PRoactive | PR-Always Important, Ever Evolving

Mark LuskyThis isn’t your mother’s PR. While important cornerstones of public relations practice and policy remain anchored in long-standing traditions, emerging trends and technologies are turning public relations on its ear.

Company reputations can be built and burned in a day. Fast-flying tweets and viral videos can transform the obscure into overnight celebrities. One misstep or misstatement by a celebrity can ruin a previously unblemished career.

PR is more fickle than ever. To maneuver this realm successfully, strip the spin and tell the truth. Transparency needs to prevail everywhere, from corporate communications to custom labels on products. You’ll take your lumps occasionally, but ultimately the new PR environment is ferreting out liars and rewarding truthtellers.

The “manly man” tradition of never letting them see you sweat needs to be replaced with real, authentic communications. Far from being flung into the pits of profit despair, companies telling the truth—in some cases willingly throwing themselves on their swords—is leading to all types of positive press.

Remember the Domino’s Pizza makeover? A few years ago, their CEO admits on national TV to making a previously subpar product, which they have improved.

In March 2013, Forbes.com reported “domestic same-store sales growth of nearly 5% during the fiscal fourth quarter and about the same percentage for its international stores for that period and for the full fiscal year…. Domino’s renaissance began five years ago when then-CEO David Brandon launched a brand reboot, including appearing in some ads himself.”

Of course, once you start telling the truth, keep going. Recently, Domino’s “down under” started spinning its “biggest announcement in two decades,” and social media mavens were on them like the creatures gobbling up the earth in Stephen King’s TV miniseries, “The Langoliers.”

In March, The Australian reported, “Dominos 'game changer' campaign backfires, causes outrage on social media. If you are going to launch a game changer, you need to actually change the game...Pizza chain Dominos is suffering the ire of social media backlash after it promised to make a ‘game changing’ announcement, ‘the biggest in 20 years’...CEO Don Meij appeared in an ad revealing that Dominos would be adding more pizza toppings to its menu. The new flavours include the ‘interesting’ combinations of shiraz lamb, chicken and cranberry, and BBQ duck and blue cheese. Talk about an anti climax…Naturally, users are outraged.”

Here are three takeaways to consider when pursuing positive PR today:

  • Make your PR program congruent with corporate culture. For positive PR, you first need a positive, healthy corporate culture. With the ubiquitous presence of social media “reporters” today, trying to tell a positive tale when employees and/or customers are treated poorly will backfire. One look no further than an airline that promotes its great service, then seemingly does everything possible to make the experience only marginally tolerable.
  • Research and reach out. With so much being done via e-mail and other non-face-to-face interactions, it’s more important than ever to find a way to connect with influential media whose reporting carries considerable clout. Start building a positive relationship by offering (not selling) substantive story ideas that benefit their readers versus pitching a puff piece about your company. Be authentic and direct and be able to verify any claims you make. In other words, make yourself valuable to the targeted editor/writer by providing them useful ideas and information. Be candid, entertaining, and respectful of their time and deadlines. Once a media person realizes that you can provide benefit, build the relationship (and potential editorial exposure) over time.
  • Harness the hype. As Domino’s just discovered, hype can backfire. Companies that do a good job, honor their employees, and treat their customers well will get good reviews, both via social media and traditional media. Trying to prime the sales pump with exaggerations, misrepresentations, and a boastful attitude won’t cut it anymore. You might fool some of the people some of the time, but once a negative publicity firestorm starts, it can be hard to extinguish. Give yourself the best opportunity to stay entrenched in the “positive zone.”

Mark Lusky is president of Lusky Enterprises Inc., a marketing communications and content development company. Since 2008, he has worked with Lightning Labels, a Denver-based all-digital printer of custom labels, as a content developer specializing in expert advice articles. Lusky presents common-sense ideas grounded in doing what’s real and right for managing and enhancing public image.


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