The worst sentence to begin a news release is, “We are excited to announce…”
If you hire a so-called public relations expert to write your news release and they write this, you should fire them. If you have written this yourself because you’ve seen others do the same thing, please stop.
Nothing says you value yourself more than your audience or customers than the dreaded, “We are excited” sentence.
In the world of customer satisfaction, your goal should be to celebrate the joy and benefits that you bring to your customers.
Here are 4 tips to avoid the worst sentence in the world:
1. Stop writing it.
2. Begin your news release with a customer-focused sentence, such as, “If you need XYZ, your life is about to get easier because of a new product/gadget being introduced today.”
3. Measure your “I”/”we”/”you”/”them” use. Your news release should contain more sentences that focus on the customer than the company.
4. Measure your “how” to “why” use. Stop focusing on how your product works and focus on why it improves the lives of your customers.
There is no doubt that the internal decision makers are excited. But the key to better sales is to make the consumer excited. When the customer gets excited they buy. When they buy then you can really get excited.
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Wiley Hilburn, Jr. has died. He is the man who shaped my writing and my career as a journalist. Each day, I think of myself first as a writer, knowing that writing is the root of my media training and crisis communications programs. Likewise, my skills as a journalist and television reporter, cultivated by Wiley, allowed me to have two great careers that have sent me circling the globe.
The death of Wiley Hilburn, Jr. is not breaking news. January 16, 2015 marks one year since his passing. Although a year has passed, I think of him often because he is alive in me. Not only is he alive in me, but he is alive in the pens and keyboards of journalists and public relations people across America.
Wiley was the head of the Louisiana Tech Journalism Department. He launched young journalists, like a parent should launch their children. Wiley nudged us, the way a mocking bird nudges a chick from the nest. He made sure we could fly. He nudged more than a few chicks out of the nest knowing they were better off eaten by a cat than to be in a newsroom. If you had the right stuff, Wiley praised you and nurtured your writing. If you didn’t have the gift for writing, he didn’t mince words in advising you to seek another career path. Every quarter he would bring each writer for the Tech Talk student newspaper in for a personal evaluation of their clipping file. We used to take bets in the newsroom as to who would leave Wiley’s office crying after his evaluation.
He was also famous for his back-of-the-classroom private evaluations about what you wrote for each class assignment. He never knew everyone could hear him until the day he praised me for having no misspelled words, just a week after giving me a C on a paper, upon which he wrote, “I’d like to take this to the Shreveport Times, where I’m known as a horrible speller, just to prove there is someone who spells worse than me.” On the day he gave me his “private” praise, the class stood and applauded. Wiley turned beat red and asked, “Have ya’ll always been able to hear all of my evaluations?” Wiley and I laughed about that day every time we visited. After my first week as a television reporter – a job he helped me secure – he sent a handwritten note that said, “You are doing great Gerard. As far as I can tell from your reports there are no misspelled words. You were made for TV.”
My creative writing style has never come close to Wiley’s. I’m envious of great creative writers who have a true gift of describing details and sounds and scents and moods. News and television writing were the places where I found my comfort zone.
Wiley took Mark Twain’s advice to write what you know. His writing was brilliant enough that he could have lived and worked anywhere, but he chose to stay close to home, living in Ruston, Louisiana writing as a columnist for the Shreveport Times and the Monroe News-Star. His columns were about the people, places, and unique little tidbits that only people along this Bible Belt region of Louisiana could appreciate.
Indeed, we all looked up to Wiley. And he always looked at us over his heavy rimmed glasses, which were broken at one hinge and held together with Scotch tape for most of the years that he was my professor. His thinning hair was always tousled. Wrinkles in suit never bothered him.
My hope for each of you is that there is someone special in your life who was pivotal in shaping your career. I hope you remember them with great fondness the way I remember Wiley today.
https://braudcommunications.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Logo-white-01-300x138.png00gbraudhttps://braudcommunications.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Logo-white-01-300x138.pnggbraud2015-01-16 09:56:012021-05-20 02:49:31My Mentor is Dead
Of all the Power Point presentations by his leadership team members, the CEO only stood and applauded the vice president who showed he was having difficulties in his division, when the other vice presidents showed rainbows and green lights. The company was millions in debt with falling sales and the CEO knew that everyone who painted a rosy picture was either a liar or delusional. The one who asked for help was the star.
A colleague shared this story supporting my premise in yesterday’s Ebola communication considerations blog. In the blog I suggested that public relations, marketing, media relations and crisis communication professionals will not be fired if they ask for help. Instead, your CEO and leadership team will respect you for telling the truth and knowing that your truth may save the reputation and revenue of your organization.
The field of communications is misunderstood, even by the C-Suite. Many CEOs and executives hire one person to manage their image. They expect publicity. Often the CEO will hire a marketing specialist, never realizing that marketing is not public relations, media relations, or crisis communications. Sadly, many with MBAs don’t really understand the differences either.
Even in public relations, many do not realize how difficult it is to be a crisis communication expert. The expert is the one who prepares on a clear sunny day for what might happen on your darkest day. At the university level, most public relations classes touch on crisis communication as an evaluation of how well you manage the media after a crisis erupts. That is outdated and flawed. Preparation = professionalism.
Fearing reprisal from their leadership, some people in our allied fields would rather try to disguise their lack of knowledge and expertise rather than asking for help. But in the C-Suite, the reality is the boss wants you to speak up and say, “I need help. This is beyond my level of expertise.” Most people in the C-Suite, while never wanting to spend money they don’t have to spend, realize that getting help from an expert could preserve their reputation and revenue.
Don’t try to fake it. That will ultimately cost you your job, as well as the company’s reputation and revenue.
Never be afraid to say, “I don’t know the answer to that.”
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Your personality type may decide the fate of your crisis communication response if the Ebola crisis touches your company (or the company for your work for.) On one extreme is the personality that says, “It’s too soon. Maybe we should watch it and wait and see.” On the other extreme are those who say, “Heck, let’s get prepared. I’d rather be prepared and not need it than to be in the weeds if it hits us.”
If one of your employees gets Ebola or is perceived to possibly have Ebola or may have come in contact with an Ebola patient or a place where an Ebola victim has been or has come in contact with a person who came in contact with an Ebola victim, then the crisis now affects you.
Here are 5 Ebola Crisis Communication Considerations:
1) The Need is Real
The crisis may touch your organization because of a person who is actually ill or because of rumors or hysteria. Either option may really happen, forcing you into reactive communications mode. You’ll need solid internal employee communications and customer communications. You’ll need external media relations. You’ll need to fight the trolls and naysayers on social media. Why not start planning your strategy and messaging now? My belief and experience is that you can anticipate nearly every twist and turn on a clear sunny day, in order to manage effective communications on your darkest day.
2) Ask for Help
Many CEOs and executives hire one person to manage their image. Often they will hire a marketing specialist, never realizing that marketing is not public relations, media relations, or crisis communications. Fearing reprisal from their leadership, some people in our allied fields would rather try to disguise their lack of knowledge rather than ask for help. But in the C-Suite, the reality is the boss wants you to speak up and say, “I need help. This is beyond my level of expertise.” Most people in the C-Suite, while never wanting to spend money they don’t have to spend, realize that getting help from an expert could preserve their reputation and revenue. Don’t try to fake it. That will ultimately cost you your job, as well as the company’s reputation and revenue. Never be afraid to say, “I don’t know the answer to that.” Ask for help.
3) Tie Ebola Communications to Business ROI
Preparing for communications you may or may not need will cost either time or money. It may cost both. But communications preparation can pay for itself.
Here are just a few considerations of doing nothing:
The cost of rumors
The cost of a single case linked back to your organization
The cost of a cluster of cases linked back to your organization
The cost of becoming synonymous with Ebola
The cost of worker illness and lost productivity
The cost of your company going out of business
Communications about precautions is step one. It may quarantine patient zero in your organization and keep the virus and negative news from spreading, saving the company huge sums of money in all of the categories listed above.
4) Plan Now
Don’t wait until you are in the middle of your crisis when you are forced into reactive mode. Proactive mode is the sign of a public relations professional. Now is the time to review your crisis communication plan and to determine if it is Ebola-ready. For some of you, now is the time to write that crisis communications plan that you have never written. Now is also the time to write messaging templates for before, during and after an event. Plus now is the time to conduct media training for potential spokespeople and to conduct a crisis communications drill. Response should be planned and never reactive.
5) Be Opportunistic
If you haven’t been able to get a seat at the table or get executive attention in the past for crisis communications, consider this your golden opportunity.
Opportunities to discuss crisis communications with the CEO and the leadership team do not happen often enough. It takes a crisis that hits all businesses equally to sometimes get their attention. The feared Y2K crisis in 2000 caused CEOs to write checks for millions of dollars, mostly to IT experts. Other companies used it as a reason to develop a small part of their crisis communication plan. Sadly, it was usually targeted at only Y2K issues. The H1N1 threat in 2009 once again got the attention of executives to the extent they were willing to give staff time and money to do what needed to be done.
The opportunity for crisis communication planning and crisis management planning is once again upon us because of Ebola. Now is the time to initiate discussions with your executives. It is also useful to seek partners from other departments. Human Resources, operations, international travel, and risk management departments all will need to manage various portions of this crisis. Each are wonderful partners who may already have a seat at the table and who already may have the knowledge and skill to get the time and money needed to accomplish your tasks.
In the coming week I’ll share more lessons and insight with you. On Friday, October 17, 2014, I’ll host a live discussion via webinar. Sign up for FREE with this link. On November 5 & 6, 2014 I’ll host a workshop in New Orleans that will allow you to create a 50 page crisis communications plan with up to 75 pre-written news releases. You’ll walk out of the workshop with a finished crisis communication plan and the skill to write even more pre-written news releases.
If the story of Chicken Little was told today, there is a strong likelihood that it would quickly be picked-up by, and reported by, the television news media.
It would go like this: Chicken Little would have an acorn fall on her head, she would scream, “The sky is falling.” Minutes later the news media would be reporting that we have unconfirmed reports that they sky is falling.
I can hear it now: “CNN has not yet confirmed that the sky is falling, but reports from the barn yard indicate Chicken Little said, ‘The Sky is falling’.”
I’ve been hearing the phrase, “has not confirmed,” much too often as I scan the dials of television news each morning. CNN’s sister network, HLN, uses this phrase much too often. Research by I.Q. Media found the phrase was used 187 times on HLN Morning Express with Robyn Meade, the program where I first noticed this disturbing trend. I’m a regular morning viewer of the show, but the phrase has turned up too frequently lately on stories about the Korean ferry accident, the Donald Sterling controversy, the Malaysian Airlines 370 story, and reports in the realm of entertainment and social media.
When I hear the phrase, “We have not confirmed,” what I really hear is, “Our producers are too incompetent and lazy to know how to confirm something before they put it in the teleprompter.” As a former reporter and anchor, I’m embarrassed for the anchors who have to read the story, knowing that many are good journalists who must do what the boss says if they want to keep their job. In my career, I reached the point at which I could not ethically and in good conscious do the dumb things and say the dumb things my bosses wanted me to do.
By comparison, during the Water Gate investigation by the Washington Post, nothing was ever reported until it was confirmed by at least three sources. Let me shout that: THREE SOURCES.
For 20 years I’ve been observing the silly ritual of, “CNN reports that ABC reports that NBC reports the CBS reports that CNN reports the sky is falling.” For 20 years, media has gone from attributing facts and stories from their own sources, to facts reported by a competing network, to only rumors being shared by some source, which is not verified or known to be reliable.
It gets worse because the story containing the unverified and unconfirmed information is recycled in online sources that simply aggregate and repeat the reports. Search most news topics and you can find the identical story with the identical words on thousands of websites.
So how does this affect you if you are in PR and communications, working for a corporation, non-profit organization or government agency?
It is easier than ever before for someone to intentionally or inadvertently destroy the reputation of your employer or client, while simultaneously damaging revenues.
Winston Churchill has been paraphrased as saying a lie can be half way across town before the truth puts on its boots in the morning. In today’s modern digital age, a lie has circled the globe countless times by unreliable sources and then circulated more by so-called reliable media sources, before you even know the lie is out there.
This disturbing trend means you need a skilled staff or vendor who can monitor online content every minute of the day, so you can respond quickly.
And because the online trend will be reported by the mainstream media, more than ever before you must have well trained spokespeople who can respond quickly and a crisis communications plan created on a clear sunny day that fully addresses such crisis scenarios. Failing to prepare and attempting to wing it in the middle of the crisis will make the crisis much worse and further damage reputations and revenues.
https://braudcommunications.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Logo-white-01-300x138.png00gbraudhttps://braudcommunications.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Logo-white-01-300x138.pnggbraud2014-06-11 03:00:082021-05-20 20:35:03Disturbing Television Media Trend #7: Unconfirmed Reports
Who would have ever thought that your media interview would be proclaimed by the television news media as an exclusive, when your interview might only be a run-of-the-mill, routine interview?
Day and night we see the television news media proclaiming in words and news banner graphics that an interview or news story is an exclusive.
During my days as a television reporter, we defined “exclusive” two ways. In it’s purest form, an exclusive is an interview that all the other media wanted to have, but that no other media could get. The interview also revealed groundbreaking information that impacted the audience significantly.
Another example of an exclusive may be an investigative report that revealed information other media outlets were unable to obtain.
These days, television producers and anchors call something “exclusive” simply because the other media outlets don’t have it, even when the information is insignificant to the audience or fails to reveal any groundbreaking information.
These television stations will call a traditional one-on-one interview an exclusive. For example, if television station XYZ interviews the city’s mayor in a random interview and the other stations have no desire or need to interview the mayor, station XYZ calls it exclusive. By my standards, this is a disturbing news media trend.
If the mayor had told station XYZ he or she was resigning during that run-of-the-mill interview, then that would be big news and that would be an exclusive.
If you are in public relations or communications, this trend could impact the company, non-profit organization or government agency you work for. You must be aware that any ordinary interview might get blown out of proportion by your local television station. This means a rather insignificant amount of information might get more attention than it deserves.
On the other hand, you may have an issue that no media really wants to cover, because the event fails to be significantly groundbreaking. Yet, if you offer that report to a reporter with the promise that they can have an exclusive, you may get coverage.
There is a serious danger in offering media an exclusive. Sometimes the other media outlets feel you intentionally snubbed them. This may cause them to ignore your organization in the future. It may also cause them to be slightly biased against your organization and perhaps portray you in a more negative light.
Exclusives are a growing problem. Proceed with caution.
“Trending today” or “trending now” are phrases I hate to hear on television news. If news is defined as information that allows us to make smarter, more informed decisions, then a trending video of a cat playing with string is not news.
Each day there is less news on news programs. News is increasingly replaced by entertainment and info-tainment.
I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I’m starting to miss the days when the adage applied, “When it bleeds it leads.” This phrase meant the newscast lead, or started, usually with a violent event or natural disaster that resulted in injuries or the loss of life.
Trending, on the other hand, requires little or no news gathering skills. It only requires the regurgitation and re-posting of something from the Internet. In most cases, it is a viral video or a hot topic that the anonymous, faceless, social media world feels compelled to pass judgment upon.
Both the Today Show and Good Morning America have cordoned off sections of their studio specifically to share what is trending on social media. Both are actively trying to engage their viewers with links and hashtags. What is sad about this trend is that people who are active on social media don’t need to turn to television news to know what is trending. At the same time, the networks are sending more viewers away from network broadcasts and into the social media realm. This move may mean increased web traffic and more income from online advertisements. However, in the long run this is pushing more people away from the viewership and revenue of the current and future traditional news broadcast.
Often, what is trending is mindless. Social media users are commenting about a photo of a fashion model who is too skinny or a celebrity who said something that offended a portion of the audience.
The impact this has on you, if you are in public relations or communications, is that your effort to get news coverage for the corporation, non-profit organization or government agency, for which you work, continues to get harder.
Your legitimate news may not get covered at all because producers have already filled their allotted time in the newscast with fluff.
The fluff is appealing to the media because it is a low cost way to fill a newscast. This low cost fluff is already known to be popular with the public. In a day when advertising revenues are falling and the size of the news staff is getting smaller, trending fluff is a solution to the media’s short-term problems.
What the media fails to recognize is that the trend of trending is really exposing an increasing number of people to places on the internet where information or entertainment can be gathered for free. This leaves the audience with less need for the original media outlet and the advertisers on the media outlet’s website and news broadcast.
From a pro-active public relations standpoint, you will be under increasing pressure to make your public relations events trend. This adds one extra layer to an already complicated process of pitching a story to the media. It also adds one more point upon which you will be judged. Hence, when you fail to get media coverage, you’ll be scrutinized over your pitching efforts and your social media efforts.
The reality of what gets news coverage is really based on the point of view of a producer, who has a limited amount of time in a newscast and fills it with the things they think the audience will talk about the most. Producers can be fickle. I fought with them daily in the newsroom when I was a reporter. Often, they were Jeckle and Hyde; I never knew which I was getting on any given day.
But the bottom line is trending things get selected by those producers for inclusion in the newscast, taking precedent over things a true journalist would consider to be real news.
Trending is a trend I could do without. Sadly, it will be with us for a very long time.
News media copycats make life more difficult in the world of crisis communications and public relations. More than ever before, your small crisis can get undue media coverage because of the latest disturbing media trend.
Disturbing news media trend #2 is the breaking news trend. CNN is the king of using the “breaking news” banner and verbal exclamation by their news anchors. Fox News is the king of using the phrase “news alert.” But it doesn’t take long, in the land of few original ideas, also known as TV news land, for other news stations to copy what they see the “big boys” are doing. Local television stations open nearly every newscast with both verbal and graphic exclamations, proclaiming the first story of the newscast as breaking news.
As a former journalist, during my time in the television news business, “breaking news” was used to describe an event that was happening or “breaking” at that very second. A fire, an explosion, a shooting are breaking news.
Sadly, this new disturbing trend slaps the breaking news moniker on whatever the first story of the newscast is, even if the event happened hours before. In many cases the issue is already resolved with no new information.
In other words, the breaking news is not breaking and breaking news is broken.
During CNN’s non-stop speculation coverage of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines 370, CNN even proclaimed breaking news about, “new speculation about what might have happened.” Yes, CNN combined two disturbing media trends at the same time – the breaking news trend combined with the excessive speculation trend. It was truly a low point in the world of television news.
This disturbing trend toward excessive use of the breaking news banner has profound effects on every corporation, non-profit organization or government agency, and their public relations teams. Things that are little crises might easily get portrayed as a much bigger crisis.
How do you deal with this? Your crisis communications plan, your media interview skills, and your media monitoring need to be better than they have ever been. Your need to respond quickly as soon as an event occurs is more important than ever. You can’t afford to linger in your response and allow the media to blow things out of proportion.
Now is the time to:
1) revise your crisis communications plan
2) make sure a crisis communications drill is conducted at least once a year, which includes mock news conferences
3) make sure all spokespeople go through media training at least once a year
4) make sure you are using the latest media monitoring tools (I’m super impressed with the I.Q. Media platform)
https://braudcommunications.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Logo-white-01-300x138.png00gbraudhttps://braudcommunications.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Logo-white-01-300x138.pnggbraud2014-06-04 04:00:592021-05-20 20:52:06Breaking News is Broken and there is Nothing Breaking: Disturbing Media Trend #2
If your job is to communicate with the media in the form of crisis communications or pro-active public relations for a good-news event, your life and job will become more complicated because of disturbing news media trend #1.
Excessive speculation ranks as disturbing media trend #1. CNN has taken the sin of speculation to an all time high with their 24/7 speculation regarding the disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370.
The flight disappeared from radar on March 8, 2014 and has never been found as of the day of this writing. That didn’t stop CNN from calling upon every third party expert in the world to get their opinion on why the plane may have disappeared, where the plane may have disappeared, and why absolutely no trace of the aircraft has ever been found.
The speculation included junk floating in the water near China, junk floating in the water near Vietnam, and debris west of Australia. There was also speculation that the aircraft was either commandeered by the pilot or hijacked and flown to a remote airstrip where the passengers might be alive and held hostage.
As a former journalist, I’ll share with you that in newsroom lingo, when a spectacular news event happens, it is not uncommon for the news director to proclaim to all in the newsroom, “We want to ‘own’ this story people!”
CNN clearly set out to devote more time to this story than any of their competitors. But there is a big gamble when going all-in on such a story. If there is no reasonable conclusion within a reasonable amount of time, the news media outlet is trapped. CNN had to decide if they would taper off their coverage or continue to go all in with the 24/7 speculation game. Unfortunately for anyone who watches CNN, the network decided to for-go coverage on most anything else in the world, in favor of non-stop speculation.
As a journalist and as someone who has reported for CNN, this relentless speculation fell below any standards of journalism I was ever taught. It was so absurd that I reached the point of feeling embarrassed for the anchors and the network.
Often another news event will happen that gives the media an opportunity to gracefully exit their excessive coverage. For example, on March 29, 2014, when Los Angeles experienced a 4.1 earthquake, which killed no one and injured no one.
(As a side note, I FaceTimed with my daughter in New Zealand and watched her screen bounce with great frequency as she experienced an earthquake. We immediately went online to see where the quake was centered and watched continuous aftershocks, all of which exceeded the single 4.1 earthquake in LA.)
Rather than giving the story a simple mention commensurate with a minor quake, CNN launched into yet another round of speculation news coverage. This time the story centered on whether LA was going to experience a big quake, capable of causing mass destruction, injury and death.
Really CNN? You didn’t need a 4.1 quake to speculate on that. Heck, everyday you could speculate about a quake rocking California.
Meanwhile, days later, on April 2, 2014, a big quake really did hit, this time in Chile. This massive quake measured 8.2, it killed five, injured others and caused massive destruction of buildings and a tidal wave. Yet the Chilean quake barely stayed in the news cycle.
Furthermore, while CNN went all in on the Malaysian Airlines 370 story, sending their top anchors to report from Malaysia and Australia, they sent no anchors to cover the massive destruction and chaos in Chile.
The frightening aspect of CNN’s relentless speculation is that often what happens at the network level trickles down to the local TV stations. Television news consultants seldom have an original idea. Rather, they watch what some other television news outlet does and they simply copy it.
This trend toward speculation can have a serious impact on corporations, non-profit organizations, and government agencies that experience a crisis. It also has significant impact on the people in public relations who must communicate reactively in a crisis and those who must communicate pro-actively when trying to get media coverage for good news events they wish to promote.
On the reactive side of crisis communications and public relations, should your company, non-profit or government agency fall prey to a crisis, it may be harder than ever to manage and communicate about your crisis.
This disturbing trend of speculation means you will spend more time than ever before responding to and reacting to rumors. Not only must you constantly slap the media on the wrist, but, in the case of Malaysia Airlines 370, if you are the company featured in the news reports, you must intensify your communications to your customer and family member audiences. The media and their speculation inflame your stakeholder audiences, causing greater mental anguish and emotional hostility.
Conversely, if you are a public relations person trying to get positive coverage for a news event during a period of time when the media is in excessive speculation mode about another entities’, your chances of getting good news coverage dissipates. In fact, your chances are almost zero that you could get any sort of news coverage.
The bottom line is for those of you who are professional communicators, the world of communications has gotten a great deal darker and harder because of the disturbing trend of excessive speculation.
The television news media continue to go from bad to worse. New disturbing trends have a huge impact on public relations, your media interactions, and the reputation and revenues of your employer. How do you combat these disturbing trends? Join media relations expert and former journalist Gerard Braud (Jared Bro) on Wednesday, June 4th for an enlightening conversation.
You’ll learn how to:
Identify the 7 most disturbing trends
Determine your best plan of action to combat them
Unlock a strategy that lets you take advantage of these trends
Spot the warning signs that could result in you being victimized
https://braudcommunications.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Logo-white-01-300x138.png00gbraudhttps://braudcommunications.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Logo-white-01-300x138.pnggbraud2014-06-02 10:08:532021-05-20 21:00:577 Disturbing News Media Trends & How You Can Combat Them