Emerging PR Trends

 

Public relations is a well oiled machine which never stops; only evolving to match the starved public that craves the latest news. As PR specialists, we must always keep on our toes and ready to tackle the next crisis. It is also our duty to stay abreast of emerging trends that will enable us to obtain desired outcomes and innovative strategies to get the job done in an above satisfactory manner.

Here is a brief list of PR trends that  I feel have emerged over the years.

1. The never ending cycle of social media

Yes, we are firmly in the age of  technology. What once took hours to find can now be found anywhere on smartphones in 1 minute or less. I predict that one may never work on a campaign where one’s audience is all in one place. In fact, audiences are more fragmented than ever before, splitting their attention between a growing number of channels. To ensure the message is reaching the appropriate people, integrate social media into your PR efforts to bring your message to new audiences. Sharing your content across multiple channels will ensure that people will see it.

2. Utilizing your biggest fans

Who better to help you promote and disseminate information about a product or service than the people actually using the product? Brand ambassadors and “fans” make up the people who talk positively about a product or service online. They advocate for their products, and spread the word however they can. These people are a powerful marketing and selling tool. It would be wise for PR specialists to identify this group and incorporate them into campaigning efforts. As Mack Collier, the founder of #BlogChat and author of “Think Like A Rockstar,” said in his Social Media Tourism Symposium keynote, “You’re marketing to the wrong people…the real money is in connecting with your biggest fans. Your fans will go out and acquire new customers for you.”

3. Long Term Planning

There will be many times when as PR specialists we must simply, “put out the fire.” Meaning, that we must work quick on our feet to resolve a major issue immediately. In a situation such as this, it is understandable to be in a “short-term” state of mind. However, it is more beneficial to plan ahead.  In order to make the most impact, we must be more strategic and think long term. We must have a plan for any crisis that may occur…. BEFORE IT EVEN HAPPENS. Doing so may save you a bit of stress.

4. Action speaks louder than words

It is no longer good enough to simply promote. PR specialists must promote in a way that enables targeted audiences to take action. Communication with the public should never be as though posting a note on a cork board. It should be a conversation open for feedback, a dialogue. Talking at people will get you blocked and judged. However, talking to people will result in proceeding action.

5. Renaissance PR Specialists

Public relations is no longer centered around writing press releases and building relationships. PR now involves, interactive media production, video production, event planning, interviewing, building relationships, writing, photography, social media, blogging, etc… with an emphasis on etc. because PR specialists never know what their next job will involve. In order to keep up with this ever evolving industry, we must be multi-talented individuals who are prepared for whatever is need to get the job done.

If you are a  fellow aspiring public relations specialist, or if you already have years of PR experience under your belt, don’t hesitate to comment adding more PR trends you feel are on the rise. Thank you!

 

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AOL CEO Tim Armstrong in the Hot Seat

Tim Armstrong (CEO of AOL)

Tim Armstrong (CEO of AOL)

Earlier this month Tim  Armstrong, AOL CEO, changed the company’s 401(k) plan so employees would get a lump sum at the end of the year  instead of regular contributions in each paycheck. The switch caused an uproar from employees because they would not get money  if they left the company before year-end, and would potentially miss  stock gains during the year.

Armstrong explained that AOL adopted this change because of a $7.1 million increase in health-care costs required to make the company comply with Obama care. During an interview, in an attempt to explain the company’s shift,  Armstrong blamed the 401(k) change partly on a spike in health-care costs related to the difficult birth of two babies covered by the company’s policies. He stated that these “distressed babies” cost AOL $1 million each.

Realizing the effect his words had on the two mothers and other AOL employees, Armstrong later responded by reinstating the previous 401 (K) plan and indirectly apologizing to the two moms.

From a PR stand point, Armstrong made several mistakes in this situation that could have made this shift of 401 (k) program smoother.

First, let us address the CEO’s communication and employee relations. In an attempt to explain  why the 401(k) was being altered, during an interview, Armstrong singled out two employees and ultimately blamed the shift on their high risk pregnancies. By doing this, he casts his employees as mere liabilities to the company.  Just to be clear, ground employees are a company’s best asset and need to be treated as such.  It is apparent that Armstrong has forgotten the direct connection between employee satisfaction and customer delight. In order to have happy customers, you must have happy employees. Consumers do not walk away from a business saying “The CEO is a nice man/woman.” In reality, customers walk away from a business with the memory of how they were treated by the cashier, clerk, server, etc. Instead of playing the blame game, Armstrong should have explained the big picture of why 401 (k) plans were being changed. With this said, AOL employees should have received a direct apology from him .

Second, the CEO’s less than timely reaction . In our society of innovative technology, everything is public. Because studies show that on a 7:1 ratio people prefer to hear/ see bad news more than good news, media channels jump on stories like this with little mercy on the subject (Center, Jackson, Smith & Stansberry). I will give credit where credit is due. Armstrong did apologize, and reinstated the 401 (k) plan. However, he only did this after remaining quiet for a few days, and realizing that this problem was not going away on its own. Instead of remaining quiet and allowing the media to tell his story, Armstrong should have made a public announcement stating exactly what happened. He also should have directly apologized to the two mothers he mentioned in the interview and all of the AOL employees. This would have helped regain employee loyalty as well as trust. By attempting to wait for things to cool off, and then taking action once he saw no other way out,  his actions did not seem genuine.

If I were to advise Tim Armstrong on anything I would suggest three things.

1.Brush up on communication skills.

This entire incident did not happen because Armstrong is a jerk. I believe it happened because he did not know how to effectively communicate his thoughts. As my PR management professor says, “CEOs only speak one language, money.” CEOs do not understand how to effectively communicate with people, let alone their customers and employees. I would recommend that Armstrong get coaching on how to effectively communicate especially in the public.

2. Deal with issues head on.

Nothing resolves itself. He must participate and actively communicate with the public about what happened, and what he is doing to make sure it does not happen again. However, he probably does not understand this need because, again, he lacks essential communication skills.

3.  Learn how to apologize.

No good apology is without three very important components, which Armstrong’s apology conveniently lacked,  including the “I’m sorry statement,” what you did wrong, and how you are going to fix it.

References:

Center, A., Jackson, P., Smith, S., & Stansberry, F. Public relations practices. (7th ed., p. 162).

Bartash, J. (2014, February 9). Aol chief offers mea culpa after 401(k) faux pas. Retrieved from http://blogs.marketwatch.com/capitolreport/2014/02/09/aol-ceo-retreats-on-401k-switch-after-uproar/