Damn, I Wish I Had Said That


PR Disaster

So much of what we do as PR people isn’t about message – it’s about good advice.

And good counsel shouldn’t be relegated to press releases and placements. We need to help people think through challenges and problems and help them find their way to their goals.

When clients make bad decisions – and worse, when they make those bad decisions because we didn’t help them make a better one – is when the ground falls out from under them. And from you. And pulling things back together can be very, very messy.

So for Friday ShareDay, here’s a great article – that frankly, I wish I had written myself – about “When PR overshadows the problem” by Phil Rosenthal.

Happy Weekend!

Be The Ball


Be The Ball

Every red-blooded American man’s favorite comedic movie (or darn near close) must be Caddyshack.

Among all the classic scenes is the one where Ty Webb instructs a young Danny Noonan to concentrate and just “be the ball” in an effort to help him become a better golfer.

The results were more comedic than impressive, but the lesson is a good one, no matter how far Danny’s chip shot landed from the pin. (“Right in the lumber yard.”)

And it came to mind as I crashed a project this week: a speech for a client that needed a top-to-bottom rewrite in just hours.

I was able to pull it off, to the client’s great delight, because I allowed myself to “be the ball.” I knew this person, cold: his logic, his voice and his factual information, to the point where I felt as though I was writing for myself. I put myself in the room, at the podium, speaking to the group of people he will address. I turned off all external inputs – save for spellcheck – and just wrote what needed to be said.

He was so happy he even allowed me to take a second pass at it this morning, and the results are.. well.. we’ll see tonight when he’s at the mic reading the words I wrote for him. But I think it’s gonna be just fine.

What are your best ways to write?

Back At It


Priorities

I’ve taken a couple weeks off from posting.. things have been quite busy.

I have had so much going on at work that I had not one moment to think about creative writing, much less put something down on paper (or computer!), even though it was on my mind.

And although not posting anything new here is a bit of a failure on my part, it also points out an important lesson about priorities and workload.

I could have easily not completed a work project in order to take time to write something. I could have put this blog – a hobby of mine – ahead of something that affects my clients and my company. I could have sat and mused about writing something fun or insightful, worked the copy until I got it just right, found an interesting image and loaded in links for entertainment, posted it, sat back and felt like I had accomplished something.

But that would have meant putting off things that needed greater attention, that were frankly more important.

It illustrates to me the larger lesson of prioritizing and delaying pleasure in order to achieve a goal.

So much of life is about knowing when and how to prioritize, and when to set aside things that don’t matter.

Pardon me, now.. it’s dinner time with my family and I am turning this thing off. (see.. priorities!)

No Surprises


surprise

Surprises are bad.

No, I’m not talking about surprise birthday parties, or a 50% off sale at your favorite store.

I mean business surprises. The things that sneak up on you and throw you off your game, sucking time and energy out of your day that should be spent on accomplishing the things you and your team have planned and committed to. And they are – for the most part – completely avoidable.

Surprises happen because of a lack of communication. In the case of a surprise party, that is intentional.

But in the work environment, people who are supposed to be collaborating can often surprise each other, and sometimes with disastrous results.

Not communicating leaves other people standing around waiting, or getting caught flat-footed when you need to call on them for assistance and support.

Team members can stumble to get up to speed, casting aside other projects because yours is “on fire” and needs immediate attention. Obviously, that’s not the path to success. And it can even make happy clients, well, not happy.

Like I said, it’s completely avoidable.

Institute a “no surprises” policy on your team.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone


Comfort Zone

On a recent field trip with a client, I decided to try something new.

What it was doesn’t matter. I got an idea, something I had never done before, but was fairly certain I could pull off. I did my homework on the technical aspects of what I needed to accomplish. I recruited a collaborator to help me test the idea. And then I went for it.

I could have very easily fallen on my face.

And although the experiment wasn’t a fire-breathing, twitter-trending-topic success, what I set out to test did, in fact, work. And the feedback I got in the process (from myself and from others) will let me do that thing even better the next time.

I was out of my comfort zone. And it felt good.

It’s easy for us to not do something new; to repeat the same winning formula over and over, tweaked for the details, in order to keep racking up wins. After all, if you weren’t so good at that thing you can do (in your sleep, by now, I am sure), people wouldn’t be hiring you, right? So why mess with something that is working?

Because that’s not what we do.

As PR people, we need to always be looking for the new. The different. The unusual. The unique.

The stagnant dies. The boundary-pushers not only survive, but thrive. We create new paradigms and new ways of seeing the world. We advance the narrative and turn the insane into the achievable.

Don’t settle for the same-old ho-hum. Get out of your comfort zone. I’m certainly glad I did.

Eliminate the Noise


Noise

Anything that distracts us from our goals can be defined as noise.

It’s all around us, mostly in the form of messages designed to get us to take action, and usually to spend money. It’s siren song lures us into big box stores with promises of zero-percent financing; into restaurants for two-for-one, bottomless drinks and dinners; and into all manner of other entertainment, experiential and consumption opportunities.

But if those opportunities don’t align with our goals, the are distractions. They sap our attention, energy and resources. By that definition, they must be eliminated.

This is not an anti-marketing message; rather, this is a pro-YOU message.

It’s your job to figure out what is noise, for you, your organization and your goals. You need to filter the noise from the essential. One man’s noise can be another man’s nirvana.

It can be daunting, and perhaps not fun. Asking – actually telling – other people that their best and sincerest efforts are not welcome.

But it’s either them or you. You can’t apologize for doing what you do.

Reaching Out.. Touching Me.. Touching You…


Relationships

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@SamanthaYanks: “Relationships are key.”

I read this tweet a few weeks back and it illustrated a key concept we’d all be wise to remember: that relationships make everything we do better.

Relationships – that intimate connection we forge with another human being – create more fulfilling experiences, allow us to find creative solutions to challenges, and sweeten the victories when they inevitably come.

In business, projects move faster and easier, and results come faster and bigger when there is a shared sense of pride in the project.

In life, there’s nothing better than having a partner to high five as you both cross the finish line, knowing you each helped the other make it there.

So team up: it’s good for you!

First Chance, Last Chance


Same Old Thinking Same Old Results

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This pic at the left says it all. Can you feel it?

So in that spirit, here’s a fast post today to kickoff a new week, a new month, a new business quarter, and the last three months of the year. It’s your first chance to get the rest of the year going right – and your last chance to make something amazing happen before we say goodbye to 2012.

Before you know it, we’ll all be standing around singing this song.

For those of you who are interested in “making it through,” best of luck.

For those of you who are going to make this a time to remember, come on along with me. We got doin’ to do.

Leave a comment below and let everyone know what YOU will accomplish!

Lifetime Relationships Create Longterm Success


BadCustomerService

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I recently had a pair of nearly identical customer service experiences that made me scratch my head. (Disclaimer: this is not going to be a rant about a specific company. In fact, we’ll omit the names to protect the guilty.)

In both cases, the businesses in question chose to charge me nominal amounts of money (about $20) for something I felt I shouldn’t have to pay.

Now as the business owner, they had the right to charge me. But the experience – including the attitude that was dished out with each of the decisions – was so dramatic that both businesses turned me into instant ex-customers. Walking away from each experience, I swore to never patronize either business again (a gym and an auto parts chain). And even though I am just one customer, I represent thousands in potential profit over the rest of my lifetime. Or at least more than $20.

In the real world, we call that a bad deal.

It also reminds me of a concept we practice in PR: that the pitch you’re making to a reporter is never about this story, it’s about the next story. A good experience now paves the road for more interactions, more business and a sustained relationship later. Those relationships can last for years – and reap nearly limitless potential and profit.

Think about it: if those businesses had stopped for a moment to listen to my complaint, and judged that my dissatisfaction was legitimate, they could have waived those fairly insignificant charges and I might still be patronizing their stores. But because of the experience I had – for $20! – I’ll never set foot in either business again. And if a friend were to ask me whether they should use one of those businesses, I’ll probably tell them a (much harsher) version of this story. And it will likely cost them that customer, too.

Whether a gym, auto parts store or in PR, all business is about people. It’s about making people feel valued and well-served. Sometimes we have disagreements, and sometimes people don’t get their way. Policies are in place to help employees navigate the customer experience. But sometimes those policies need to be scrapped in the name of (wait for it) MORE BUSINESS.

As those who are on the front lines of the customer service experience, we need to step back from the individual transaction to appreciate the larger picture, and understand how this experience will affect the next one. If done poorly, this experience will make it the last one.

Tweeting and Flying


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Being on the losing end of poor customer service is never pretty. But companies who fall down and then recover gracefully turn customers into evangelists. And social media is the new stage on which this story plays out.

Case in point, last week I am traveling home from a business trip and my Delta flight is delayed three separate times for a total two-and-a-half hours. There I was stuck at the gate. No power to rejuice my gadgets. Not even a coffee stand. Not happy.

Tweeting my dissatisfaction to @Delta, they responded (within seconds) with a request for the flight number so they could check on what was wrong. Subsequently, they replied with an answer and an offer for frequent flyer miles to express their apologies for my inconvenience.

Now it didn’t get my plane home faster. And it’s not the miles that made the difference for me (seriously, you need like a million miles just to get a domestic ticket on any airline).

It was the exemplary customer service that made me sit up and take notice. Delta was right there, listening, when my complaint popped up. Rather than spew some pre-packaged junk about “we’re sorry for the delay, which is out of our control,” they took ownership, got answers and made me feel good that someone at the airline was on the case.

The miles were just icing on the cake; they could have emailed me a drink voucher and I would have been just as satisfied. (Come to think of it: hey Delta, there’s an idea. If you can email boarding passes; why not email customers vouchers for in-flight goodies?)

And here’s the payoff for Delta: not only did I tweet about the experience, but now I’m blogging about it, and you’re reading about it. You might even retweet the link to this blog yourself, post it on your facebook page or spread the news by good old word of mouth.

And it cost Delta nothing except a little time and energy in allowing their twitter feed (and the people who run it) to do the work it’s supposed to do.

Had the scenario had a different ending, I might be an enemy. Now I’m an evangelist.