Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pres. Obama Misunderstands Public Relations as a Profession (but he’s not alone)

By Stephen Abbott

During Pres. Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech in Washington on Tuesday, he stated that, “We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated but the winner of the science fair; that success is not a function of fame or PR but of hard work and discipline.”

In the midst of an admirable message for children, PR has unfortunately been used in a highly visible event as a derogatory term. It was portrayed as a way to cheat at becoming successful; a way to get up the ladder of success without actually accomplishing anything. PR is made out to be the opposite of hard work, or even discipline – and such a comparison came from the VERY MOUTH of the President of the United States!

This, of course, is a baldly false analysis of what public relations – TRUE public relations – is, or should be. And yet, it highlights long-held stereotypes of what people believe PR to be.

PR professionals have long known that public relations must be based on several factors or it simply won’t “work its magic” in the way their clients hope it will.

First and foremost, honesty must be at the core of any PR campaign. Without that, people see through it and label it for what it is: lying. Worse for the PR professional, exposure to perpetual lying in the name of PR means that some begin to see ALL PR as a synonym for bamboozling the public. This is the sin Obama committed, and inasmuch as others have actually said the same, he can be forgiven for piling on.

Secondly, PR must have at its core pure motives. People, contrary to what we may have heard, are smart; or at least they’re quite savvy. They can see through BS, and attempts to BS them. Clients who want to use PR to make yellow appear blue will make only the targets of their campaigns see red.

Finally, in a PR campaign in which a client is seeking to convince others that its behavior has changed had better have a client that is actually changing, and changing for the better.

When Paris Hilton claimed in a Larry King interview that she would, following a very brief but self-described “horrible” jail term, commit her life to charity and “helping others,” she was believed by some. But in the years since that promise, that hasn’t panned out, and she has been widely reported to be committed only to partying and gratifying herself, not serving others. She has hung her PR people out to dry, along with her fans.

Likewise, when a company is caught doing wrong, if it commits to doing good “from now on,” it had better do just that, and it’s the PR professional’s job to not only spread the promises, but to continue reporting those good deeds. That of course implies monitoring the client to ensure that promises are kept.

When a client’s promises and good deeds cease, a wise PR professional quits the charade and leave the client.

Luckily this hasn’t been my personal experience with clients, but sadly, it is for many others, leading to the misconception parroted by Pres. Obama during his State of the Union address.

Let’s hope that the positive actions of many PR pros begin to drown out the negative perceptions PR has in the minds of so many.

Stephen Abbott is principal of Abbott Public Relations.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Five Tips for Social Media Messaging

by Stephen Abbott
Principal, Abbott Public Relations

1. Use Keywords. Identify keywords that you will include in your posting or tweet that will help relevant publics find you and absorb your message. For the most part, this will be easy to do, but doing a little research may pay off – by getting you more hits. Use "search" in twitter to discover if these words are being discussed, including the tenses of those words (i.e. past tense, present tense.)

2. Be Relevant. Write about something your readers will find relevant and interesting. If I don't care about what you’re writing about, I won’t read it. It’s as simple as that. Relevancy within your profession is easy to find. What is going on that people can relate to, understand and gain relevance from?

3. Tie into Trends. What’s going on right now that has relevance to you and your business? My profession, public relations, can be tied into many trends on twitter. For example, when ex-House Majority Leader Tom Delay was sentenced to 3 years in prison, it was a top trend. I tweeted about how PR cannot help someone if they aren’t repentant. It’s not a cure-all, and used the trending phrase “ex-House Majority Leader Tom Delay” in the tweet.

4. Be Timely. Not all postings will be about an event, or trying to tie into trends, but as in writing news releases, timeliness may be vitally important to making your tweet or posting relevant. If your posting and tweeting about something that’s months out-of-date, chances are you'll be seen as out-of-date and even out of step. If it’s not in the news RIGHT NOW, especially on twitter, it’s not something about which you should be commenting.

5. Don’t Stop. Some companies 'try' social media and then stop tweeting and posting for 6 months, a year, or never come back. That’s a waste and risks losing the momentum they built up by engaging with others in the first place – not to mention losing the goodwill they earned by engaging with their customers! (And by the way, that’s what it's all about – being social.) Keep to a regular schedule, and assign a person or team to continue tweeting, posting on Facebook and blogging as close to daily as possible.

Ask Abbott Public Relations how we can be your social media content providers. For as low as $50/month, we can get your small business or organization into various social media environments. For more information, visit

Monday, January 03, 2011

How Abbott PR Can Make Public Relations ADD UP in 2011

By Stephen Abbott, principal of Abbott Public Relations

Public Relations remains a mysterious and nebulous concept for many, though it's actually not a mystery at all. It's an art and a science, applied to business and personal situations to address and solve problems that, if they're left to fester, can have a deleterious effect on one's reputation. That, in turn, can lead to reduced respect, reduced influence in one’s profession and, perhaps most crucially, reduced sales of one's products and/or services.

I've used the acronym "Add Up" as an example of how I approach public relations on behalf of clients and illustrate the process APR uses on their behalf.

Analyze the situation. Jumping in without even rudimentary analysis of the situation is like jumping into a lake one has never seen before – foolish, and possibly dangerous. A situation analysis in PR usually includes discussions with all of the relevant publics involved, be they management and owners, employees, customers and other stakeholders involved in some way with an organization, company or community. This helps the PR professional learn all the facts on the ground that could be leading to problems that may be contributing to a decline in reputation.

Determine problems. Being able to name a problem is a first step towards solving it. This is true in one's personal life and of course it's true in business as well. Once the situation is fully analyzed, PR professionals can then research the problems as they truly exist and begin to understand what PR tools and tactics will need to be addressed, which is the next step ...

Diagnose the situation. Doctors use their analysis of a patient's health to determine a diagnosis. In the same way, PR professionals can use the analysis and problems that arose in the early stages of the process to come up with a diagnosis, allowing them to move forward to the next stages.

Understand publics. Without an understanding of the publics who will be affected by the messages to be used to address problems and issues, we can't be as effective as we otherwise would. Some PR practitioners don't get this, and end up "shouting from the rooftops" to get their message out, thus possibly squandering all the previous effort in researching and diagnosing problems. Instead, a clear, targeted message is planned and prepared to go out to clearly identified targets. This is absolutely essential for the success of any PR campaign.

Present the campaign to publics. All of the research, analysis and planning leads up to a campaign that is presented to predetermined publics, i.e., those who will most benefit from and be positively influenced by messages that enhance the client’s reputation and standing in the community, their ability to continue to grow or expand, or other goals that can be measured over time.

This final "implementation phase" utilizes tools and tactics of the PR professional that best meet the needs of the campaign at hand. This expertise, along with the ability to comprehend and work through the previous steps, is why it's best to hire a PR professional to enhance, change and manage your reputation.

Public Relations and the enhancement of reputation it can bring with an effective PR campaign is vitally important to the continued success of your business, organization or personal fulfillment. The accomplishment of business goals is tangibly connected to maintaining good relations with publics your business interacts with daily, as well as creating inroads with those who will become clients and customers in the future.

Contact Abbott Public Relations to learn more about how your reputation can benefit from Public Relations in 2011.