Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"#MostUsedWords App" Launches #PR Offensive After Criticism [Abbott PR Blog]

Not that giving all one's personal data to a third party has ever been safe, and not that Facebook "quizzes" have ever been safe, either, but the firestorm around the new Facebook app "Most Used Words" really struck a chord with the 17 million Facebook users gave it permission to use its data.

And after the Comparitech blog did a breathless take-down of the Korean-based Vonvon, creator of the App, on its site Sunday, Nov. 22 in which it called it a "privacy nightmare." Comparitech specifically attacked the App's "oxymoronic privacy policy And called the company and the App a "shady data dealer" but not the only one to "masquerade behind a viral quiz mill."

The "nightmare" angle spread like a virus, shared across Facebook, becoming a trending topic there and also on twitter, where many accused the App of "stealing" personal data.

By Tuesday, the company had already sprung into action.

It posted updated language on its website that it was, as of Tuesday, Nov. 24, acting to "proactively" address the concerns by "significantly" reducing "the magnitude of access privilege" required by the App. It also clarified that the App does not collect users' email addresses, "so there is no way we can spam you." It also note

It's CEO Jonghwa Kim also took to the battle to Comparitech itself, sending a rather predictable legalistic and threatening message to the firm (noting that he was "deeply concerned about your false accusation") but also mentioning the positive steps it had taken, and explaining that the information collected, "is never stored in our databases." Comparitech published his letter as an update to the original post.

As for emails, Kim notes bluntly that, "As we do not store any personal information, we have nothing to sell. Period." He swears that the App never deals with Third Parties.

The company has been in existence for less than a year, but says it has more than 100 million unique users from US, UK, France, Brazil, China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, etc. and operates in 15 languages.


It remains to be seen whether this coverage will damage this Korean startup. It also remains to be seen whether this App is any more damaging or dangerous than any other Facebook App.

But the PR response by Kim and his company seems on point, and an effective demonstration of how crisis management is done: directly address both the alleged technical and ethical problems, then let people know.

By Stephen Abbott, Principal of Abbott Public Relations, a division of Abbott Media Group, which creates written messages which inspire, inform, educate and engage, in mass media, publishing and public relations. On twitter and Facebook.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Sorority Sisters Turn Selfie "Sin" Into PR "Win" [Abbott PR Blog]

Video of some sorority sisters who attended an Arizona Diamondbacks game but spent the entire game taking "selfies" of themselves and their food went viral this past week, but the episode turned into an excellent PR lesson.

The girls' actions went viral on social media when FOX Sports announcers caught them taking selfies of themselves and their food during the game, repeatedly pointing the camera on the sorority sisters as they continued to NOT watch the Diamondbacks play the Denver Broncos, instead making "duck faces" and laughing at their own camera phones throughout  the game.

When the video went viral on TV news shows and on social media, the Diamondbacks offered to give them all tickets for a "re-do" - and attend yet another game.

But the sisters, on their facebook page, said "thanks, but no thanks." And then turned their gaffe around by posting:
"Alpha Chi Omega at Arizona State University would like to thank the Arizona Diamondbacks and Fox Sports for reaching out to the chapter after last night’s game and subsequent media frenzy. We appreciate their generous offer of tickets to tonight’s game. However, instead of chapter members attending the game, we have asked the Diamondbacks and Fox Sports to provide tickets to a future game for families at A New Leaf, a local non-profit that helps support victims of domestic violence."
Whether the ingenious and socially responsible response was their own idea or that of the organization's PR team is unknown - and not really relevant. The fact that someone was smart enough to capitalize on the sorority's instant fame from their sports "sin" of not paying attention to the game to do some good for an organization is a PR "win."

[See also: the original story on Mashable]

Monday, August 10, 2015

#PR Isn't About "Happy-Talking" Customers [Abbott PR]

I’m sure it’s happened to you before. You drive by a business, and, perhaps not even noticing it at first, you cringe.  

"It’s funny," you may think to yourself, "but I haven’t been in the place since last November." Maybe you can't even remember why.

One way or another, you were put off by the place, and never went back.

Then you drive by a second business, and you almost want to invent a reason to stop and go back in, even though you may have no business to transact there. 

How does that happen? And (you might be thinking) how can I make THAT happen for MY business?

Some people view public relations as the domain of glad-handing, back-slapping "yes-men" or pretty faces who tell clients whatever they want to hear. But the  truth is, this kind of PR person wouldn’t be much help to the client who cringed, above, or to that client’s business. These efforts instead could be an expensive distraction; or worse, a waste of money. Simply trying to distract customers from a bad experience doesn't fix the underlying reasons for the bad experience. And it won't change perceptions if they have new bad experiences if they return.

Changing a negative reputation into a good one, or at least a neutral one, or reinforcing a business’ already-positive image, is really what public relations is all about. 

In the negative example above, becoming aware of the company's problems - whether it's poor service, shoddy merchandise or even the bad odor of the establishment - by using customer feedback effectively, then making sure that current and past customers know you are aware of their past bad experiences and are taking steps to correct them, are the first steps to changing bad perceptions.

Perhaps a sign out front, reading, "Newly remodeled," touting a new product line, or, even better, new management, would help entice disgruntled customers back into the door. But of course, real changes will have had to have been made. Customers are savvy, and can see through the old "new paint job" or "new signage" approach, IF there aren't real changes made along with them.

An ad in the paper and a mailer to past customers trumpeting a totally new approach to customer service, may help, too, as long as that claim is then TRULY backed up with EXCELLENT service and products and a clean environment when customers begin to return. (Because, again, savvy customers can not and will not be fooled - and you should not try.)

For the business with an already good reputation, but with little repeat business, a company e-newsletter, mailed every other month to regular customers and containing special deals to reward their loyalty may help remind them why they liked the business so much on previous visits. 

A Facebook page is also a great way to interact with customers on a daily basis, posting specials, customer and employee profiles and promoting new services and products.

Special programs to reward regular customers solidify that important base, and increase word-of-mouth buzz about a company. And of course, an effective social media presence on facebook and twitter, with perhaps a video element on YouTube, also backs up a company's reputation and are channels for effective and immediate feedback.

A paid advertising campaign highlighting satisfied customers may also be necessary to let people know that they, too, can have good experiences there. Advertising - online and in print - can also reinforce the good work you've done to improve customer experiences.

All of this underlines the seriousness of the profession of public relations. It involves the art of effective communication, writing skill, and  the ability to determine a course of action that will truly be effective in widely varying situations and appealing to diverse publics.

PR isn’t just happy talk, it’s a profession that helps make companies more successful through an approach of identifying positives and negatives and creating plans to addressing them in a systematic way.

Stephen Abbott is owner and principal of Abbott Public Relations, a division of Abbott Media Group, which can be found online at