Good writing is the heart of good PR.
I’ll always remember Mrs. White, the passionate, white-haired third grade teacher I was blessed with.
“Yeah is not a word,” Mrs. White would repeat as she forced us to use the proper reply of yes or no when asked a question. “We do not say ‘yeah’ and ‘nuh-uh’ in this classroom,” she would say with her hands neatly clasped one on top of the other, resting on the soft belly of her flowered cotton dress.
Through this small exercise she opened a life-changing door. She sought to instill in us a true love and respect for the language and knowledge of its proper use in both the spoken and written form. She was passionate about this, and as a result she unknowingly became my first mentor as a writer.
Practice, read and practice some more.
As the year unfolded with Mrs. White, we learned the basics of grammar and sentence structure, easy tricks to remember confusing spellings, the importance of pronunciation, the proper use of to, too and two; their, there and they’re; your and you’re and the rest.
We experienced the joy of hearing a passage come alive by selecting the right descriptive words. Through the simple exercises of writing for each other and reading aloud, she instilled the joy of reading and writing, respect for the importance of punctuation and the thrill of becoming part of the story. As we grew in our clever new skills, she integrated more difficult lessons through story telling by sharing her life-long love of birds, and through creative writing using various forms of poetry.
Mid year, she gave us an assignment to write a poem. The rules were that it had to adhere to a certain poetic form and it had to be about something that was meaningful to us. I wrote about my love of the forest and the sights, sounds, smells, creatures and adventures that were part of my childhood forest world. I’ll always remember her beaming, cherubic face as she selected my poem as her favorite and posted it on the bulletin board. In that moment I knew I wanted to write forever.
What does all this have to do with PR, you say? Everything, I say.
What is public relations? The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) recently unveiled its modern definition: Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. Yes, but public relations is more than that. I think PR is also the art and science of message design and delivery to inform, educate, and develop or change public opinion, impact behavior, enhance or protect reputation, and prevent or address crisis in an open, honest and ethical manner.
Can we help organizations achieve specific and strategic communications
goals and objectives without skill in the area of creating messages that are uniquely created for each receiving public and each communications channel? The ability to craft the message is one of the keys to success. And, that is why good writing still matters and will always matter. Content, as they say, is still king.
A final thought
Now a contributing journalist, published poet and occasional blogger, I still correct myself often and say yes rather than yeah. I still toil over sentence structure, punctuation, word selection and grammar with delight. I still ask myself, what do we want people to know? What do we want them to do? How can I write this in a way that will engage, excite, educate, enlighten, entertain, inspire or awe the receiver? I still pour over the AP Stylebook. And, I’m still thrilled by every opportunity to read and read some more, as I am to write and write some more. I’m still learning every day.
Someday I hope to be fairly good at this writing thing. In the meantime, just like Mrs. White taught me so many years ago, I practice and read and practice some more. If research, audience evaluation, strategic planning, measurable objectives, strategy, tactics, implementation and evaluation are the head of good PR, then good writing is the heart. Think about it!
Copyright 2012, Tracy L. Teuscher, APR
Really Chick-fil-A? Exploring the Chick-fil-A trademark suit, public relations and reputation management.
Company Value and Reputation
In a recent Businessweek article, research from The Economist Intelligence Unit has found that 75 percent of a company’s value is tied up in its reputation. If more than 90 percent of consumers use the Web to research companies and products before buying, and 80 percent make decisions based on that research, I’m asking the following question: Did Chick-fil-A have a public relations specialist at the discussion table along with the company attorney when they decided to file a recent trademark law suit against a T-shirt making, small business owner in Vermont?
The Chick-fil-A Trademark Suit and Corporate Bully Brand Perception
If you haven’t heard about this, Chick-fil-A has, in my opinion, earned a corporate bully brand perception by filing a trademark suit against a T-shirt maker in Vermont for making shirts that say “Eat More Kale”. According to the latest news from a variety of sources, Bo Muller-Moore began making T-shirts with the slogan “Eat More Kale” more than 10 years ago in support of a friend who grows kale, and to support the “grow local, buy local” philosophy. Really Chick-fil-A?
According to an article in The Huffington Post, in a letter, a lawyer for Chick-fil-A said, “ Muller-Moore’s effort to expand the use of his ‘eat more kale” message is likely to cause confusion of the public and dilutes the distinctiveness of Chick-fil-A’s intellectual property and diminishes its value.” Really, Chick-fil-A?
What Does This Suit Really Mean?
I wanted to explore this example from both a reputation management perspective as well as from a legal perspective, so I consulted with my good friend Andrew Spriegel, trademark, patent and intellectual property attorney, and owner of Spriegel & Associates LLC, to get some insight.
“The term ‘confusingly similar’ or ‘likelihood of confusion’ are used in assessing the legal standard that is required to prove infringement of a trademark,” said Spriegel. “In other words, if Chick-fil-A took this suit to court, they would have to be able to show that when people hear or see ‘eat more kale’, they tend to confuse it with the trademarked phrase ‘eat more chikin’ used by Chick-fil-A and in this example, I don’t think Chick-fil-A can effectively make that case. Based upon the research I’ve done, I think they are doing more harm than good for their company with this suit.”
Chick-fil-A Has More Than Kale on its Face
Well, that’s interesting. That’s exactly what I thought. This is an example of a corporate decision that results in harm to the company reputation. Did Chick-fil-A think they could move forward with this without some major consumer backlash, significant negative impact to company reputation, and a pile of kale on its face?
Reputation and the Role of Public Relations
We all know that a company’s reputation is its most valuable asset. In an age where companies now buy reputation insurance, a PR specialist can, as Rosanna Fiske from PRSA states, “help a company understand the potential consequences of its actions better or provide counsel to mitigate the impact of a business’ actions before they are set into motion. It requires a public relations team that provides strategic communications counsel to, and is a part of, a company’s C-suite.”
It seems that in this case, either the public relations specialist was not invited to the discussion table, or recommendations regarding this legal action were ignored resulting in a suit that is not only potentially devastating for the Muller-Moore family, but for Chick-fil-A’s brand and company reputation. Think about it!
Buzz of the Month – March 2011
Why is PR on the payroll, and who cares?
Ah, the third of March. It’s a special day as it’s the anniversary of my maternal grandmother’s birth. A grand Irish dame she was, and since the month of March brings with it the remembrance of the Irish, it always seems a perfect day to remember some of grandma’s good advice. She always used to say, and later I realized it was taken from a bible verse, “Darling, don’t cast your pearls before swine lest they be trampled…and you, my darling, are a pearl.”
What does that have to do with PR you say?
Everything, I say. Public relations is the pearl in the marketing and communications crown. Nothing achieves the organizational messaging goals and establishes and protects company reputation better, stronger, or faster or with a better return on investment. Like Super Woman, public relations soars through the stream of inaccurate and incomplete information in the marketplace to educate, inform, and raise awareness and looks good doing it. Public relations has the power to engage all major publics including key influencers, thought leaders, and early adopters. From current and prospective customers, to community leaders and the media, public relations immediately goes to work to create or enhance awareness, differentiate your company from the competition, set the record straight, and define the reasons why people should care.
Who really cares, and why should they?
When considering your services or your client, ask yourself this question in two ways. First, ask this question as it relates to the public relations service that is being provided. Why is PR on the payroll? Who cares, and why should they? If you are a PR professional, ask this question all the time, and make sure you can answer it confidently as it relates to the services you provide, the results that you deliver, and the unique set of both personal and professional attributes you bring to the table that are of value to your client. Then, ask this question as it relates to your client.
Why are you, the public relations pearl, working with this particular client or company? Who cares?
Does your boss or your client care about the fact that you are providing them with a superior service that assists them in accomplishing a variety of organizational goals with an incredible ROI? If they don’t, go back to the first time we asked this question and make sure you’re doing your job to educate and inform folks about the value of what you do. It’s a formidable job, but it comes with the territory. Take a hard honest look at areas where you might be able to improve here, and develop a plan to do just that. Look at ways you can provide additional information, schedule opportunities to review progress, or engage other influential voices within the organization to help you tell this important story. As public relations professionals, we are often so busy doing the job that we fall down a bit here.
Okay, so you’ve asked the questions. Now what?
If you ask these questions and find that what you’re really dealing with is an exhausting, impossible, and unprofitable client, then you should consider firing them. That’s right, I said it. When a client is costing you excessive time and energy, or if they are impossible to please and will never truly understand the value of what you do, then firing this client and replacing them with another can actually boost your company’s revenue, not to mention lower your blood pressure and improve your quality of life.
This exercise can effectively be applied to a variety of business scenarios with equally revealing results, so give it a try. And, as my grand Irish grandmother always used to say, “Darling, don’t cast your pearls before swine lest they be trampled…and you, my darling, are a pearl.”
Copyright 2011, Tracy L. Teuscher, The Buzz Maker! LLC.
Isdead? It’s a big question. Some people think they’ve answered it already. Many of us are still asking this big question. As professional communicators, public relations folks can tell you that the answer is a resounding “Heck, no!”.
The Evolving Print Media Landscape
- Issues read per month, and
- Time spent per issue.
The Power of Editorial Feature
As public relations professionals, we are intimately familiar with the power of editorial feature in print media, but let’s use this example of magazines. Because of the incredible cultural history of the magazine, the way magazine readers feel about their magazines and their incredible readership loyalty, and the inherent attributes of the magazine media that are absolutely unique to the magazine, magazines remain an incredibly popular form of news, information, entertainment, education, and inspiration. Here are some of the latest facts:
- The average reader spends 43 minutes reading an issue
- The number of paid subscriptions exceeds 300 million
- Magazine advertising recall has increased
- Readership has increased over the last five years
I don’t know about you, but I’m just crazy about magazines as a magazine consumer, as well as a writer and a PR professional. What other form of media makes us eagerly watch our mailbox for that next issue? What other form of media can we tuck neatly inside a briefcase, an overnight or carry-on bag, take along to the doctor’s office, or read while soaking in a tub full of bubbles? What other form of media can we dog-ear the pages of, pass along to friends or associates, or save in our “favorites” pile on the book shelf for years? What other form of media thrills us with content, design, and award winning photography month after month?
Ah, the magazine! As magazine appreciators, we know the impact and value of editorial selection by a magazine. And, it’s up to us to remain informed and to educate our management teams and clients on the same.
The Magazine Industry Speaks Out
Well, there are a bunch of dedicated people in the magazine industry who have joined forces with other passionate magazine industry folks, even competitors, to debunk the myths and replace them with the latest research about the allegedly dead print media. They have collaborated to put together a massive PR campaign using full page advertising buys…in magazines…to accomplish their goal. I think it’s brilliant. The leaders of five major magazine companies—Charles H. Townsend (Condé Nast), Cathie Black (Hearst Magazines), Jack Griffin (Meredith Corporation), Ann Moore (Time Inc.), and Jann Wenner (Wenner Media)—talk about the vitality of magazines as a medium. Check out “Magazines, The Power of Print Campaign” and tell me what you think. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGVniqgWSc0
Print, dead? I think not.
Copyright 2010, Tracy L. Teuscher, APR, The Buzz Maker! LLC