Saturday, November 22, 2008

5 PR tips from my Yahoo Maps driving directions

You can find good bits of inspiration if you pay attention. Check out the good PR advice I found on my Yahoo! Maps driving directions yesterday.

Yahoo! Maps advice for PR people
I clicked the "Printable Version" to receive my hard copy of directions. On my way out the door I looked down and noticed some text at the bottom of the page:
"When using any driving directions or map, it's a good idea to do a reality check and make sure the road still exists, watch out for construction, and follow all traffic safety precautions. This is only to be used as an aid in planning."
I read it a couple of times, then it hit me; this is some sound public relations advice. Consider the following...
  1. it's a good idea to do a reality check - Take a step back and look at your situation, problem, issue, etc. from all sides to figure out the appropriate next steps.
  2. make sure the road still exists - Sometimes decisions you've made before are no longer an option, this is critical mistake that is often made when responding to similar PR issues. Just because it's worked before, doesn't necessarily mean it will work again.

  3. watch out for construction - Obstacles will likely be in your way and you should make sure to pay attention to the road ahead.

  4. follow all traffic safety precautions - There are some tried and true public relations practices and realities that can always be used to fall back upon including honesty, credibility, ethics, and appropriate strategic thinking/action to keep you on course.

  5. [Remember the] planning - I know we often play defense and react to issues, but planning ahead and planning for situations is always a good idea and could make your job so much easier. (I took editorial license with this one to make a point and give my list five points.)
What do you think? Are there some other things that we can take away from these driving reminders?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Looking for the ethical intersections

I've had some time to ponder some things from the presentation that PR professor extraordinaire Doug Newsom, Ph.D., APR, recently made to the Fort Worth and Dallas Chapters of PRSA on ethical issues.

Ethics are the values that we acquire from faith, family, experience, and relationships that are our guidelines for what we consider right and wrong. They can be placed into two main categories: normative and situational.

Normative ethics can best be described as including religion and philosophy. In contrast, she said that PR professionals tend to operate in situational ethics since we function within social-science which provides a whole different (and even new) sets of ethical challenges. Comparative ethics is quite fascinating and daunting since we deal with some many different publics with differen
t values. Take a moment to consider some different publics: organizations, clients, news media, government agencies, educational institutions, consumers, stakeholders, analysts, investors, community, competitors, critics, and even other practitioners.
(photo credit: enggul)

Ethics and you

Newsom covered extensive ground and gave three key points for PR practitioners when confronted with ethics challenges:
  1. Stand your ground. You have expertise in your field - expertise that organizational leadership should be hearing.
  2. Understand the culture of the corporation. When it comes to communication, companies range from closed to open. Know where the company/client falls on that continuum, and decide if your personal values fit that culture. If not, you'll likely encounter some conflicts when sensitive issues arise.
  3. Adhere to an ethics model. She specifically discussed a utilitarian model, which supports decision-making of doing the greatest good for the greatest number, or a communitarian ethics model, which stresses morality in the community and being a good "corporate citizen." She further stated that these two approaches to ethics can never intersect because that are too divergent.
This last point has been bothering me for nearly a week. While I found much of her insight from over 40 years of experience to be remarkable, she did touch on something that I have not been able to shake since I respectfully disagree.

Roads that do not intersect?
The two different approaches for discussions on ethics:
  1. Utilitarian - Do the greatest good for the largest number
  2. Communitarian - Seek the vision of the organization to try to get agreement based on the values and mission
I think these two approaches can come together if organizations have the buy-in from their communities to the vision and if that organization has the credibility and trust of stakeholders. If our communities believe that we operate with their best interests in mind, then we know we've accomplished something. These two approaches are not mutually exclusive if we are remarkable at what we do. Is this easy? Not at all. Unfortunately, we operate and are viewed through the senses of doubt, mistrust, and other things that cloud vision. However, I think these things should give us motivation to never let down.

Tracks to transparency
Professor Newsom went on to explain (and to these points I go back to agreeing) that "PR people are not in business to be order-takers. We have a responsibility to challenge decisions. We have to do, not just talk." We need to be the strategic thinkers. We need to travel down those tracks to transparency. We must collaborate to set ethics and measurement guidelines when it comes to social media, search and PR. (For some of us, it might even be a good idea to every once in a while review the PRSA Code of Ethics.) Whatever the motivation, we should always strive to take our organizations to better places.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Newspapers Can Compete Through Collaboration

It is not often that a PR person looks at a local newspaper and thinks, "they are really thinking over there."

All kidding aside, I am officially impressed at some plans by the local newspapers in my region. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Dallas Morning News recently announced an effort to share editorial content in an effort to better serve their markets. (Photo credit: DillonH)

From the Star-Telegram:
With newspapers facing challenges from changes in the industry brought on by the Internet and a rapid decline in the economy, editors of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and The Dallas Morning News have begun discussing ways to collaborate in some targeted areas of newsgathering.
The internal and external language the two papers chose to explain this shift is also important to note.  Phrases like, "common-sense ways we can save money through cooperation," and "collaboration is made possible because of the mutual respect," and "[o]ur challenges are with the other media, not each other," tell me the two newsrooms are being reflective and perhaps moving away from some very old competitive habits.

A shift needed to happen in order for both newspapers to continue to be an influential voice in their respective markets moving forward. I have been following the layoffs at both papers through some journalist friends. I agree that the layoffs should matter to our communities and I get that they were corporate cost-saving decisions. I have been wondering and reading about what newspapers could do to adapt to the new landscape and build something new for the community.

A Suggestion

The decision to explore a collaborative editorial effort is an excellent first step. But what could be next?

I have at least one simple suggestion for the Star-Telegram: Quit hiding your online stories behind seemingly random expiration dates and placing them in a paid archive. This frustration can best be summed up by one of my Twitter friends through this frustrating tweet, "ST: How do you expect to grow online marketshare when you take down articles after a week? I can't link to you!!"

Why does this matter? If you expire good content and move it across a toll bridge, people will get frustrated with the toll-collector and be less likely to want to keep using that content. I am hesitant to link to anything on the Star-Telegram even if the story is great, because I know eventually it vanishes. The new media feeds on good content. That content must be accessible. It can be monetized so figure it out.

Back to Collaboration 
(no more archive rant)
By combining efforts through specific collaboration, the two newspapers should find themselves more agile and of more use to their communities. It will be interesting to see in what forms this strategy takes. I look forward to seeing what's next.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Can we expect a Social Media Presidency?

Much has already been said and written about what went so right for the Obama campaign and the people responsible for its success.

Along with being a landmark event in American history, the win should have lasting effects for communications professionals. One could even argue that the social web changed history.

So what should we expect  now?
Will we see more in the way of social media strategies from the next administration or as Josh Bernoff puts it, "Barack Obama, will you tap into the groundswell?" Bernoff even goes so far as to call for quite possibly the coolest Presidential appointment (at least to professional communicators):
I call on president-elect Obama to create a community of committed Americans to discuss the solutions to the problems that face us. I call on him to designate a US Community Manager, with a small staff, to moderate and harvest those discussions to solve the country's problems. Forget polls. With a few million people in, Obama will be able to tap into the world's largest focus group. Communities are cheap, compared to most of what the government does. Create a space for the brightest people you know; use them to attract the best ideas. And better yet, use this energized community to sell those ideas to America.
We even have someone ready to jump in and take the job (he's a local guy, so I'd support him.)

I sincerely hope we see more tactical uses of social media integration from government officials. I think this would be the beginnings to real change. Strategic integration of social media strategies aid in telling a transparent story. Besides, it would be a shame to let the social networks go to waste when so much could be done with them.

In my opinion, they are off to a good start with site to help tell the story of the transition.

(Photo credit: joyepurser)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


My name is Richie Escovedo and I approve this message.
(Photo credit: BrittneyBush)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Students remind us to vote

I've been encouraged this election season by the number of educators and students taking an interest in Presidential politics and this historic election. As early voting records are shattered and millions of people pay particular attention to where we are as a country and where we could go together. I hope this country significantly breaks voting records with huge numbers on November 4.

One of our district's schools took an opportunity during Red Ribbon Week to gather outside on a beautiful day to create another reminder to all Americans to exercise their rights and vote.

This photo first appeared on the district's Web site and was then shared with CNN for their iReport.