Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Corporate Compliance in a Sea of Soundbytes

Recently the State Bar of Texas Corporate Counsel section requested Tim Rotheberg of Coats Rose law firm and Miranda Sevcik, Principal of Media Masters write an article about the dangers of communication to the media during a corporate crisis.

In the court of public opinion there is no longer room for error. These days an errant Tweet, inappropriate picture or offhand comment to a reporter can bring down a CEO, plummet a stock price and guarantee a lawsuit.

For example, in an interview with Bloomberg TV late last year, Chip Wilson, the founder of high-priced athletic clothing manufacturer, Lululemon, blamed the recall of a line of yoga pants on the size of certain women’s’ thighs. Wilson stated, “Frankly, some women’s bodies just don’t actually work [for the yoga pants],” and as for the recall problems, he stated, “it’s more really
about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it.”

Read the full article here.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Top Apps for PR Pros

Name virtually any task, and there’s probably an app for it.
The Android and Apple online marketplaces are flooded with apps that range from helpful to inane. With all the buzz surrounding successes like “Candy Crush” or “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood” (which is set to make $200 million this year), PR pros can often forget what a life saver technology can be, overlooking many digital tools that can make the work go more smoothly.

Here are five apps that PR professionals should have in their arsenal:

1. IFTTT (available for Android and iOS)
Social media management can quickly become a nightmare-inducing situation for PR pros balancing several social media profiles, especially for more than one client.
The IFTTT (“if this, then that”) app makes managing these accounts less stressful with the use of “recipes” that connect actions on multiple accounts. For example, you can have IFTTT send a tweet every time you post to Instagram, increasing your profile’s visibility.
PR pros should beware, though: The app can make easy work of several tasks, but automating all social media can put you in hot water—like this posthumous iPhone 6 post from Joan River’s Facebook account.

2. Pocket (available for Android and iOS)
Staying on top of the news and current trends is a must for PR professionals. There are many great newsreader apps available for busy communicators on the go, but Pocket saves articles, videos and other tidbits for you to read later on your phone, tablet and computer.
The app connects with several other apps and websites and even enables you to read content when you’re offline (great for flights or subway traveling) and, when you’re connected, to share the articles via Facebook, Twitter, email and more.

3. Humin (available for Android beta testing and iOS)
PR pros are constantly networking, which means your list of contacts can end up resembling a jigsaw puzzle with too many pieces.
Enter Humin, an app that organizes your contacts. You can search for people based on phrases such as “met last week” or “works at PR Daily.” The app also syncs contacts’ information from connected social media sites to give you more information.
It’ll even let you know when one of your contacts is visiting your city, so you can easily meet up with them.

4. LinkedIn Job Search (available for iOS)
LinkedIn can be a trove for PR, marketing and social media jobs, and many employers give candidates the chance to apply for open positions directly through the social network.
Though job hunters can use the standard LinkedIn app on their Android or Apple devices to locate and apply for the job of their dreams, the new Job Search app makes short work of the process.
Users can search using keyword, location and other criteria and can even set the app to search for openings in their area. Positions can be saved in the app and users can receive notifications if the listing has changed. The best part: Searches and applications are kept secret from your network.

5. PRSA Ethics (available for Android and iOS)
The Public Relations Society of America’s Code of Ethics is the industry standard for PR pros. For press releases that might overstep the line with regard to a quote, or in crises that call for a lightning-fast response, this app can provide immediate guidance.
Jessica Airey, the Public Relations Student Society of America’s national VP of advocacy, says the app can navigate “all the ethical dilemmas you will face during your career.” She continues:
The app includes an explanation of the professional values, Code of Ethics provisions, case studies, an ethics quiz and more. Plus, it connects you to public relations experts who can guide you in answering your toughest ethics questions on-the-go at your job or internship. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Seven Mistakes You Should Not Make on Your Linkedin Profile

There are several reasons your profile is a mess: Lack of involvement in groups, a paucity of recommendations, and plain, old neglect to name a few. Oh, and ditch that photo of you at the monster truck rally.
By Jason Miller
In the age of personal brand marketing, it's just not OK to let your LinkedIn profile sit collecting Internet dust until you're ready to look for your next job.

If your profile isn't current, or if it communicates indifference, not only are you likely missing career-transforming opportunities, but you could also be giving people the wrong impression. Most important for marketers, a stale profile means you're losing out on the chance to build thought leadership clout and keep your company's brand top of mind.
Here are seven reasons your LinkedIn profile might be coming across as a social media mess.

1. Your headshot was taken at a BBQ.
Your LinkedIn photo should make potential employers or business partners feel comfortable with you immediately. Would you show up for a business meeting, beer in hand? Would you wear a strapless party dress? Not likely. Your photo should express "relaxed and at ease," yes, but make it an energetic, in-your-element, confidence-exuding ease.

The only thing worse than an unprofessional photo is no photo at all. A profile page with a picture is seven times more likely to be viewed than a page without one. So put on your favorite (work) outfit, grab a friend you trust, think of a great moment from your last vacation, and get some good shots of yourself. It'll be worth it.

2. Your profile is missing the basics.
Uploading your resume to LinkedIn is just a start—but it's a critical start. If you haven't included recent job history and education, your profile says loud and clear: "I'm not really serious about this LinkedIn thing yet."

Try this: Do a quick Internet search of three colleagues. Do their LinkedIn profiles show up near the top of the list? What happens when you search for yourself? Are you happy with the results? LinkedIn profiles tend to be indexed highly on all the major search engines, which means that your profile is much more than an online resume—it's your professional identity.

3. Your last update was a tribute to Steve Jobs.
An active page is an effective page. To gain traction with co-workers, peers, and future employers, you have to share on a regular basis. Status updates show up on the home page feeds of everyone in your network, so updating frequently is an easy way to keep your name (and your brand) in their field of vision. Share information that's helpful, educational, inspiring, and sometimes entertaining. Keep your updates generally upbeat and relevant to your field of expertise, and post regularly.

4. You have no recommendations.
When you find a mobile app that looks great, but no one has recommended it yet, do you download it, or do you move on to something with 36 five-star reviews?

You probably feel better paying $1.99 for something at least a few people like, right? Same goes for recommendations on LinkedIn. When people vouch for you on your profile, it might not make or break a potential employer's decision to contact you, but it'll raise her comfort level.

LinkedIn has made the recommendation process beautifully painless. Yes, you should still speak to anyone you're requesting a recommendation from, or at least write a personal note. But emphasize that you respect that person's time. Recommendations are meant to be concise. Each should take only about 10 minutes to write. Request a recommendation within a couple of weeks after completing successful projects, and they'll accumulate in no time.

5. You aren't engaging.
Business is social. Hiding out in a cubicle for eight hours a day without speaking to the people around you has never been a good career choice, and it's not a good move to behave that way online, either.
LinkedIn has made it supremely simple to connect socially with people inside and outside your immediate circle. "Liking," commenting, and sharing are all great ways to network, get on the radar of influential folks in your space, and stay in touch with colleagues near and far.

Plus, with LinkedIn's mobile app, you can access the latest news and topics that are hot with your network and the companies you follow, share instantly, as well as direct message your connections, including prospects and clients—from anywhere.

6. You don't belong to any groups.
LinkedIn Groups act as social networking hot spots that many members can't imagine doing without. So, if you haven't yet joined a group, give it a spin. It's a great way to get noticed, share and collect ideas for marketing and content efforts, and build thought leadership.

Just as with your local PTA or Chamber of Commerce, the LinkedIn groups you join and participate in can act as badges of honor. I mean, who doesn't want to show up as a top contributor of a popular, influential group? Be proud of the organizations you represent or belong to, and check in with them often.

7. You're not showing off your treasure.
This one may be new to you, so listen up. You can now showcase a rich media portfolio on your LinkedIn profile: Slideshare decks, infographics, videos, e-books, and more. We call it "building your treasury," because this is where it's OK to show off all the gems you've designed and produced throughout your professional life.

Whether you're a chef, makeup artist, marketer, or journalist, you can now house all your important work in the place that makes the most sense: your LinkedIn profile. Here are some great examples.
If you're hiding a hot career behind a messy LinkedIn profile, it's time to make some changes and take control. Take these lessons to heart, and you'll build a personal brand that is worthy of your past endeavors, and that can help you land the next sizzling opportunity to come your way.

Jason Miller is the senior content marketing manager at LinkedIn. A version of this article first appeared on Convince & Convert.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Bill Cosby Accusers Redefining Comedian's Legacy

Showbiz fixers weigh in on the comedian's PR disaster, and say silence is golden
Bill Cosby‘s latest PR nightmare is no laughing matter. Just one day after the iconic comedian refused to answer questions about multiple sexual allegations during an interview with NPR, another victim has come forward.

So far the comedian has only issued a statement through his attorney denying the allegations. Is Cosby's strategy working so far?

According to president and CEO of Centurion Strategies Michael Bilello, “When he did the NPR interview and literally said ‘no’ to making a comment it's interpreted as stonewalling, and guilt is associated with that tactic. The public assumes you're hiding something. That is the worst thing you can do.”

The sexual allegations against Cosby were reignited after a social media stunt soliciting memes with the comedian's picture went terribly wrong. Cosby's Twitter account was soon flooded with user-generated memes, but not the kind the comedian was hoping for.

“My two favorite things are Jello and Rape,” said one follower. Another asked, “Someone really thought #CosbyMeme was a good idea?”

But snark may be the least of Cosby's problems. “There's the court of public opinion and then there's the court of law,” said Bragman.

The allegations picked up steam last week after actress Barbara Bowman claimed that Cosby raped her in an essay in the Washington Post. Then another woman, a publicist by the name of Joan Tarshis, came forward with similar claims.

Recent comments about the scandal made by comedian Hannibal Buress during a standup routine in Philadelphia only added fuel to the fire.

In an effort to stop the crisis, Cosby's lawyers issued a statement on the comedian's official site saying he would not be addressing “decade-old, discredited allegations.”

The combined effect of all the negative attention could jeopardize a planned NBC primetime series and an hour-long Netflix special, but so far neither have been scrapped. “NBC is going to take time to see which way the wind blows,” predicted Bragman.

Cosby settled out of court with one of his accusers, Andrea Constand, in 2006. So far 14 women have come forward claiming similar allegations. And that, according to Bragman, is far worse than any canceled sitcom.

“His best hope right now is that someone else does something really stupid that attracts even more attention and claims the spotlight.”

Monday, November 10, 2014

Are Corporate Apologies Wearing Out Their Welcome?

PR professionals are well acquainted with the necessity of the corporate apology. It’s usually the first thing we insist upon after a client’s public and embarrassing gaffe.
Back in the day, apologizing was something CEOs and other public figures were often loath to do. It suggested weakness and served as an admission of guilt. The prevalent thinking was, “What the public doesn’t know won’t hurt them.”

Social media was a game changer in all of that. Anybodyexpert or notcan now voice an opinion on any social platform of their choosing. The collective impact can be devastating to a personal or organizational reputation.

To that end, the public is now regularly subjected to the grand mea culpa, often staged in the form of press conferences and accompanied by heartfelt phrases of apology. There are even sometimes a few tears for good measure. Witness NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's widely covered apology over Donald Sterling’s racist remarks or even Canadian politician Paul Calandra’s tearful response when accused of evading a reporter’s question.

Sometimes, a quick tweet of retraction is employed, fueling public response and continued backlash that will hopefully burn out after 48 hours. Such was the case when Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s asserted that “karma will compensate women with better salaries” and quickly issued an apology.
With the elevated frequency of public apologies, is the public even buying into this “I’m sorry” strategy anymore?

“Audiences are onto the mea culpa tour and the non-apology/apology,” says PR and marketing strategist Karen Swim. “But a sincere apology will stand the test of time. Our mothers knew the difference between genuine remorse and 'I'm sorry I got caught,' and so do our audiences. If you're going to say it, mean it, and if you really mean it, back it with tangible actions.”

Julia Joy of Z Group PR agrees. “An apology must be followed up with a plan of action to provide restitution. Is it a change in company culture? Is it a solid program or an internal audit? This is what consumers are looking for. They want the whole package.”

What about the media’s perspective? They are often charged with covering such apologies when it propels an ongoing story. According to Lauren Strapagiel, news editor at, the key is to not to apologize for having offended someone, but apologize for having been offensive.
“We’re perfectly aware when an apology is a hollow, hasty attempt to save face,” she says. “The story will reflect that because we can go to a source and ask what they think of an unimpressive apology.”
Some apologies do go off the rails, and there can be many factors that play into why: The person charged with delivering the message may not be comfortable with public speaking, have yet to experience what it’s like to be in the eye of a crisis, or have language or cultural differences wit the audience.

Is there any other way to publicly express regret? There are many audiences to consider, both external and internal, who may need to hear “I’m sorry” before being able to move on.

“In this day and age, a genuine corporate apology is still a necessity,” says Barbara Laidlaw, executive vice president and group head of crisis and issues management at Edelman in New York. "The relationship between a corporate entity and its consumers, employees, and stakeholders can be damaged by unforeseen events. A genuine apology, including acceptance and acknowledgement of wrongdoing if appropriate, is still part of the healing and/or rebuilding process."

“While it may be altruistic, I’d like to believe the less-than-genuine apologies are the exception, rather than the norm,” Laidlaw says.

Swim says she offers her clients this advice: "I counsel clients to not do stupid things. But, if they do, or if something is misinterpreted, own up to it and fix it."
-By Elissa Freeman, PR Daily

Monday, October 20, 2014

Three Rules for Media Interviews

I started my working life as a journalist and eventually became director of communications for the media publishing company. Soon, its presses started breaking down, and then it became involved in a strike.

If there was a degree in “Media Trouble-R-Us,” I had earned it.
As a result, I developed three rules for media interviews:

1. In media interviews, always have three key messages.
The biggest error most communicators make when facing the media is they go into full-on defensive mode.

Instead of vowing to “survive” the interview with a minimum of damage, convince yourself it’s your job is to convey your own three messages.
(Once you accomplish this, congratulate yourself on your success.)
The best defense is always a good offense.
So, why only three messages?
The same reason there are three little pigs, three stooges, and three musketeers. And the same reason I have three rules for media interviews.

People remember things more easily in groups of three.

This will help you remember the messages yourself and will ensure your audiences remember them, as well.

When developing the key messages, make sure they answer the main questions reporters are likely to have about your story.

If your train has derailed, express concern for the passengers and describe your company’s commitment to safety.

If you’re laying off staff, explain why, and describe the (generous, we hope) severance packages.
If your CEO has died, express regret for the family and detail your succession plan.

Most important, make sure your key messages address these questions: Why? How? Where?
Then, use those messages to answer all the questions you’re asked.

2. Have some ‘turning phrases’ ready.
When a reporter asks you a question you can’t or don’t want to answer, have a few phrases that will allow you to turn the question and provide the key message you have ready.
Here’s a handy list:
· The more important question is… [return to key message]
· I find, what people really want to know is… [return to key message]
· The crucial issue in front of us today is… [return to key message]

Don’t answer questions with other questions, as that will make reporters see you as belligerent and provocative.

But you can redirect, if you do so in a respectful and friendly fashion.
Memorize the phrases above, or develop others so that you aren’t always “turning” with the same words.

3. Remember: The microphone is always on.
Print reporters know they always get their best material after their notebooks are closed, and TV reporters know they get their best stuff if the subject is unaware the camera is still running.

Consider this 2012 example from President Obama and then-Russian-President Dmitri Medvedev:
Obama: “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved, but it’s important for him to give me space.”
Medvedev: “Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…”
Obama: “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.”

Following what was widely viewed as Obama’s gaffe, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticized the remark.
He said:
President Obama signaled that he’s going to cave to Russia on missile defense, but the American people have a right to know where else he plans to be “flexible” in a second term.

It was a stupid mistake and one you should avoid.
You might have a cordial relationship with certain journalists , but they have a job to do, and it doesn’t usually involve helping you.
Always regard anything you say in the presence of a reporter as something that might appear on the 6 p.m. news. Edit yourself accordingly.

What rules do you follow in order to make sure you’re getting the media attention you deserve?

Daphne Gray-Grant is a former daily newspaper editor, a writing and editing coach and the author of the popular book "8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better." Via her website, she offers the newsletter "Power Writing." It’s weekly, brief and free.

A version of this article originally appeared on Spin Sucks.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Cyber Liability Coverage - Believe it or Not Its Here

Article by Alan R Lyons, Ronald J. Levine and Barry Werbin
In today's modern world, data breaches are a fact of life.  Last month, Home Depot confirmed that hackers broke into its payment systems and stole debit and credit card data for more than 40 million customers.  With that attack, Home Depot joined a growing list of high-profile companies, including household names such as Michaels, P.F. Chang's, Wyndham Hotels and Neiman Marcus that have had sensitive customer data stolen or compromised via cyber-attacks.

Although data breaches affecting large, well-established companies have grabbed the headlines, a data breach can happen to any business, large or small. All businesses that transact business online and store sensitive data on a network are susceptible, and the range of customer and employee data that could be exposed by a breach makes the potential fallout significant. This data includes customer lists, credit and debit card information, employee social security numbers, intellectual property and trade secrets, records, receipts and tax documents.

Traditional business liability insurance policies do not fully address cyber exposures, however cyber liability insurance can fill that gap. Cyber liability insurance can help businesses safeguard against data breaches, computer hacking, computer viruses, theft of information and employee sabotage.  Here is a summary of the various types of coverages available under this type of policy:
  • Privacy Liability
    • Covers liability arising out of a company's failure to protect personally identifiable or confidential corporate information in its care, custody or control, or by others on its behalf.
    • Provides coverage for regulatory proceedings brought by a government agency alleging the violation of any state, federal, local or foreign privacy legislation.
  • Network Security Liability
    • Covers liability arising out of:
      (a) the failure of a company's network security to prevent computer attacks, including unauthorized access or unauthorized use of corporate systems resulting in deletion, corruption or theft of data;
      (b) a "denial of service" attack -- an attack which makes a network unavailable to its intended users; and
      (c) the failure to prevent transmission of malicious code.
  • First Party Coverages
    • Covers the following types of expenses incurred by a company as a result of a data breach:
      (a) expenses to retain a computer forensics firm to determine the scope of a breach;
      (b) expenses to comply with privacy regulations;
      (c) expenses to notify and provide credit monitoring services to affected individuals;
      (d) expenses to retain legal, public relations and/or crisis management services to restore the company's reputation.
    • May also cover regulatory fines or penalties incurred because of a data breach.
    • May also cover business income loss when business operations are interrupted or suspended as a result of a security breach.

There is a wide variety of policies and levels of protection available.  Policies can be tailored to fit the needs of a particular business, including its size, sector, number of customers and type of data. In short, no two policies are identical. More importantly, the policy terminology can often be confusing.

Many companies analyze their insurance policies only after a data breach occurs. However, it is often advisable to obtain legal counsel prior to the purchase of cyber liability insurance to ensure that the scope of coverage is tailored to meet the company's specific needs, and to avoid common insurance purchasing pitfalls.  There are many questions and issues that should be considered during such an analysis, including: 
  • Does the policy provide sufficient sublimits for legal, computer forensics, public relations and/or crisis management expenses?  Many policies include those coverages, but only at low sublimits.  Those fees can often be substantial and can exhaust the sublimits very quickly.
  • It is recommended that the policy contain "prior acts" coverage, to ensure that coverage applies in the event that the insured's network has been breached before the policy was purchased.  In many instances, a breach can occur over a long period of time without the knowledge of the business owner.
  • The exclusions must be read carefully -- for example, be wary of an exclusion for attacks through unencrypted laptops or mobile devices as many cyber-attacks have occurred through those devices. 
  • Some policies contain a "wild virus" exclusion, which means that coverage would only apply to a cyber-attack targeted at the insured entity itself.  However, many viruses circulating over the internet are "wild" in nature and not directed at any particular entity.
  • Does the policy provide coverage for regulatory fines or penalties?
  • Does the policy provide business income coverage, and if so, is coverage triggered only by a complete suspension of business operations, or would a mere interruption in business operations be sufficient to trigger coverage?