Now is not the time to score political points

With the horrific mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, TX where 19 fourth-grade students and two teachers were murdered, one would think politicians would take a breath.

But for some, political power is all that is important. We are in the midst of a primary season leading to the Nov. 2022 mid-term elections. Mere hours after the shooting, we saw politicians pushing their political agendas on gun control and related matters. Today, the day after, we see would-be politicians running social media ads touting how they will stop school shootings if people would only vote for them.

Yes, a big part of public relations strategy is to be relevant. PR people always try to tie their clients or causes to current events. But to use such an incredibly horrible tragedy to further a campaign message to “vote for me I can fix this,” is nauseating.

Now is not the time to sell products or sell candidates. Now is the time for reflection, sympathy and empathy.

If there are any political strategies we would advise a client right now, it would be to stay quiet and support the grieving families in any way possible.

Not see it as an opportunity to get elected or re-elected.

Kids were murdered. Your political careers can wait.

Excite your readers with words, not exclamation points

There is a tendency for some beginning writers to add exclamation points to the end of their sentences! Some think that if they end a sentence with a (!) that it will excite the reader and indicate what the reader just read is really important.

I disagree, especially in the public relations business.

Exclamation points need to be left in third grade. If you have something exciting to say, say it with words not punctuation. A reader doesn’t need to be signaled that what they just read is really important or exciting. It is like telling someone they need to turn on their computer before they can use it. People know.

Plus, it makes the writer look inexperienced.

So say it with words, not punctuation marks — especially not exclamation marks.

Circling Back

The PR business is built on words. And the words we use matter.

Over the past several years, we hear the same cliche words used over and over again in the media and in our personal and business communications. Here are some:

Circle Back: This means “I’ll get back to you,” which is a common way of really saying “Don’t know, let’s forget about it.”

Narrative: People describe what they say as a narrative. “The industry narrative is such and such.” How about, “Here’s the story, or here’s the reality.”

Reach Out: I hear or read someone use this term a million times a day. Aren’t they really saying “I’ll contact you?”

I could go on and on and you could as well.

In the marketing / public relations business words matter, so our advice is to speak in plain English and avoid over-used cliches.

The Labor-Management Cooperation Committee: A recipe for success

For more than three decades, Farr Marketing has represented Labor-Management Cooperation Committees (LMCC) in several industries. Our longest relationship is with the IBEW Local 11 and NECA Los Angeles Chapter LMCC.

For those not familiar with the LMCC structure, it is a Committee composed of precisely what it says: Labor and Management. Why have so many industries adopted the LMCC? The LMCC structure provides the optimum vehicle to promote their industry. After all, after the collective bargaining agreement has been negotiated, there needs to be a means to promote their industry so work flows to contractors who in turn employ skilled labor.

For the IBEW/NECA LMCC, we promote the union electrical industry to a range of audiences which include:

Business — Corporations who design and build the largest, most high-tech projects in Los Angeles. Union electrical contractors and electricians have worked on many of the most high-profile projects in Southern California.

Political leaders — Political leaders are an important target audience for several reasons including the approval process needed for large-scale projects. They are an equally important audience for Project Labor Agreements (PLA) when large public projects are created.

General public — Visibility among the public is always important. The public elects politicians and local neighborhoods and homeowners associations are very vocal about projects that are planned in their backyard. In addition, recruiting new workers is always an important objective, although currently the business environment is strong and there are as many jobs as there are trained apprentices and journeymen electricians to fill those jobs.

Media — Media have different views on unions and projects. Nurturing and maintaining good media relations is critical. Unions have many great stories to tell about how they are providing great jobs to a trained workforce (that they train). Those stories need to be told as it sets the tone for development growth.

Our marketing and public relations campaigns are geared to these three audiences. The strategy is to convey how our LMCC clients benefit the economy, workers and the public at large.

We do this in a number of ways. We produce materials that show the finished product that our client, in this case union electrical contractors and electricians, have produced. We do this photographically. Being the electrical industry, we are afforded the opportunity to show dramatic lighting in large, complex venues.

We also promote the training that is afforded young men and women who are seeking a skilled career. Publicity on projects is also a vehicle when a high-profile project is being built and especially when it is completed.

The same can be done for all construction industries. Each trade makes a significant contribution to a high-rise office building, stadium, housing complex and more. Whatever the construction trade, promoting the skills and knowledge of union workers benefits everybody.

PR for the nonprofit gala

Every nonprofit organization needs to fundraise. There are many avenues to raise much-needed funds. Grants, fee for service and fundraising events, just to name a few. Many opt the events route and that means putting on a large gala.

Having a gala event with supporters sounds great. It can be at a lavash hotel, or a supporter’s home. It can have a dozen people or hundreds. But before you go booking the Four Seasons Hotel, give it some thought.

The upside of a gala, of course, is to raise money. Also, it is an opportunity to bring more supporters into you tent and PR opportunities. But there are also downsides. First, the time, effort and energy it takes to put on a large-scale event can be daunting. Depending on the details, it often takes upfront cash before one dollar has been raised. And finally, there never is a guarantee that a fundraising event will be successful.

One aspect many nonprofits struggle with is should the work be done in-house or hire consultants. If the organization doesn’t have the capacity, there really isn’t much choice. You can’t commit your entire staff to one thing when you have an organization to run. So if you work with consultants, what kind do you need?

There are companies that will do the entire program for you, the marketing and PR, graphic design, printing, catering and on and on. If you get the right consultants who charge reasonable prices, you usually will come out ahead.

PR in the digital age

In this digital age in which we live, organizations, corporations and public figures have to be extra, extra careful what they say.  The wrong statement or the right statement said the wrong way, will undoubtedly result in immediate Twitter backlash and instant apologies.

Actor Mario Lopez learned this the hard way when he appeared on the Candace Owens podcast.  She is a right wing commentator and their interview led to a discussion of genders and how some in Hollywood said they will allow their children to choose their sex.  Lopez disagreed, much to Owens’ delight.

Before the microphones could be turned off, Twitter erupted. He was skewered for his comments and many called for E Networks to fire him.  His publicist came out with a statement that Lopez’s remarks were ignorant and insensitive.  Within hours Lopez apologized and promised to educate himself about gender issues.  He didn’t want to lose his career over some ill-thought out comments.

What’s the lesson we can learn from this episode, and countless others that are similar?  Is it that nobody can give their true feelings in the media?  Are opinions other than what media agree with career-changing?  Kathy Griffin is still feeling the effects of her Trump stunt, two years later.  And she is on the left.

From a communications perspective, or a crisis communications perspective, the lesson is not what you say, but how you say it.  Can anyone in Hollywood have a right of center opinion?  Perhaps.  But beware how it comes out.

Instead of Lopez’s publicist throwing his client under the bus, perhaps someone should remind the publicist that it’s his job to properly prepare clients for interviews. 

First, if you’re going on a very right of center show, know that.  Same if you’re being interviewed by a left wing reporter.  Know what areas the interviewer will want to get into and be prepared with appropriate responses.  Do some prep work, publicist.  There is no reason a public figure or a representative of an organization can have an opinion.  But when discussing sensitive, political views, be prepared in how you express your views.  If you are going to remove all filters and just let it go, then be prepared for the public to react.

I don’t know the Lopez story about this interview and why he did it.  Perhaps Owens knew she would have an ally.  She was right.  So she did her job to get her views across.

Lopez didn’t do his job in speaking his mind without thinking it through.  Yes, sometimes whatever you say will be the wrong thing or said the wrong way.  So maybe do a pass on the show.  If you can live with the consequences, then go for it.  If you want to keep working in your chosen industry, give the media some thought before the mic is turned on.   

Words PR people should never say

Those of us in the marketing/public relations business are well aware that the foundation of communication is good writing. If you can’t write, then don’t think of a career in PR.

That being said, there are a number of overused words, phrases and grammatical symbols that we need to retire. They don’t have to be put away permanently, just used when necessary.

And I just used one.

“That being said…” is so overused and meaningless that, well, we need to stop. We say it after we make a statement that is to be followed by another statement that contradicts it. If we make a statement, why do we need to state that we made a statement?

Here are some other words that need to go:

“Space.” “Our firm works in the digital space.” Hua? In other words, your company is an expert in online work. When did “space” define work?

“Transparency.” This word is used only about a billion times a day, most often by news personnel and politicians. Everybody wants “transparency” which simply means full disclosure. Issues can’t be transparent. Glass can.

“Could care less.” This is a simple grammatical mistake. When people say they “could care less” they are saying they do care. They mean they don’t care and in that case, it should be “couldn’t care less.”

“Best.” How many emails do you get that end with the word “best.” What the writer means is “all the best” which has been shortened to best. Either way it is meaningless. If you’re writing to someone who is not an enemy, what else would you say, “worst?”

“In all honesty.” Again, an email useless term to begin a thought. When you want to make a statement that you feel is serious, some lead with “in all honesty” which is meant to warn the reader that the writer is about to contradict them or offer a different opinion. “I want to say this to you, but in all honesty, I need to say that.” A waste of time writing and reading those words.

I could go on and on and will in future posts. If we took all our emails and removed the unnecessary words and phrases, we’d all have a lot more time on our hands.

Right?

Loughlin and Litigation PR

Word is spreading that Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli, who are accused of paying bribes to get their daughter into USC, now are shopping for a crisis litigation PR expert to resurrect her image.

We are not among the firms contacted, and Loughlin’s publicist denies the report.  However, two crisis PR firms, who chose to remain anonymous, told CNN they were called to discuss public relations strategies because Loughlin is quite upset that all the news about her is about the scandal and not her career.

Whether this is real or fake news, both firms said they turned down working for Loughlin.  And for good reason.  When someone is faced with criminal charged – charges that could result in jail time – a career should take second place to beating the case.  It won’t do much good to have a great image while in prison.

The example that is commonly cited for a celebrity image resurrection is Martha Stewart.  Stewart was convicted of a stock fraud scheme and served time in prison.  She did her time, her company continued without her, and when she was released she picked up where she left off.  Today, few remember or care that she is a convicted felon.

Since Loughlin pleaded not guilty, rather than guilty as the others did, the government added charges of money laundering and hence potentially more time in prison if convicted.  This could be legal maneuvering or maybe denial, but in any event, it doesn’t look good for Loughlin and Giannulli.

So let’s take a look into the future.  Suppose she does prison time (unlikely as it is) and after a year or so gets released.  Can she pick up the pieces of her acting career?  Already since the indictment she has lost her Hallmark contract and other acting jobs.  She is essentially “Hollywood toxic” as of now.  Her daughter, Olivia Jade lost most if not all of her sponsors for her YouTube channel.  But she is young and Loughlin claims she didn’t know of the scam.  Time will tell.

If Loughlin goes to prison, her first task will be to write a book.  It will be a tell all book about “doing the right thing” and how to succeed after a major setback.  This, if she admits wrongdoing, and that’s a big question.  Then, the release of her book will be timed with her release from prison so she can make the talk circuit rounds.  She’ll do The View, Colbert, 60 Minutes.  The usual round.  She will talk about what she has learned and how it made her a stronger person.

For those of us in the crisis PR business, there is a template for re-creating an image.  There are limits, such as heinous crimes that can’t be forgiven, but most celebrities are the white collar sort of criminals.  People forgive and forget, especially if they were not hurt personally.

There is no doubt Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman will land on their feet, sooner or later.  Fortunately for them they have the financial means to stick it out, buy the best lawyers and pay the bills.  The lasting mark will be on the internet, on their Wikipedia pages that will note their transgressions but it is more likely than not that if they do time, they will resume their lives with the help of professional crisis PR experts.

Key to PR is media attention. But how to get it?

Everybody wants PR. Publicity and marketing for nonprofits can make a huge difference in fundraising and growth. And when in litigation, PR can help win or lose a case.

But today’s media world is dominated by politics. The left vs the right. Investigations and interrogations. It appears the air is being sucked out of storytelling, which makes it more challenging for nonprofit organizations to convey their message to target audiences.

And with all the talk of political legalities coming out of Washington and Sacramento, civil litigation cases need to be much more intense, interesting, unusual and important than just a couple of years ago. More important, they need to be positioned as such, which is where professional PR people come in.

Today, communicators need to be smarter than yesterday. Social media is fast overtaking traditional media and always beats them out in speed. Many people get their news from Twitter and by the time the LA Times posts the story, it is already around the globe on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.

While all of the above is the reality, it also is the reality that communications today is as, if not more, important than ever. With all the avenues of communication, come opportunities for more outlets. Yes, stories get out quicker and often not by professional journalists. Everybody carries a camera in their pocket and within seconds it is online. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for journalistic professionalism. Yes, a video may be posted, but the explanation or what happened can only come from journalists.

This is all to say that if a nonprofit or corporation wants its share of publicity, it has to be smart, fast and nimble. It work with professionals who spend all day focused on the media so when opportunities arise, they can jump in. This is especially true when a crisis occurs. In crisis communications the biggest challenge is time. You need to get your message out immediately because the media demand so. Giving it thought and strategizing is important, but then action must be taken.

These challenges will only exacerbate. The world will function faster not slower. As information travels at the speed of light, so much communicators.

And that’s what we do.

Who won the Amazon/NY PR war?

For about two years, Amazon, the company all of us wished we had thought of and started, went on a massive nation-wide search for a second headquarters. Some said it was genuine while others called it a publicity and PR stunt. In either event, they eventually settled on Long Island, NY for their planned expansion that included 25,000 jobs and generous tax revenue — eventually.

About 360 cities competed for the venture, wanting the political credit for bringing their communities jobs and a partnership with the fourth largest company, and fastest-growing company in America if not the world. NY Gov. Cuomo and NY City Mayor De Blasio worked hard to make the deal happen and celebrating when it did.

Until it didn’t.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Amazon pulled the plug. Why? According to their own statements, the push back from local politicians and community activists foresaw a rocky road ahead. Who needs constant problems and roadblocks when you’re just trying to get packages shipped? So local NY politicians, who sing the praises of socialism, won and Amazon basically said, “who needs this.”

Those in NY who worked hard on the deal were not happy, but everybody went into spin mode, blaming Amazon for not being a good partner and unnecessarily killing a deal they worked so hard to make happen. They didn’t mention that the local politicians, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others wouldn’t even meet with them. She Tweeted the richest man in the world should not ask for a hand out from working people. That may be so, but tell that to those who were looking forward to a good job with good benefits and who now are left out in the cold.

Do people love Amazon more than socialism or the other way around? If you want a frying pan sent to your house by tomorrow, try calling someone in Venezuela.

Like most controversies, there are two sides to the story. But one thing is for certain. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, knows how to run and build a company. Not sure the same can be said for most Washington politicians.

Amazon has a large presence in NY already and an even larger one in Virginia, not to mention probably every state in the country. It is hard to tell who the winner is and who the loser is in this PR battle.

I don’t think it is New Yorkers who were looking forward to a better career.