If you thought that a bit of negative online PR didn’t hurt businesses, look at this outstanding article from Mathew McDougall regarding the ongoing BP oil spill. The corporate PR fallout is proving as damaging for the company (estimated at $14 billion to date) as the environmental impact on Mother Nature.

It raises the question for me – can a business afford not to monitor, measure and manage its own messages online?

In this age of constant online comment, blogs, tweets, customer forums, 24-7 News sites and the ever-increasing power of individual platforms – such as the recent impact of Nestle’s share values from the implosion of their Facebook Fan page – it seems more important than ever before for companies to address issues online as soon as they are raised.

We’ve seen the disastrous effects of non-positive action, denial, finger-pointing and the like in recent weeks here, too. That particular blog is costing Kwik Fit 100 customers per day, but in the absence of a responsible management team on board, one expects nothing more – or less, really.

So, my top tips to handling negative online PR? Well, three simple steps really:

* Be open and transparent in approaching the issues.

* When you’ve listened to the issues, listen some more.

* Do whatever it takes to put it right. Whatever it takes.

…well, actually, I am. And not on behalf of my clueless PR pal Rubella, either.

Following the popular reactions to my introduction of the staggeringly-awful PR bimbo Rubella Pymley-Bowles from Ostentatious PR in this post, I am calling to you all to highlight further examples of shocking PR, to help educate the fluffier PRs out there. Have had exposure to some nightmare PR this week, which I’ll highlight on another blog post in the near future.

Looking to build up a portfolio here of bad PR, ill-timed PR, and of course totally ostentatious PR. It’s an education process.

So, please add your experiences – the good, the bad, and especially the ugly. It’s not necessary, of course, to name and shame actual Agencies, but the education process of dealing with poorly-timed or ill-prepared PR can hopefully be illuminated.

It’s your space – feel free to vent. With my blessings. Who knows, there may be a few good PR examples to come, too.

No, seriously, it is actually a piece of PR representing Disney: but the pitch – judging from the information sent to a Press contact who was kind enough to forward it on – looks as if it could have been delivered by the hapless Rubella Pymley-Bowles, incumbent account executive at Ostentacious PR. Complete and utter PR fluff, and totally irrelevant to the target audience.

If you have any examples of Rubella-isms in Mickey Mouse PR copy, please send them in: it’s a true education for us all.

WHY MAGIC MATTERS

It’s grim up north – men from Manchester, Newcastle or Liverpool are more likely than anyone else in Britain to have never experienced any ‘magic’ in their lives. Most people are lucky enough to have had what they feel is a magical moment whether it is the first time they went on holiday as a child to becoming a parent themselves. For others it could be the one in a million event like winning the lottery or seeing their football team clinch a dramatic last-gasp cup final victory.


But for seven per cent of Britain’s adults – the equivalent of 3.5 million people – there has been no ‘wow’ factor at all in their lives so far, said the study by Disneyland Paris. Men seem to be more unfulfilled – 10 per cent of them have never had that special moment compared to just six per cent of women.


Regionally, Newcastle is the most depressing as 13 per cent of Geordies are still waiting for their personal ‘wow’, followed by similarly high proportions in Manchester and Liverpool. In contrast, Bristol seems the place to go as only four per cent have yet to experience their magical moment, the lowest of any UK region.

One in three adults, 32 per cent, had their first magical moment as a child when they experienced something for the first time. Disneyland Paris commissioned the survey because it believes this is the kind of reaction it gets from younger first time visitors. Most (53 per cent) define a magical moment as something so wonderful that, at the time, the feeling is that life does not get any better than this, said the survey of 1,800 UK adults.


A further 35 per cent said it has to be an event they remember for the rest of their lives to count as a magical moment. And for many, it is something they experience as a family though it can be as simple as witnessing a spectacular sunset or a parent reading fairytales to his or her children. Nine in ten (90 per cent) of parents claim they deliberately try and create magical moments as a family, most believing it helps them bond with their children.

The results were analysed by Dr. Louise Bunce, a developmental psychology lecturer at Oxford Brookes University. She said: “Magical experiences and magical moments are important and meaningful to us. “They also play a pivotal role in our psychological health and wellbeing, as well as for the development of our imagination, creativity and understanding of the world.” This was particularly true in a recession where positive experiences can act as a protective barrier against the gloom.

Disneyland Paris found, among its own visitors, that the most magical experiences at its site were watching the daily parade and the first sight of Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Hugh Wood, Vice President and Managing Director of Disneyland Paris; “No matter how old we are, there is a still a part of us that believes in magical moments. “One in three people believe sharing fairytales is one of the most magical things a parent can do with their child so we are encouraging people to embrace them and create as many magical moments as possible.”

I guess the thing which irks the most regarding the above PR content is the simple fact it is a complete waste of the editor’s time. Not relevant to him or his audience. The lack of research from the PR pre-pitch also further damages the reputation of not the London PR Agency from where it came (that’s already screwed), but an iconic global brand like Disney itself as well. Nice.

This tip is going to annoy all those PR Agencies which try and advocate separate content for all media relations, so they can charge a copyright fee for every new content distribution on behalf of their clients.

And the fifth tip?

Simple: re-use and re-distribute your PR content as many times as possible and in as many different places (online and offline) as possible. Gain extra exposure, increased content leverage, greater reach for your key messages, and – the main benefit for smaller businesses – added value for the same content across different channels and via re-usage. And no additional copyright fees.

So, how does this work? Again, it’s very simple.

You write a blog post – content position number one. Then consider this: extend it to form a press release for localised News outlets. Position number two. Tweak it slightly so it can then go to trade magazines. Position number three. Throw in some search keywords and push it out across online industry forums. Position number four. And why not also consider using the basis of the content for an email promo to your key clients too? Position number five. If its got wide enough appeal, push it across your Twitter and Friendfeed accounts too. Positions number six and seven.

Hey presto – one piece of content, slightly amended, and used in different formats and giving maximum return. Now pick up the phone and ask your PR if they’re delivering this kind of content for you today. If not – why not? Post their answers here.

OK, for the likes of Rubella Pymley-Bowles, the hapless account executive from Ostentacious PR, here’s a media relations masterclass – straight from the horse’s proverbial mouth. Hopefully, this will be useful to those looking to deliver PR too:

THE BASICS

1: Find the unique, interesting and different elements of your business.
2: Ensure you can prove any statements you make with cold, hard facts.
3: Research every publication – do not send blanket emails or editorial.
4: Remember that you need to earn a journalist’s trust and respect over time.
5: Make your press releases lively, fact-filled and relevant – not PR spin.
6: Utilise your knowledge and present your editorial with personality.
7: Do not ever mention you advertise with a publication to a journalist.
8: Remember that all News is people-based. Bring them out of your business.
9: Do not try to be controversial for the sake of it. Journalists get bored easily.
10: To hold attention, all you need to be is relevant, timely and interesting.
11: Request a Forward Features list on first contact, as and where relevant.
12: Never question a journalist’s editorial judgement. It’s their domain.
13: Remember that ‘off the record’ is usually an area of immense danger.
14: Only target relevant publications for your products or services. No spam.
15: Appreciate that the journalist is not there to serve you – other way round.
16: Do not be chatty, gossipy or unprofessional. Stay focussed and brief.
17: If you can offer fresh, new, exciting content regularly – perfect contact.
18: Track the career moves of journalists you know – build a media database.
19: Realise that most publications have online versions and online journalists.
20: Monitor target media yourself and build up a published Press portfolio.

PRESS RELEASES

21: Never make a press release more than two sides long – brevity counts.
22: Write the headline last – it should flow once the press release is complete.
23: Make sure you have one item of News only, not a series of items.
24: Utilise one key individual for your business as the quoted person.
25: Do not try to be funny, witty, smart or sarcastic – present the facts only.
26: Only use statistics if you can back them up with attributed sources.
27: Do not knock down your competitors – it’s unprintable and unprofessional.
28: Piggy-backing on a current News issue is great – if you add editorial value.
29: Ensure you supply at least one high-resolution image at 300dpi.
30: Make sure any pictures are taken professionally, not by an amateur.
31: Remember who the editor is presenting the story to – be relevant to them.
32: Never ring a journalist to ask why a press release was not published.
33: If your editorial is included, add value by presenting a Feature around it.
34: Utilise knowledge and expertise – only add opinion if totally essential.
35: Avoid PR jargon such as ‘ground-breaking’ and ‘industry-leading’ phrases.
36: A press release is like a perfectly-formed circle – end it where you start.
37: Understand the editorial structure of the publication before you write.
38: The first paragraph needs to tell the entire News item, and succinctly.
39: Be positive, upbeat and engaging in your editorial, but forget the PR spin.
40: Do not re-send the same press release. Send it once and media monitor.

DEADLINES

41: Always ask a journalist if they are on deadline. Always. Every time.
42: Understand that a journalist is busy, stressed, bombarded – help them.
43: If a journalist needs information, provide it without question or delay.
44: Do not miss a deadline given by a journalist. You get one chance at this.
45: Make your conversations to the point – ideally, only ring with one point.
46: Appreciate that you are not the Editor’s best friend, and never will be.
47: Understand that the paramount thing on a journalist’s mind is deadlines.
48: Make yourself available to give comments on deadline when needed.
49: Be consistent, reliable and a ‘safe pair of hands’ for a ‘rent-a-quote’ item.
50: Understand the publication’s deadline and editorial production structure.
51: News changes rapidly – do not be upset if a deadline removes your story.
52: Understand different deadline structures for magazines and newspapers.
53: The pace of News-gathering is increased when you deal with online Press.
54: Include a blog hyperlink with all emails – it gives more content on deadline.
55: Provide content, features, comment in one accessible place for a journalist.
56: Ensure your website has a Press area with editorial and images included.
57: Remain professional and polite when dealing with journalists on deadline.
58: If a journalist is on deadline, ask when is a good time to contact them.
59: Every journalist respects their deadlines, and so must you to gain ground.
60: Journalists will usually be more stressed and less receptive on deadline.

TALKING TO THE PRESS

61: Research the name and title of any journalist you intend to speak to.
62: Practice the conversation before you pick up the phone.
63: Never ring a journalist on deadline.
64: Always ask a journalist if they are able to speak before you continue.
65: Demonstrate you read the publication – identify different editorial sections.
66: Offer an exclusive wherever possible to the journalist.
67: Never mention competing publications, it usually winds an Editor up.
68: Ring a journalist to brief them of a relevant issue you can comment on.
69: Do not contact a journalist to see if they have received a press release.
70: If a journalist requires additional information, provide it within the hour.
71: When contacting a publication, be polite to everyone. People talk.
72: Demonstrate your expertise when possible, but do not ramble on.
73: Never interrupt a journalist – let them tell you what they want and when.
74: Add editorial value to the publication with every interaction you have.
75: Brief a journalist before you send a press release – by phone and quickly.
76: Do not invite a journalist out to lunch unless you add real editorial value.
77: Only present yourself as an expert or industry guru if you can back it up.
78: Be passionate about your business – talk to the Press from the heart.
79: Do not try to use the Press as a mouthpiece to gain column inches. Ever.
80: Work with a journalist, become a trusted source of information and ideas.

THE ESSENTIALS

81: Do not offer an exclusive to more than one journalist. Common sense.
82: Follow your target publications religiously and identify opportunities.
83: Realise that media relations is straightforward, and not a Dark Art.
84: Being in regular contact with a journalist will never guarantee publication.
85: The media landscape is changing – be aware of editorial nuances.
86: Be confident, calm and collected in your dealings with the Press.
87: Understand that successful media relations is not about PR spin.
88: If you ever lie, or mis-represent, to a journalist – say goodbye for ever.
89: Journalists are busy most of the time – but they are still human beings.
90: Have an awareness of the political leanings of a publication. It matters.
91: Do what you say you will, on time, and as agreed with a journalist.
92: If asked to provide editorial, keep to the word count requested. Always.
93: Journalists know what they want and need – do not second guess them.
94: Never mention that you used to be a journalist. It is totally irrelevant.
95: You might think you can outsmart a journalist. Wrong – it’s their rules.
96: PR schmoozing holds an increasingly useless impact to the Media.
97: Sending flowers, free gifts and the like rarely influences publication.
98: Do not be nervous or stuttery – present the facts and the angle. Simply.
99: Always back up your information with reputable sources and facts.
100: Remember that your News is useful, but not invaluable, to the Press.

RULE NUMBER 101: Never, ever, break Rules 1-100.

Not sure, but it’s looking like the traditional PR providers are on their death knoll, according to recent reports.

Such as this article from PR Twitterati and non-traditionalist Mark Borkowski, highlighting that tools such as Sidewiki are pushing the Ab Fab brigade to the brink of extinction. Not that he cares of course – his kind of PR is contemporary.

Then there are the new breed of PRs, such as We Are Social – instigators of the Innocent Drinks Twitter feed and much, much more. I can imagine traditional PRs reading this new kind of PR delivery and quite literally crapping themselves when a client mentions the words ‘social’ and ‘media’ in the same sentence. Great work, and totally audience-focused for Innocent.

Wondering what a traditional PR looks like? Check out Rubella Pymley-Bowles from Ostentacious PR for a few clues. Awful.

Let’s face it – editors are pulling sources of news and articles from a multitude of areas now, including social media channels. The availability of news, comment, and public interaction means that the Press no longer ‘relies’ on PRs to fill up empty spaces offline and online when deadlines draw nearer. That’s right, PRs – the Press don’t need you, even if newsroom numbers have been cut.

Another important fact for those buying PR is this – the “It’s who you know” argument – so often rolled out by PR firms to newly-signed clients – is less and less relevant: let’s be honest, most media contacts are shifting weekly at the moment, let alone staying put on a publication or news site online for months on end. Those days are relegated well and truly to pre-Recession.

So, the death of PR? Maybe the end of a certain type of PR. As an editor, I’m not sorry to see it go. I welcome in the new and say a goodbye to the bad old days when up-their-own-arse PRs controlled far too much content supply into the British media.

My predictions? More and more media channels will open up, leading the Press to work with fast, reliable, non-pretentious distributors of information. Contemporary PRs have nothing to fear. Old school Ab Fabs? Time for a career change, I think.

(Re-posting this after an inquiry about the worst example of bad PR I’ve seen. Think of it as educational rather than critical)

…and the dubious award goes to these guys.

A huge thumbs-down to the PR Directors at PR firm Dada.co.uk today: following a mis-pitch yesterday on behalf of their client Whyte & Mackay, in which a press release on the drinks firm’s re-brand was sent to a printing industry-based Newsroom (ie mine) a follow-up email was sent by myself, asking the PR Account Director to remove us from their irrelevant PR issues.

Email received back, apologies accepted, we all move on and continue to cypher the 250 daily emails from PRs.

Or so I thought.

This morning, another email from a different PR Account Director at Dada, telling me about the wonders of how Whyte & Mackay are using Twitter to promote and launch Campaigns for consumers. Fabulous. And totally irrelevant. Again.

Many thanks to the second PR Director at Dada – this guy. He was too busy to take my call earlier, asking if they could actually confirm that they had removed our newsroom email address from their database, and if they would please, please, please stop PR Spamming us. Too busy to talk to the Press? Another clanger for a PR firm to commit.

So, in the absence of a decent resolution, here we are.

To top it all, Dada’s PR pitch on their site claims that ‘No-one can offer you a PR service like DADA’ and – for completely the wrong reasons – I am now inclined to agree.

Now pass me that chocolate fireguard, it could come in useful.

Well, I thought the week had been going a little too smoothly. And, as if by magic, within three minutes of that thought, a PR relative of the infamous Rubella Pymley-Bowles from Ostentatious PR was on the phone. And she truly surpassed herself.

In the words of Run DMC, it goes a little something like this:

Phone rings.

Editor: Hello, ****** speaking.

Rubella MkII: Hi. Do you have a Features List?

Editor: Sure, for which magazine. We publish two here and a number of business Directories.

Rubella MkII: Oh right. Erm. Don’t you do the Disability magazine now?

Editor: ‘Fraid not, that title was pulled more than a year ago. Don’t you have any up-to-date Media databases?

Rubella MkII: Erm. We might have something of use to you.

Editor: Only if it’s relevant to the printing and/or sign industries – do you?

Rubella MkII: Erm. Aah. We promote hearing aids.

Editor: Can’t see how my Readerships will be too bothered about that. Do you have anything relevant?

Rubella MkII: Isn’t that relevant? Can you use that for those magazines?

Editor: Not unless we launch a niche magazine to hard-of-hearing print directors. Or deaf sign makers. Ahem.

Rubella MkII: Erm. (No laugh, or indication of a joke having just been made)

Editor: Thanks for the call, I must get back to production on our totally-irrelevant-to-your-Client mags.

Rubella MkII: Erm. OK. Bye.

And there we have it. Now, before any of the fabulously effective, switched-on PRs and PR Account Directors out there deem it fit to tell me I was harsh and unfair on an individual who is so clearly an inexperienced, ill-informed, and pretty damn green PR Account Exec, think on this – who instructed her to put the call through in the first place?

Aah, yes, an Account Director, looking to write something/anything under the ‘Media Relations’ column of Deaf and Dumb Hearing Applications Ltd’s PR Client Contact Report for the month of August. Give me strength.

Re-posting this following an incredibly-pointless media call from a London-based PR fluffy…

First things first!

PR people – when you are in the process of ringing editors to check and see if they received the press release you emailed 12 days ago (how painfully annoying is it when they ring up chirpy, gormless, and completely unaware that their head is firmly stuck up their own arse?!) – ask this simple question FIRST:

“Hi, is this a good time to talk – are you on Deadline?”

Rather than launch into a micro-pitch about the benefits of your Client’s latest widget-thing to the readership of my magazine…you will win SO many more brownie points if you demonstrate a bit of understanding of how a typical Newsroom works.

Typical PR conversation:

PR: “Hi is that the editor?”

Editor: “Yes.”

PR: “GGGRRRRRRRREAT. Hiyaaaaaaaaa, this is Rubella Pymley-Bowles from Ostentatious PR. We are representing the client More Widgets Limited, and I emailed over a press release 12 days ago about their latest widget, which is being launched exclusively in a remote part of the country tomorrow. Was the press release of interest?”

Editor: “I get 250 emails a day from PRs.”

PR: “RIIIIIIIGGGGGGGGGGHT. Busy then? Gosh! (pauses on phone) So…did you read the press release?”

Editor: “And it was sent 12 days ago?”

PR: “Yah. I thought it would make a lovely News story for your readers.”

Editor: “All our News stories for that magazine are picture stories. You didn’t send any images. Have you ever read the magazine?”

PR: “Sure, sure, sure. So, shall I re-send it today with a Client company logo?”

Editor: “Company logos are not appropriate images for a News story, unless the story is a re-brand. Have you read the magazine News section before?”

PR: “Yah. I can re-send the press release right now with a company logo.”

Editor: “I am not sure you are understanding me. You need to send relevant images at 300dpi resolution – no logos thanks.”

PR: “I think there was an image with the original press release – can you check?”

Editor: “Not right now. As I said, I get 250 emails per day. And I am on deadline now.”

PR: ” Sure, sure, sure. I will re-send the press release today with an image and call you to check you have received it then – is that ok?”

Editor: “Which email address do you have for editorial here?”

PR: “I don’t have that information to hand.”

Editor: …confirms email address…

PR: “GREEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAT, I’ll email and call you later then.”

Editor: “It would be more useful if you simply email the information. Again. With an appropriate image. At 300dpi resolution. As I have already mentioned.”

PR: “Sure, sure, sure. My account director asked me to check if you had the client information.”

Editor: “Wonderful. Does the account director read the magazine?”

PR: “Yah.”

Editor: “Excellent. So this conversation, in reality, should never have happened then. Had you been fully and properly briefed. Or even better, if you had read the magazine before randomly picking up the phone.”

PR: “Sure, sure, sure. I’ll re-send the information and call you later in the week.”

Editor: ” Just the email will be fine. I don’t need a follow-up call from you to confirm that I have received your re-emailed information. As I mentioned, I get 250 emails a day from PRs, and would rather not get multiple emails covering the same stories from PRs. Thanks.”

PR: “Ahhhhhhhhhhh, sure, sure, sure.”

Editor: “Thanks Rubella. Goodbye.” (puts down phone before PR continues to waffle and returns to deadline, muttering a select choice of expletives including fuckstick, arse and muppet).

Any PRs who consistently ask an editor if they are on deadline BEFORE a random pitch win my vote.

It could be argued that in these ever-advancing times of digitalisation, the trusted press release has little or no purpose for the modern and evolving newsroom. Not so. A good press release, well, written, impeccably delivered, and with stunning press photography will always be of value to the time-pressed Editor.

After throwing my thoughts on the subject into the arena in the past, there are further valuable hints and tips here on that trickiest of subjects – the winning press release. There are many, many PRs that need to read, digest, and utilise the information shared.