Category Archives: public relations


Is a Donut Better for You than a Salad?

Candice Choi’s article, “Dunkin’ Donuts adds doughnut bacon sandwich to menu”in the Chicago Sun-Times is a great public relations move. The sandwich consists of fried eggs and bacon on a glazed doughnut, so I don’t think I could eat it unless I extend my daily workout from one hour to five. However, what Dunkin’ Donuts is doing is newsworthy. 

Everyone knows that fatty, sugary, salty foods aren’t good for you, so fast food restaurants, even McDonald’s, are offering salads and more healthy food. You’d think that since people are more health-conscious, they would want more healthy food, and even Choi says that sales have increased because of the healthier menus. However, Dunkin’ Donuts is giving people what they’re wired to crave, and it seems like a novelty. After all, PR-wise, healthy food doesn’t seem as exciting, but a crazy, caloric sandwich can make a splash. 

It reminds me that what’s old is new again, because for years fast food restaurants didn’t offer healthy food, and Dunkin’ Donuts is returning to that approach. In that way, what Dunkin’ Donuts is doing seems contrarian in their publicity efforts. However, the company really scored because the sandwich will cause lots of conversations online and off. I bet people have even been posting photos online of them eating it just to show others how adventurous they can be. 

After looking at what that company has done, think about what you can do that will be noticed and that people will talk about. Maybe you’re not a proponent of unhealthy food, but if you look at your business, there’s probably something you can find that’s noteworthy. 

By the way, if you’ve tried the sandwich, let me know.  


Is Dr. Phil Really “Dr. Crybaby?

I read a revealing article about Dr. Phil, “Exclusive: Dr. Phil feels ‘violated’ over stolen Chevy”, by Chris Woodyard, about Dr. Phil’s classic 1957 car getting stolen. It’s sad and unfair that his car was stolen from a repair shop, but what Dr. Phil says about the situation doesn’t make him look too good.

It seems like he is being hypocritical because he often talks about getting your act together and focusing on what’s important in life, yet he seems to think his car is more important than anything or anyone else. He’s not taking his own advice, and he really comes off as materialistic in this article.

He also sounds whiny. Sure, it’s a valuable, rare car that looks great and is probably fun to drive around in, but it’s just a car. It’s horrible that it was stolen, but he still has a lot of other things going very well in his life, such as his career, and he seems to have a nice family. He didn’t mention any of that or what he’s grateful for; he just complained.

Also, why did he go to the media with his problem? He probably complained to friends and coworkers about what happened, which is understandable, yet going to the media is making him seem even more of a whiner.

Dr. Phil should practice what he preaches.

HA! Public Relations Isn’t a Joke

People like to make fun of public relations. They use words like “spin doctor” and other labels, so that’s probably why an article makes light of the profession by listing some public relations humor that isn’t necessarily all funny, but hey, comedy is in the eye of the beholder, right? Here’s one:

                Q. What’s the difference between a squirrel and a rat?

                A. PR.

All right, you might not be falling off your chair laughing, but at least they tried. There are 10 jokes there, plus the ones in the comments section, so I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll like.

Actually, even though the article is about fun, I can offer some serious advice: the most valuable asset of a professional or business is their reputation. So reputation management through public relations really is *not* a joke, and it’s something you should think about now that the year is halfway over.

If you’ve been having trouble with your own publicity plan, consider setting some goals such as writing an article twice a month, doing a blog post once a month (which is what I do), or even posting pictures on your social networks once a week. Start small and then create a larger plan. There are things that you can do yourself, but if you’ve been too busy working and don’t have the time to develop your public relations strategy, then get outside help. You’ll find that doing even small projects will make you feel like you’re making progress while you’re connecting with the world. And remember to have fun!

Would Jon Bon Jovi Be Better Off Dead?

Recently, to prove to people that he’s not dead, Jon Bon Jovi posted a picture of himself online with the statement that “Heaven looks a lot like New Jersey”. I’m sure a lot of people think what he did is funny and are probably very happy to find out that he’s really alive, after rumors of his death were all over the Internet. However, I’m not laughing. I don’t consider myself a serious guy and I like to find humor wherever I can, but Bon Jovi is really making light of an eternal matter.

Newsflash to Bon Jovi: heaven isn’t really New Jersey. I think it’s arrogant to say that, and he never really died to find out where heaven really is. Plus, if he was right, how come no one has found John Lennon, Elvis, or Ray Charles there? 

Bon Jovi’s joke is a way to think about how your reputation is on the line in whatever you do. It’s important to not make light of serious matters when it comes to your own reputation management. What will people think of him from now on? Have you ever made a mistake by saying or doing something that was too frivolous for a serious situation? How did people respond? If you’re thinking of saying something in public you know is questionable, then consider what kind of image you’re putting out there. Everyone doesn’t have the same sense of humor and doesn’t see the world in the same way.

Learn from the Pig

When I was growing up, “pig” meant the source of bacon, sausage, a good ham for the holidays, and even a derogatory name for the police during protests. Who knew “pig” would end up meaning big profits?
People find lots of different uses for pigs, and even Business Week has taken notice of the the pork rind battle going on for dominant market share. It sounds silly that those companies are taking pork rinds so seriously because to some people, that part of the pig doesn’t seem as important as the meat, but they’re obviously making good money from that business because a lot of people like to eat the skins of pigs. 

When put that way, it doesn’t sound appetizing, but anything we do can sound different as long as we present it in a way that people will take interest. 

Which brings me to our own publicity efforts. Like the pig industry, we can get a lot of different uses with our own content. For instance, if you write an article for a trade publication, it can also go on your blog, become a pitch for the media, be the basis of a video, and can even become an outline for a speech at a professional association. There are many ways you can use your content; just figure out which part of it people are interested in, and modify it to appeal to them the most. And it’s important to remember that in addition to creating appealing content, you should offer information that can benefit people so that you’re not just tooting your own horn. That way, you’ll profit in various ways.


Saturday Night Live is Still Dead

As you know, “laughs” is a part of my blog’s title, so it’s obvious that I love comedy. I’ve been a clown, have done stand up, and have also taken Second City classes (which have helped my speaking engagements, too). I’m always looking to have a laugh after a long workweek, and I used to watch Saturday Night Live often. But not anymore.

A lot of people watch it, and lots of people have tuned in to that show for years, so SNL must be doing something right…right? Wrong. It’s just not funny anymore, which is too bad because they’re on a big network with a long history. But SNL has lost its heart and the essence of what made it funny.

So what’s funny, you ask? I like Newsbusters. Sure, they’re mostly a news site that has a lot of facts and figures, but they know how to make news funny, not stuffy or stale. Which is what SNL is: stuffy, stale, and dead. That show should learn from their older episodes to find out what funny and fresh look like.

Below is the latest Newsbusters video. It just goes to show that online video is 10 times funnier than what we can find on TV.


Santa Caught in a Lie: Jolly St. Nick for the YouTube Generation

Another father who works in another office in my building shared how the night before Christmas his son wanted evidence that Santa really does come down the chimney, drop off presents and eat the cookies and milk left for him. Seemed like a normal discussion, until the boy wanted his dad to set up a camera and leave it recording so the boy could see Santa’s legs dangle as he came down and did his job. I thought, “Wow, how does dad get past this one?”So I asked the father to explain.

He said that he told the son that Santa was super fast and that the camera could not catch him in action. Thenhis son asked about at least being able to see the dust from the chimney and being able to see him eat the cookies (Now that I think about it, cookies explain how Santa runs an impossible marathon around the world in less that 24 hours and still stays chubby.)
While I let this father off the hook with his weak explanations to his son, it did remind me about how when a client is thinking about releasing information that is not really true, you either stop the lie from starting, or create more lies to cover your tracks. And in some cases you have to cover your tracks because your spokesperson is clueless when it comes to understanding what to say to the public (See former BP chairman Tony Hayward during the gulf oil disaster).

Yes, over the years, some clients have asked me to lie. Sometimes it seemed as “innocent” as not wanting to speak to a reporter and they wanted me to say that they were out of the country, and sometimes it was providing information to the press that wasnot a bold face lie, but rather misleading information. In my book, misleading information is a half truth, and a half truth is not truth. Sort of like saying, 10 gallons of water is pure, but it has a teaspoon of salt in it, so it’s still really pure because is it’s so little salt. Bottom-line: the water is not pure.

When I grew up my parents wanted me to believe in Santa. I too even left out cookies and milk (that I assume my parents took since we didn’t have mice). So  now, what about my daughters who are 2-years and seven weeks old? I want them to know the truth and be able to defend it even with peer pressure they might face, at the same time be respectful of why others believe in Santa. Maybe I’ll just give them each a Flip camera and they can see for themselves.


Reputation Mismanagement

Some people think the first page of a Google search has the power of God. They hope and pray their business name appears on the first page and rejoice when it does because thinking thier business is set for life. Reputation management seems to boil down to the top of a web page.
When I did a Google search for “reputation management,” three companies came to the top of the page as offering a service to help improve your on-line reputation: ReputationManagementConsultants, ReputationDefender, and Positive Search Results. Positive Search Results even offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee on their services. While, I can’t endorse any of these companies, I can give them credit for accomplishing a first page listing of their companies that is positive. While online reputations can be ruined by real or false claims against companies by places like and, there’s a bigger issue that many companies fail to address.

While a few customer complaints can make even the most respected companies look bad online, it really has to do with the culture of the company in building it’s image through internal and external public relations. For example, has a complaint against Verizon. I use Verizon for my mobile phone and they recently charged me almost $200 by their mistake. When I saw the bill I was ticked-off. However, I called customer service and they verified the mistake and immediately corrected the bill. So, when I see others complain about them, I’m less likely to agree with the angry consumer, since I had a positive experience. 
For the company that wants to manage their reputations and keep them in a positive light, even when things get dark with customer complaints, keep in mind:

1. A reputation is connected to a company’s character: Character is who you are when nobody is looking. Business that create a culture where employees can admit mistakes to management and to the customers, will come out ahead in the reputation game. We all make mistakes, the key is how quickly we address them and how we go about correcting the matter above the call of duty.

2. Character is connected to consistency: What you do repeatedly is how you are remembered over time. Do you avoid making the same mistake more than a few times? Does you company empower employees to make reputation-saving decisions on their own? One time I was in Trader Joe’s and the peanut butter rung up with the wrong price. The cashier took my word for it that it was wrong and decided to not charge me for the bread I was buying. Their marketing about being a great place to shop connects with great service (and trust in the customers) from the employees.

3. Consistency will always get you better “rankings” online and offline: While the Internet has become the choice for many to evaluate a product or service, getting positive reviews with traditional word of mouth trumps all else. When you’re at a restaurant checking email on your Blackberry and someone is doing the same on their Droid, any comparison with intuitive features shared in-person and then verified online will be a powerful brand and reputation builder.

As a practical matter, some companies know how to “work the Internet” system to get better rankings with the SEO strategies. So building your reputation from the inside out will help your business stay the course whether or not someone gets “pissed” or “feels ripped” off by you.


Lawyers to Avoid

I’ve been thinking about why a law firm decides to spend money on public relations. If it’s not to further promote their reputation and trusted attorneys, then that money is wasted.
If you do a Google search for “lawyer” and “reputation” one of the top paid links is for Lawyerratingz,which has the headline: Lawyers to Avoid. It appears to mostly cater to consumers looking for lawyers. For fun, I put in the name of a personal injury attorney I know and he was not listed. I then searched for one of the top intellectual property attorneys I work for and he was listed, but had no reviews for him. It’s not clear to me how this particular site has value for someone searching for a lawyer be it a PI or IP practice.

While I am an advocate of lawyers having blogs to exhibit their expertise (assuming it is very specific), I also encourage them to consider how “not” to become a lawyer that people want to avoid.
Certainly, building the reputation of a personal injury lawyer is much different than a patent attorney’s. I believe there are common image building traits for many practice areas:

1. Lawyers need to overcome an inherent mistrust about their character. I’m not talking about the “ambulance chaser” image of PI attorneys when I was growing up. I’m talking about 21st century “overbilling image” that is calling for the death of the billable hour. Attorneys who address this issue in regards to the integrity of their billing practices will go a long way in enhancing their reputations. For example, check out the website for Valorem Law Group. Their first flash animation states “The Billable Hour is Dead.” Talk about tackling the issue head on.

2. When it comes to marketing, lawyers are still learning to crawl: I wonder how many 2010 law school graduates understand the 1950s legal term “rainmaker?” Firm growth is no longer about a few super stars at the top that bring in all the revenue. New associates are now being trained early on in business development. They are also being told in firm policy manuals to mind their manners with their online profiles at social networks.Face time client development has morphed into Facebook policing at some law firms.

3. Lawyers Fear Asking the Hard Questions for Marketing Services: I had a blog post titled Social Media Snakes for Lawyers. My point was that there are hundreds of marketing, public relations and social media services making near impossible promises such as simply pay a fee, get consultations with a marketing/public relations expert, and like magic the firm’s reputation will be enhanced and clients will come begging for your services. This type of magic is reserved for something more realistic, like unicorns. I’ve seen too many law firms think they can throw money at something that can enhance their reputation, without their involvement. Attorneys need to ask the questions to know exactly how their reputation will be enhanced with these services and understand the “costs” that has nothing to do with what they are charged (e.g. their personal time, giving the consultants direction and benchmarks to measure progress against).

For attorneys to become trust advisors to their clients, it starts with a reputation management strategy, not a repulsive brand of lawyering.


Moses, Israel and Public Relations

This week The Jerusalem Post had a story with the title: The real problem behind Israel’s dismal PR.  I found the first paragraph amusing:

Israel’s public image today is dismal. As Elie Wiesel once joked, “Jews excel in just about every profession except public relations, but this should not surprise us: When God wanted to free the Jews from Egypt, he sent Moses, who stuttered.”

This struck my fancy because our agency handled the public relations for the Chosen People Ministries’ Inside the Middle East Crisis. Chosen People Ministires did a great job of promoting the event and attracted more than 1,500 people from around the country to attend a conference. They helped the audience consider currents events in the Middle East with a newspaper in one hand and a Bible in the other. While Elie Wiesel is one of my hero’s, he should know that there are some very talented Jewish public relations professionals, as evident by the success of Chosen People Ministries event.

And to serve and Moses’ advocate, here are a few things this sea-parting Jew did very well as a public relations pro:

  1. He knew his role as representing his client and giving Him the credit: OK, Moses had a big client, God. And God needed the job done. Moses followed God’s orders, got millions of people out of bondage, showed them where God provided food and water in the desert, and even when God wanted to wipe out His people, Moses was willing to take the hit for them.
  2. Moses Stayed the Course: While it took the Jews 40 years to get from Egypt to the promised land of Israel, biblical scholars believe it could have been done in less than a year. There was a lot of wandering at the direction of God. However, even when his client took him on a difficult path, Moses stayed with God’s direction. Now, God has never give me this type of assignment. However, there is value in having a relationship with a trustworthy client and sticking with him, even when you don’t always understand the logic. Unless the client asks you to do something unethical.
  3. Moses worked to get clear directions from his client: When Moses went up the mountain to get the 10 commendments from God, he managed to get what every public relations person wants from their clients: a clear understanding of the rules of engagement. While many people may not know what all is in the Bible, most have heard of the 10 commandments. Good PR job, Moses.

Now back to the present. The Jerusalem Post article goes on to trash Netanyahu’s leadership in Israel and his poor PR skills when it said:

The combination of the public’s disillusionment that peace efforts will ever improve its global image and the disunity within the government further exacerbates historic public relations woes across the globe. But Israel is also inept at PR at home.

While I am not a Middle East expert, I see a country that is surrounded by enemies, surviving and thriving even after coming back to life in 1948, when the world thought that Moses’ Israel would never be restored to the Jews. At the end of the day, Israel still stands despite attacks from outside and inside the country.