PDA: Public Displays of Antagonism

28 05 2009

As a practitioner, I try to follow the people within the industry that have their acts together – so that I can stay abreast of topics and practices that are gaining acceptance in the community. This is something that I would recommend anyone do, regardless of their profession. But sometimes it can be a disconcerting affair when those people have very public debates that start to go south.

The professionals will remain unnamed – I shall refer to them as PR-A and PR-B. PR-A has a beef with PR-B about how he manages his business. PR-B defends his practice to PR-B – and the exchange goes back and forth. The ultimate outcome is what I would call a stalemate: neither party proved or disproved the other’s points.

Why do I bother with writing about this scenario – especially after a long hiatus? I felt as if I was watching my two grandmothers fighting: grandmothers because I respect both parties opinions and the insights that they provide on a myriad of topics and I couldn’t take sides – only sit and watch completely stupefied. I look at this very public exchange and call to mind something that Scott Stratten has said in his tweets – and I am paraphrasing: do not tweet anything that you wouldn’t want on a billboard with your business’s name tied to it. Another gem from my 10-year old – though she doesn’t know how true it is regarding the Internet: tap-tap no take back.

As I sat and watched the exchange, I wanted to poke my head in and tell them to S-T-O-P. I didn’t for fear of the wrath that could potentially rain down on me. As things wrapped up, I thought about the reputation management aspects of what I had just witnessed. Would the people that read the kerfuffle between these two professionals pick a side or sit dumbfounded as I did? Would there be a fall-out from this very public display of antagonism?

Here is my perspective: if you want to have a debate, have at it; but be aware of the audience watching. That is the reason that I do not offer critiques of other practitioners, their events, campaigns or business practices. We all play in the same sandbox and it isn’t that big. Your competition today could be your boss tomorrow. Tomorrow’s client could ‘stumble” on your post and take their business somewhere else.

And lastly: Tap Tap NO Take Back…

Marketing Virtuously,



Do as I say…

6 03 2009

My apologies, AGAIN… I hate it when I don’t keep up on this thing. Things have been very busy for Virtue!

That said – I always counsel my clients to stay on top of their Social Media tools. So like any other mother would tell her children: “Do as I say, not as I do”…

The challenge is that I’m not just managing my SM, but just about each and every client’s SM as well. As any other great practitioner will tell you, your priority will always be your clients’ needs. Sometimes that means that your SM (among other materials) can be pushed to the back burner.

I’m finding though that more and more of my clients are curious about SM and refer to it as “that Twitter thing” or “Face sumpting”. I’m teaching them more the logistics of how to use it, more than the strategy.

So to those of you with questions about the strategy – I’m working on a seminar with another professional on how to implement SM tools from a strategic perspective. It’s tentatively scheduled for 3/22 – if you are interested, leave me a comment & I’ll send you an invite when I have it confirmed.

Just remember – I want you to have the tools to be successful in your marketing! So do as I say… please.

Marketing Virtuously,

Ethics & the PR practitioner – or Marketing Virtuously, Redux

25 01 2009

As I’m sure many of you do, I subscribe to a myriad of other professionals’ media – blogs, twitter, RSS, etc. Today Robert French, public relations professor at Auburn,  posted a blog reinforcing a major ideology behind the practice of Virtue IMC – ethics of public relations practitioners.

Here is a link to his blog – and my response. I have a hard time digesting it when PR “practitioners” choose to not abide by the PRSA Code of Ethics.

It also plays into why I’ve developed my PR practice as I have. Virtue is not just a kitschy play on my name – it’s a credo in how my firm conducts business on behalf of its clients. I have prospective clients that call and ask if I am a publicist – to which I respond that I am not. My job is not that of an agent – getting you seen on a red carpet, bailing you out of jail, making sure you are dressed with all the proper garments before you go out, none of this is my job; providing you visibility & credibility to YOUR publics is. I am happy to be your public “relationship” representative, providing your publics with the information that you want to share.

Virtue IMC practices marketing communications in the best interest of its clients. I’ve sat with prospects that tell me what communication practices they want – without considering what is in their own best interest. Their college-age child told them getting a MySpace/FaceBook profile or some other Social Media will make them millionaires – it might if you are catering to the “MySpace” demographic & their product or service fits that medium. Having a TV commercial means the phone ringing off the hook – make sure you put a TV spot on NBC during 30 Rock. Well last time I checked, TV advertising can be cost/labor-intensive and I tend to use my DVR to record things so I can bypass those pesky interruptions. So why would I make a recommendation to a client that is NOT in their best interest.

That’s just it – I WOULDN’T… it’s the pride I take in my practice that translates into having the tough conversations with clients to deter a costly (whether financially or reputation) mistake. Ultimately, the client is in charge. But without a realistic impression of what a potential strategy could cost a client, how can they make informed decisions?

Sometimes, that means walking away from a situation or making a choice to not engage with a prospect. It’s a tough spot, but ultimately its a decision that is in the best interests of all involved. As French suggested, why engage with a client that has already dug themselves in so deep that it’s tough to see daylight? Please understand, there is a difference between crisis communications and reputation spin doctor. I can’t turn an onion into an apple – so why try to turn a situation into an “opportunity”?

In the case of Blago (the conversation on French’s blog that birthed this post), the Govenor is in boiling water over his head and drowning with each additional “tactic” he takes. Why is his representation trying to paint him as anything other than a guy who did something wrong? Like French said – stop discussing it. At least admit that you did wrong. Heck, even apologize if it’s sincere. But people’s BS sensors are working and they can smell it when it’s served.

My tactic in that type of situation is to face the bad head on. Address it honestly, sincerely apologize and tell your publics what you are going to do to make a positive change. Oh yes, and do what you say you are going to do. Weight Watchers has a saying “If you bite it, you must write it” to hold its members accountable. I’d like to spin-off that: “If you say, you must play it” – meaning what ever you say to your publics, you’d better be prepared to put it into action. Your publics will hold you accountable for it; if you don’t deliver on it, you will lose them for good.

Marketing Virtuously,


Virtue IMC – Back in the Saddle for 2009

21 01 2009

Well first, let me apologize for my stunning lack of posts recently. I won’t bore you with the details, but it was not for lack of wanting to share.

So the first post of the new year will come on the heels of momentous change in the world. There are so many blogs about the current administration, that I will not ride the coat-tails of others. I must say that I am impressed with the administration’s use of marketing – grassroots, social, et al. In the corporate realm, having a marketing savvy management executive can mean the difference between screaming success and superior failure. I think that translates into what the largest company in the world (The good ol’ US of A) has laid out for its four year plan. With an Executive in Chief with a media- & marketing-savvy plan, I can only hold out hope for a favorable outcome!

On that note – let me catch everyone up on the goings-on here at Virtue IMC. We’ve added some new features and staff to provide comprehensive services for clients.

Experiential Marketing and Radio Media Planning: Just before the Winter holidays, I partnered with a Marketing consultant to provide clients with undivided attention to their meeting planning, special events and tradeshows. This addition will undoubtedly equate to the best possible experience events, warm lead generation and relationship-building with targeted prospects. Abby has over 8 years of experience developing targeted, experience-based events – be it a seminar, meeting, tradeshow or other event. She is looking forward to assisting you with any event planning. Abby also brings with her a unique knowledge of radio promotions and sales after spending over 3 years with various Clear Channel affiliates. She will be assisting with any radio media planning – commercials, promotions and radio-centered planning.

Demographic Development: At the beginning of 2009, I had the pleasure of reconnecting with a former classmate who has an impressive background in research. I asked her to join Virtue to head up the market research aspects of the business. Jennifer will be data-mining the statistics to assist clients in demographic development and marketing strategy. Jennifer brings with her 6 years of market research with network television affiliates. Her keen eye for how the numbers translate into marketing efforts will allow clients to make data-driven decisions on their marketing goals. Because of Jennifer’s television background, she will be assisting with any television media planning.

Visual and Graphic Representations: Brougham continues to be Virtue’s graphic design consultant. Brougham’s skills in creating brand identity, color palettes, collateral materials, tradeshow graphics and any other visual support materials make him a valuable asset to the Virtue team.

I am excited to kick off this new year with you – marketing is the best investment in this current economic climate. Virtue IMC want to assist clients with making smart investments in their business’ future.

Marketing Virtuously,


What ever happened to Customer Service?

30 10 2008

As a PR practitioner, I have to innately consider my customer service skills to my internal and external clients – those that pay me to get them noticed and those that I’m connected to to get my clients noticed.

But what happens when you deal with a company that is supposed to be customer-centric and they completely blow you off? I’m a little peeved at the moment and I figured that I’d implement the “tell 10 people who tell 10 people” effect.

So there are so many things when you are opening a business – of which one of the more important is the financial aspects. So when I opened my business account at US Bank – shout out to Kate and Taylor – they wanted to charge me more than I wanted to pay for business checks. Not that that is a bad thing, I just figured that I could go to one of the check companies that are out there to get them cheaper. That led to the browsing of the various and sundry check options available to me on the myriad of sites that offer the check printing service.

I finally found one that was less expensive and could get them to me in a reasonable (or so I thought) amount of time. So off I went on the task of filling out all the information regarding the account information and picking out the checks. So I got that all done hit submit – where I received notification that my order was being processed and verified and that I could expect (since I paid for the in-plant rush) my checks within the next two weeks. Well, time came and went and I sat here wondering, “where are my checks?”

While I sat here wondering, I picked up the phone and called DESIGNER CHECKS (there it is) to find out why the checks hadn’t shipped. I was told that they sent me a letter stating that they couldn’t verify the account information, but it had been returned to the company. My question to them at that point was why hadn’t they called (as I had to provide a phone number) or emailed (since I seem to be getting those). Absolutely no answer as to why they hadn’t taken alternative steps to reach me regarding the problem. The remedy was that they would waive the in-plant rush fee and process the checks as quickly as possible once I provided the updated information. I went to my branch and they did everything they needed and sent it over to DESIGNER CHECKS so they could verify and process my business checks.

On Oct. 22 I received an email that the processing was completed and the checks were shipped that day – one month after my original order. I eagerly waited for my checks to arrive – as I have some business that requires me to write a check (imagine that – somewhere I can’t use my debit card). When I hadn’t received the checks one week later I phoned DESIGNER CHECKS again.

This time I was told that they sent them to UPS on the 22nd – they can’t help that UPS held on to them for 2 days (!). When I asked to speak with the supervisor, I was told that they sent them from Colorado on the 22nd and they have no idea what happens from there. As I sat there looking at the UPS tracking information that indicated that the billing was received on the 24th but the origin scan was on the 28th in ILLINOIS (??). I asked the supervisor why that would be the case, if the package was sent from COLORADO. He said that DESIGNER CHECKS doesn’t have any control over it once it gets put on the dock for shipment. That statement alone should worry anyone that has done or might in the future do business with them.

At no time was there an apology for the “inconvenience” or the fact that they dropped the ball. At no time was there any responsibility for the fact that my package was somewhere in UPS “limbo” and that it wasn’t shipped when the email was sent originally. No offer to make it right, to refund my shipping costs, or anything…

If you are looking at the external services for your checks – DO NOT use DESIGNER CHECKS. They won’t know where, how or who has your checks at any given time – and that should be a big worry as anyone could be writing your checks.

While I’m only one person – I hope that this will spread. After being in the customer service sector (yes I was the girl on the other side of the phone/counter taking complaints), I think I should know what good customer service is. As a PR practitioner, I know that the customer interface is one of the most important in the marketing scheme of things.  The little bit that it might have taken the people at DESIGNER CHECKS probably would have saved them at least one bad reference.

Marketing Virtuously,


When good PR goes bad…

2 10 2008

So I fear that I may have failed my profession and my sense of civic responsibility. I was the one person NOT watching the VP debate tonight.

Bad Bad PR professional… tsk, tsk tsk. I feel like I skipped the class where the professor gives you the “good” lecture. I’m almost certain that everyone is talking about it and I can definitely catch it on YouTube or some other outlet that will inevitably be making it available for download.

So you might wonder why on earth I would miss the political event of the century – the turning point in history. I must be brutally honest – I was doing my civic duty by attending a coaches’ meeting for the Boys and Girls Club where I volunteer as a girls’ volleyball coach.

Bless me Alan Center for I have sinned – my last confession was – shoot couldn’t tell ya. I gave up the debate of the millennium to take a bunch of lil girls and help them grow as women… as my penance I will read the PRSA Code of Ethics 10 times and 5 Silver Anvil case studies.

Just thought that a little confession would be good for the soul…


Who is your favorite “caricature” of a PR professional?

24 09 2008

So I also posted this on LinkedIn.com – but I thought you blog followers would get a chuckle out of it as well…

So I was watching one of my many prime-time vices – Lipstick Jungle – as I sat working on my laptop creating/editing content for a client and had to pose a question to my fellow PR practitioners:

“Who is your favorite caricature of a PR professional in today’s mainstream media?”

I’ve noticed that there has been a bit of “glamorization” of our fine profession as of late… is it because PR is not behind the curtain as much as it once was? Or is it because society is more readily accepting of what we as PR practitioners are doing in the name of our clients? Or is it that the mystique of what we do is actually an interesting read/watch?

I had quite the chuckle at Dahlia (Rosie Perez’s portrayal) and her readiness to provide access to her network to get in with Nico… I am also a fan of Lauren Hutton’s portrayal on Nip/Tuck – but HATED, HATED, HATED Sharon Gless’ character (did I mention that I HATED it?). Lauren’s was classy in the inappropriate “suggestions” she made to her clients in the name of publicity – unethical and probably not a member of PRSA, but did it with style. Sharon Gless’ character – on the other hand – is the epitome of the worst in the PR industry. That representation is what I visualize when I hear someone call a PR practitioner a “flack”. UGH!

Madmen – while not PR, but its kissing cousin Advertising – has garnered industry accolades for its representation of the early “Ad Men” and all their vices…

So to my colleagues in the wonderful practice of public relations, tell me who your favorite representations of our profession are!

Practice Virtuously,