal with unpleasant or negative news. Our first instinct is to go into “ostrich” mode – burying our heads in the sand and hoping things will just go away.

Responding in these tough times is gut-wrenching. It’s hard work. It’s unpleasant. It’s time consuming. And it’s fraught with risks. But a bigger risk comes with NOT responding.

So, when the situation comes up and “No comment” is the only thing your CEO wants to say, ask him or her to consider that:

1) The story is going to run anyway, with or without our input. Why not get our key messages into the story?

2) When we say “no comment,” people tend to infer that we’re hiding something … they assume we are guilty, wrong or uncaring. Do we want to allow that to happen?

3) By being silent, we enable our opponents (or the media) to control the story, set the agenda and dictate the timing. Do we want to be forced to play defense from such a disadvantage?

4) If we don’t participate, we lose the opportunity to tell our side of the story. Wouldn’t it help our cause to show our empathy for those affected, to sincerely apologize for our mistake or to show what we’re doing to remedy the situation?

5) In the absence of information, people just plain make stuff up. If we don’t provide information, someone else will. Do we really think what they say about us will be positive?

Finally, share with your CEO this Wall Street Journal quote from the CEO of Delphi, Steve Miller, whose company recently emerged from a difficult bankruptcy: “I was very outspoken when we (first) went into Chapter 11. But there was a lot of pushback and criticism. We made the decision to shut up. But if I had to do it all over again, I would keep speaking out. When you are in a controversial situation, you are going to be criticized whatever you do. The critics said ‘Steve Miller is the devil incarnate,’ and we said “No comment.” The only thing out there for the public was the notion of a devil.”

So tell your story … or there may be Hell to pay later.

Marketing Catchphrases – Hurl Your URL?

14 10 2009

Catchphrases. We all see ‘em. We all hear ‘em. And some of us try to create ‘em. And we hope they’ll stick, especially in today’s world of 140-character messages.

Last week, while presenting at the Marketing in the 21st Century symposium, I had the pleasure of hearing Corey Perlman, president of eBoot Camp, Inc., speak to executives and business owners about getting the most marketing bang out of their web sites.

Corey was great! Real passion. Great content. Solid strategic and tactical advice.

And, most memorably, he tossed out a catchphrase – Hurl your URL – (he pronounced URL like “earl”). Of course, his intent was to remind everyone to advertise their web site addresses everywhere they can. Simple, but often overlooked, advice.

It got me thinking about the power of catchphrases.

What catchphrases have stuck with you lately?

Better yet, what catchphrases just didn’t quite work?

And what catchphrase would you nominate to the National Catchphrase Hall of Fame, if there were one?

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about Corey and his advice for marketers, visit or check out his book “eBoot Camp – Proven Internet Marketing Techniques To Grow Your Business.

Greatest PR Blunders – Part 2

6 10 2009

The response to last week’s post about your biggest PR blunders was overwhelmingly … well … absent. Not one comment. So there are no lessons learned I can share.

Except perhaps the one to be learned from my blunder, which apparently was to pose this question in the first place.

Maybe it’s that people don’t want to admit they made a mistake. As the line in the old Allman Brothers song, These Days, said: “Don’t confront me with my failures, I have not forgotten them.” Sometimes the mere memory of a mistake can be painful. 

Maybe today’s professionals don’t have time to focus on past mistakes while they’re busy grappling with the present and worrying about the future. Of course, we’re reminded of the George Santayana quote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Maybe it’s that the most frequent blog commenters seem to be from the agency side, and “agencies don’t make blunders.” Now, show me an agency that’s never made a mistake and I’ll show you an agency that’s just not trying hard enough. (But that’s another post for another time!)

So let’s take a shot at a different question. Here’s one that drew some interesting responses when I posted it last week on several LinkedIn Groups:

What’s on your professional “bucket list”?

Most of us have a personal bucket list of things we’d like to do before we die. Maybe it’s to drive 125 mph on the Autobahn. Visit all 50 U.S. states. Run with the bulls in Pamplona (not so much!).

But as a professional, do you have a professional bucket list? If so, what’s on it?

If you’re a PR person like me, maybe it’s scoring a positive story in BusinessWeek … or working on a PR project with racing legend Mario Andretti… or landing a Fortune 500 company as a client.

So, what’s on your professional bucket list?


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