Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Crisis Communication Plans

How many times have you experienced an unforeseen situation at work mushrooms into something much larger than you ever imagined? While this happens routinely, and there are many examples large and small, there's nothing worse than waiting to an actual crisis to have your crisis communications plan tested.

As most probably know, crisis communication plans are created to help a business respond to a variety of unforeseen situations. Depending on the industry involved, they could be in response to everything from a power outage or a natural disaster to an actual crime. One thing's for certain: You don't want to have your procedure for dealing with the communications aspect of a situation until you're staring one in the face.

An effective crisis communications plan conveys to customers and employees alike that, in spite of whatever's happening around the business, there's someone at the helm executing a plan that underwent much deliberation and consideration. It also avoids the situation where an employee will be put in a situation where they'll say something incorrect or unwanted that could lead to a torrent of bad publicity.

As businesses in New Orleans are learning now and as those of us in the New York area learned on Sept. 11 and with the blackout, it's never too early to plan for a crisis, but once a crisis is upon you, it's almost always too late to properly react.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Publicity Versus PR

Often I see a lot of confusion in the way the services of a public relations practitioner are described. The most common example is the thinking that public relations and publicity are one in the same. This is most typically portrayed by the people who are in a position to purchase the services of a PR pro, so I believe it's to the industry's advantage to clearly delineate the services of each.

Public relations involves wide-ranging programs, only part of which is media relations. Other services that are commonly used include the creation of newsletters and other external material, arranging speaking engagements and setting up meetings with industry and financial analysts. All of this works toward the overall goal of advancing understanding of a client's goods and/or services. In short, even when PR practitioners are dealing with intellectual capital, as they do when working with law firms, all the work they do is done on behalf of the entire firm, not just advancing the cause of one individual.

Publicity, on the other hand, involves the representation of an individual or a group of people and focuses more on the management of their reputation. So, for example, you'll see publicists trying to keep their clients both in and out of well-known columns like "Page Six," which appears in The New York Post.

Since many people who engage a PR pro's services are often doing so for the first time or have limited experience with this type of professional, it's to the industry's advantage to make sure everyone is clear on exactly what is and isn't part of a PR person's job and a PR program.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Journalist-PR Relationship Once Again Makes News

It's no secret to anyone who's in either public relations or journalism that the relationship between the two professions can be somewhat strained at any given time. Much has already been written on this topic, primarily in public relations publications. Now, with the growing proliferation of blogs, journalists are taking their turn at the "podium" to expound on the subject.

In a recent blog posting, Jeremy Zawodny suggests journalists place a blanket ban on public relations from tech firms. Zawodny went on to equate the pitches he received with spam, and suggested that the best way for journalists to fight back was to filter their in-boxes so they would not receive correspondence from PR firms.

As a former CNN Financial News staffer, I know all too well what it's like to work at a major outlet, where you're flooded with e-mails, phone calls and all kinds of useless information. However, as with many things, I believe it's important not to paint with a brush that's too broad. There are many PR pros who go to the trouble to carefully research what reporters write about and to offer them genuine, new developments in those industries. I found that information very useful when I was at news outlets, and the response I get from reporters at major publications indicates they do as well.

I believe rather than perpetuating a divided camp discussion, the better approach would be for the two sides to work together with the mutual goal of improving the information they deliver. That will benefit the clients of PR firms, as well as the readers, listeners and viewers of the media outlets with whom they communicate.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Web Site Facelift

As some of you have undoubtedly noticed, the original version of Astoria Communications Web site did not exactly have that professionally-designed and polished look. Well, frankly, that's because the first version was not professionally designed, but rather was put together by yours truly.

To "celebrate" the first anniversary of launching my practice, I began planning for a Web site relaunch in early summer. I'm now happy to announce that the new site went live on Friday, Sept. 2 and should be bug free at this point. (If anyone does notice anything amiss, please do drop me a line.)

This blog is integrated into the Web site through a direct link, and I plan to do more with this forum in the coming months. In the meantime, I welcome anyone's suggestions on ways to make this blog a unique place among the PR community. We're fortunate to have many great PR representatives in the blogosphere right now, and I certainly don't intend to "compete" with them in any way, but rather to supplement what they're doing.

So please do feel free to write in and look for frequent updates to this space.