Sunday, April 12, 2015

PR Experts Praise Lufthansa Response to Crash

In the wake of the devastating revelations surrounding the Germanwings crash in the French Alps, airlines have now pledged to change their rules to ensure at least two crew members are present in the cockpit at all times.

Days after the crash, which killed 150 people this week, it emerged that the 27-year old pilot Andreas Lubitz purposefully flew the plane into the mountains, and reportedly suffered from depression.

Previous recent airlines disasters such as that which Malaysian Airlines suffered, have shone the light on how critical and quick an airline's response must be. It has already moved fast to remove any marketing messages that may be deemed inpappropriate in light ot the tragedy, and yesterday saw Transport for London pull all advertising for the airline across the London Underground.

Jane Wilson, managing director, MHP Corporate Affairs has this to say about the way Lufthansa handled the crisis:

This news was delivered quickly and straightforwardly by Marseilles prosecutor Brice Robin to grief stricken relatives and to the world’s equally shocked media. Lufthansa, which had acted swiftly and with compassion to get relatives of the deceased passengers to the crash site issued a statement describing their ‘shock and horror’ and echoed this in the press conference chaired by Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr. It was at this conference that Sphor was asked the questions that have dominated coverage since. Questions about safety protocols around leaving a pilot in the cockpit unattended and the question of Lubitz’s mental health history – specifically an interruption to his initial pilot training.

This was not a terrorist attack, not an ideologically driven act of mass murder which one group has claimed responsibility for. But human nature looks for responsibility in the face of tragedy. And so, the news narrative has taken a predictable turn as journalists look for ‘clues’ to Lubitz’s state of mind (old friends, colleagues and contacts interviewed) and whether his employer German Wings and its parent Lufthansa are responsible for not having spotted this potential eventuality. But mental illness is complex, and personal and not as easy a news agenda to cling to as corporate negligence. It’s not as easy to respond to either.

Other airlines and US air regulators have been quick to issue statements and airlines across the world are publicising changes to their rules regarding two crew members being required at all times in the cockpit.  In the UK, the CAA told national operators to review their procedures. Lufthansa are not addressing the cockpit issue directly at this time and sticking to their statement that this was an unforeseen, tragic event saying “We are trying to deal with an enigma. No systems could prevent such an event” They have made no comment on changes to their cockpit safety protocols and they continue to reassert their position that Lubitz underwent the same stringent testing that all their pilots do.
For now, there is no reason to suspect otherwise but one senses that the international media are resolutely pursuing all avenues to test this position. It’s likely that details of the nature of Lubitz’s absence from training will become public as these things often do either formally or informally and Lufthansa will no doubt be prepared in their response. Their reputation will ultimately hang on whether they follow other airlines to review cockpit security protocols and more importantly whether they can provide evidence that this was in fact a truly unforeseen, tragic event that no procedures, protocols or testing could have avoided.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Word-of-Mouth Marketing on the Rise

It’s no surprise that word-of-mouth marketing is effective, but when brand managers combine it with the power of social media, they see greater campaign success, all while spending less money. A recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research found people on social media often form opinions or make judgments about products and services based on the opinions of those they follow.

So how can you use the power of the influencer to bring more business? Experts say tap those traditional and non-traditional media outlets early and often when ANYTHING newsworthy happens in your practice area.  What's newsworthy? Any news indicative of a trend, the utilization of new law, the conclusion of a case involving new use of a old law, bold faced names, big dollars, and of course, the tried and true local perspective on a national news topic. 

Maintain a steady stable of media influencers you reach out to with these story ideas again and again.  Then when you do get published or your interview is broadcast, spread the news far and wide through your social media pages and e-blasts among your contact list.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Easy Steps for Writing a Great Bio

Law firm website statistics tell the story over and over again: Attorney bio pages grab the lion’s share of the site’s traffic. Clients, potential clients and referral sources want to know about you, your expertise and your experience. Why not reward them with an engaging and insightful picture of what you can do? It’s always hardest to do it for yourself (which is why many firms turn to us), but we think breaking it down into four steps makes it doable in about an hour.

Take the bio challenge.

First review the first paragraph.  This is your "grabber". If you can't grab the attention of the reader by answering the "what's in it for me" for question.  You are wasting your time.  Don't bury the lead.  Put your best foot forward. 

Keep your bio updated! Don't forget to put your latest and greatest on your bio page. Commit to updating your site at least once a month.

Put your best face forward! Make sure your bio picture reflects your best self.  If you haven't updated your photo in a couple years- its time.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Latest Changes to the Legal Marketing Landscape

Some changes in the legal marketing landscape to pass along to you this week:

Total Attorneys Acquired by Internet Brands

Internet Brands is the company that gutted Martindale-Hubbell, Nolo and Total Attorneys is a 13-year-old company based in Chicago that focuses on lead generation for small and mid-sized law firms. An Internet Brands press release says the Total Attorneys brand will “remain intact” and the company will continue to operate from Chicago. Time will tell.

Avvo Running TV Ads

Avvo has two TV spots — “When You Need a Lawyer” and “Let’s Find Your Divorce Lawyer” –that it is running nationally. According to TV commercial tracker, the spots have already aired more than 500 times on networks like CMT, trutv and SyFy. Here are the spots:

2 Million Small Businesses Now Advertising on Facebook

According to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, there are now more than two million small businesses advertising on Facebook. What’s nice about Facebook advertising is you can get very granular with your target market, zooming in to capture users by age, sex, location, ethnicity, interests and more.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

National Fraternity Shows How to Handle a Crisis

National leaders of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity not only responded with rapid force after a video was leaked of members participating at the group's University of Oklahoma chapter in a racist chant, they set a course for resolution for the future.  SAE announced the formation of a confidential hotline for reporting racist incidents at all college campuses where their chapters reside. 

This positive step follows SAE's decision to suspend the charter of the fraternity from OU while an investigation was underway.  The group also is putting more money where its mouth is by announcing they will be hiring a national director of diversity, the first of its kind in all fraternities, and require all SAE members to take diversity training.

That's the way to respond to a crisis, back up words with action and emerge as a national leader in a topic that could have sunk the group.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Clinton Aide Breaks Cardinal Rule With Testy Emails

Kevin Allen, Ragan's PR Daily
If you’ve worked in public relations or media relations for a certain amount of time, you’ve probably had the urge at some point to send an angry email to a reporter.

Hopefully, you slept on it and thought better of it—either tempering your rhetoric or deleting your draft. But longtime Hillary Clinton aide Philippe Reines, though not specifically a PR pro, didn’t follow that advice.

In a series of lengthy (and often angry) email exchanges with reporters, Reines’ intention, no doubt, was to put an end to questions around the use of personal email for government business.

The story has dominated the news as the news media’s vetting process for soon-to-be presidential candidate Clinton has begun early. Clinton asked the State Department Wednesday to disclose her emails to the public and then tweeted her first ever response to a crisis situation via Twitter:

Reporter CJ Ciaramella reached out to Reines via email for comment. What followed was a now well-publicized series of exchanges, where Reines decided to bring in more reporters to the mix who had also written (in his estimation, unfairly) about the Clinton email scandal.

Here’s part of the exchange below (Gawker has the exchange with updated replies). Let us know what you think, PR Daily readers: Justified indignation, or ill-advised communications?
Email No. 1:

From: CJ Ciaramella
To: Philippe Reines
Date: Tuesday, March 3, 6:47 p.m.
Subject: Comment on private email address at State Dept
Hi Philippe,

This is CJ Ciaramella, a reporter for the Washington Free Beacon and Vice. Wondering if you have any response to this Gawker article alleging that you and Huma Abedin used private email addresses to conduct official government business while at the State Dept:
As I'm sure you well know, not archiving official business conducted on a private email address is a violation of the Federal Records Act. A FOIA request for your State Dept. emails is also currently being appealed. Please email or call: [phone number redacted]
CJ Ciaramella 

Email No. 2:

From: Philippe Reines
To: CJ Ciaramella, J.K. Trotter, Erick Wemple, Brian Stelter, Nick Merrill
Date: Tuesay, March 3, 9:57 p.m.
Subject: Email
Hi CJ. And hi JK.
Since this fundamentally comes down to honesty, transparency and accountability, I thought we'd go through an exercise together - with Erik Wemple of The Washington Post and Brian Stelter of CNN included as observers.
In your piece, which CJ references below, you wrote:
“'Her top staffers used those Clinton email addresses' at the agency, said the source, who has worked with Clinton in the past. The source named two staffers in particular, Philippe Reines and Huma Abedin, who are said to have used private email addresses in the course of their agency duties." 

That's a pretty clear assertion by you through your source that they had firsthand knowledge of my having and using an email account on the domain. You then wrote:
"We were able to independantly [SIC] verify that Abedin used a address at some point in time. There are several email addresses associated with Abedin’s name in records maintained by Lexis-Nexis; one of them is An email sent to that address today went through without bouncing." 

A few questions:
1) Did you attempt to verify your source's assertion of my use of such an email using the same creepy methods you did with my close friend and colleague Huma Abedin? Assuming you did, why doesn't your piece note the results of your creepy methods? 
 2) Did you attempt to send an email to me at that domain, and if so did it go "through without bouncing"? Assuming you did, why don't you note the results of your test?
3) If your lying liar pants on fire source worked with me at a federal agency as you and they contend, did you ask them to provide even a single email exchange with my using that account?
4) Better yet, in the off chance they don't have every single email they ever sent or received, have you availed yourself of the same FOIA laws to petition the lying liar's agency for any email between them and me that you have with our email? 

I mean, you either naively or knowingly swallowed quite the whopper. Not sure which is worse. Actually, that's not true. 

Now, on the subject of FOIA...
You have to ask State about your requests, appeals, etc. 
But while I have you I'm really hoping you can explain something to me. You wrote that "The use of private email addresses may explain the State Department’s puzzling response to several FOIA requests filed by Gawker in the past two years," continuing, "That request was confoundingly denied on the grounds that the State Department had no record of Reines—whose job it was to communicate with reporters—emailing Hastings or any other journalists." 

So, is your cockamamie theory that the reason there is no record of my emailing with reporters is because I improperly used my personal email address to email with those reporters in an attempt to circumvent FOIA, and that every one of the many reporters you reasonably assume I emailed with are in on this conspiracy of having only emailed with me on my non-official email? All sorts of media outlets reached out to me, including FOX and The Daily Caller. Are they in on it? Is everyone in on it aside from Gawker? 

Now, to answer your question: email is a two way street. You'd be surprised how many reporters deliberately email government officials to their personal accounts. You'd be equally surprised to know that when they did, I moved the exchange to my account because, between you and me, my personal account is about the last place I want to be emailing reporters or conducting work. 

Which brings me to my last question(s) - for both JK & CJ:
Have either of you ever deliberately emailed a US Government official anywhere other than their official address to discuss official US Government business? If so, why? Have you ever received an email from a US Government official from anywhere other than their official address to discuss official US Government business? If so did you ask them why?
Looking forward to your responses!

Email No. 3:

From: CJ Ciaramella
To: Philippe Reines, CJ Ciaramella, J.K. Trotter, Erick Wemple, Brian Stelter, Nick Merrill
Date: Wednesday, March 4, 2:30 a.m.
Subject: Re: Email
Hi Philippe,
And hello JK and Erik and Brian and Nick. It's wonderful that we can all be here, together.
JK can speak to his article, but the reason I'm interested in your response is because if, like you say, you didn't use private email and copied any work messages to your account, then State is either lying through its teeth or wildly incompetent, and flouting the Freedom of Information Act either way. That's a distinct possibility, although I'd note that Ben Smith tweeted out tonight that your exchange with Michael Hastings was conducted over a Gmail account.
CJ Ciaramella 

Email No. 4:

From: Philippe Reines
To: Ben Smith, Josh Gerstein, CJ Ciaramella, J.K. Trotter, Erick Wemple, Brian Stelter, Nick Merrill
Date: Wednesday, March 4
Subject: Re: Email
Good Morning All,
And let me welcome Ben to our little party, because, well, he’s flat out wrong.
Michael emailed me that morning on my State account, I responded from my State account, I even added a second State person’s State account to that exchange, and it entirely remained on our State accounts without my personal account being referenced or used in any way.
But hey, why let truth or facts get in the way of a good Tweet. 

And along those lines, I’ve also added Josh Gerstein of Politico since I’m now noticing that he is simply swallowing JK's dreck whole and stating it as fact. And so Gawker will be repeated over and over because someone flat out lied to them about my email habits, claiming firsthand knowledge that I had an account that I never did. Which was why I originally initiated this group exchange. Still looking forward to JK’s answers. 

As for your requests, I understand your point — and even your frustration — but I simply can’t address or explain any of that, the Department has to. That however doesn’t mean I and others shouldn’t be given the benefit of the doubt. As I think we can all agree, USG officials are permitted to use non-official accounts in the course of their job. There are reasons that happens. An outsider could email you at your personal account, maybe because they only have that address. Maybe their official email is on the fritz. Maybe they lost their device. Maybe they made a mistake. I don’t know. But again, there are legitimate non-nefarious reasons, and there should be a measure of benefit of the doubt afforded to people. In four years, I must have sent and received nearly half a million email. The vast vast vast vast majority, maybe four ‘vast’s, the overwhelming majority, whatever term means closer to 100% than 99%, that’s where I’m guessing my average is. If you want to skewer me over a non-100% rate, I can’t do much about that. 

From my perspective, if I were emailing with a reporter, I had to assume that it could end up in the public domain, as the exchange with Michael reminded me the very hard way. That’s just the nature of the beast, and what email account you use isn’t going to prevent that. Not to mention that much of what’s written to reporters is purposefully meant for the public domain since that’s the job. And believe me, I’d be far happier with you all having a field day poring through my largely boring and tedious email, than unfairly and erroneously reading that I intentionally undermined or circumvented the process. That frustrates me as much as State responses are frustrating you.
Anyway, hope this helps.

Email No. 5:

From: Ben Smith
To: CJ Ciaramella, Philippe Reines, CJ Ciaramella, J.K. Trotter, Erick Wemple, Brian Stelter, Nick Merrill
Date: Wednesday, March 4, 7:37 a.m.
Subject: Re: Email
Hey guys: this is my fault. I misremembered. I'm sorry for sewing confusion.
I have corresponded with Philippe on his gmail, but this was not that.
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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Four Ways to Enhance Social Media Strategies

By Beki Winchell, Ragan's PR Daily

As brands become more and more visible on social media, the role of PR pros who understand the digital landscape gains importance.

Hundreds of PR pros, marketers and community managers gathered to learn from experts at Ragan’s third annual Social Media for PR and Corporate Communications Conference at Walt Disney World.

Though the lessons were numerous—PR Daily will share Storify compilations and highlight the conference on Pinterest—here are four insights that PR pros can use to ramp up their social media outreach:
1. Tap into the power of your community.
“Everything we do is powered by people,” says Thomas Smith, social media director for Disney Parks and founder of the Disney Parks blog.

Smith and his team use blog content as a “litmus test” to learn what Disney’s audience wants, and passionate collaborators guest-blog for the magical brand. Tapping into community members’ stories and insights delivers a wealth of content, which only helps build the brand across social media.
“The more content we put out there, the more people are engaging with us,” Smith says.
Jeramie McPeek, VP of digital operations for the Phoenix Suns, says social media enables the NBA franchise’s fans to interact, share their thoughts and show team spirit.

“Everybody already has an opinion,” McPeek says. “You just need to ask for it.”
Tapping into your community will tell you not only the type of content your audience craves, but also where they live online. McPeek says a November contest for free Phoenix Suns tickets had more engagement on Snapchat than on any other platform, which revealed the importance of the mobile visual channel for future campaigns.
2. Get visual.
Karl Gude, a former infographics chief at Newsweek and the Associated Press and a current Michigan State University journalism professor, explained how infographics can take something important—but boring—such as raw data and transform it into a visual storyboard.
“Infographics can be great for understanding huge amounts of information,” Gude says. As more and more brand managers embrace infographics to get the point across, PR pros can key on certain tactics to make sure their visuals are successful.

For one, keep things simple so your audience is not overwhelmed.

“Don’t make people play through the crap of your imagination to get to the data,” Gude says. Techniques to ensure clarity include highlighting a dominant image, writing text for easy scanning, and breaking up content into attractively designed sections.
Though PR pros won’t necessarily have to learn various font types, color palettes or kerning (the spacing between characters), you should still know enough to pick the best person for the job and work with that expert accordingly.

Above all, Gude says, don’t let your CEO design the infographics. Play to your strengths, and let others do the same.
3. Become ‘content counselors’ to clients and partners.

Scott Warfield, senior director of social media and broadcast communications for NASCAR, highlighted the important role that PR pros play in educating and guiding clients, sponsors and employees in the practice of successful content marketing.

Ultimately, fans want to engage with brands because they’re getting something of value, such as additional information, sneak peeks or a look at the people behind the brand.

Warfield says Kid Rock asked NASCAR to share news about his recent album. Knowing that wouldn’t resonate with the audience nearly as strongly as a well-crafted piece of content, Warfield suggested Rock let one of his songs become the backdrop for a video highlighting NASCAR and the artist’s headlining appearance at the Daytona 500 on Feb. 22. The video has received more than 600,000 views.

Employees, clients and partners will all tell stories—with NASCAR, each driver has a dedicated fan base—but by helping educate and guide content creation, brand managers can exert powerful influence on social media strategies and execution. Warfield says drivers now ask the team for advice when creating and sharing content.

Becoming that voice also helps boost your brand, because good quality will always triumph on social media. “You win in search when you create really great, relevant content,” says Ashley Brown, Spredfast’s VP of social strategy.

4. Be brave.
Brown says the brands that truly win on social media take chances and afford PR pros “license to provoke.”

Pointing to the plethora of brands such as Ben & Jerry’s and Oreo that stood for LGBT rights across social media, as well as Victoria’s Secret’s tweeted tribute to Maya Angelou, Brown says successful campaigns evoke powerful emotions and share things community members can truly get behind.
Brown says brand managers shouldn’t try to fit in when their brand was “born to stand out.” It may sound scary to many PR pros, but taking a risk with content and engagement can pay off by increasing loyalty and brand awareness.

“If you don’t stand for something, no one is going to stand with you,” Brown says.