Victory for Vick’s PR

It’s going to be an interesting season for the team of PR and image consultants who are delivering the winning strategy for reinstated NFL player Michael Vick. Known as one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league, Vick’s rise to gridiron fame and fall to criminal intent has proven to be a PR challenge to tackle.

Without knowing the details of the team’s members and plans, their attempt to carefully rebrand Vick and map out a road to redemption following his release from federal prison is turning out to be a PR victory. nfl_a_vick_480

Since Vick’s admitted act of animal cruelty, his team has made a public effort to present him in a repented and reformed fashion. They recently positioned Vick to confess his sins and express immense guilt on CBS “60 Minutes” along side former NFL coach Tony Dungy, commissioned by the league to be his mentor, and President of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, to be his community partner. We all know you’ve got to have a bit of cache to tell your story on “60 Minutes” and the PR team that knows Vick has to come back with some credibility.

Whether his remorse is scripted or sincere, you must admit his team is gaining yards toward the goal. Yet, the ultimate test of a winning strategy is whether the public believes you. Vick is going to have to walk the walk. If he doesn’t, his PR team will end up seeing a bigger chunk from that first $1.6 million to keep him on the straight and narrow. Judging by the execution and perceived outcome, Vick has gotten his money’s worth, but the team must continue to move strategically so the public won’t think Vick’s efforts are contrived.

Personally, I’ve always been an advocate for second chances. Only time will tell how Vick shapes up while his PR team shows out. Our culture often forgives, and, most times, forgets the sins of public figures. So the more touchdown passes Vick throws, the further his wrongdoings will be from our minds.

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All Work and No Tweets

You can tweet at work if you like but you might get fired. The Marines, NFL and now ESPN have announced new policies on Twitter usage.

twitter-bird-2 ESPN doesn’t want employees using Twitter for anything but ESPN-related content. No personal quirks or sports opinions. Tweet ESPN’s approved content or face suspension or dismissal. The NFL is dishing out fines to players and staff who tweet while on the field. Several teams have also prohibited members of the media from tweeting during game time. Meanwhile, fans can still tweet the play-by-play while in the stands. The U.S. Marine Corps enforced a year-long ban of Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and other social media sites from its networks. It’s no fun but it does create a reasonable case of leaving a window open for security issues.

As a PR practitioner, I get it. Companies want to be smart about how they use social media but they want the best of both worlds. Maintaining a social media presence serves their audiences while enforcing guidelines on usage offers protection.

Many companies, including media outlets, are still trying to figure out how social media fits in their business models and how to create policies for interaction. Will these tweet policies change companies’ perspectives on policing their social media efforts?

The best part about social media is the dialogue. No one wants to lose their job or face a penalty, but all work and no tweets will cause a twitter presence to suffer and, sooner or later, your tweets will get ignored. Until they figure this Twitter thing out, that’s the way it’s going to be.

I Know I’m Write

Reading is fundamental. Writing is as well. But not all writing is created equal, particularly when it comes to writing for news.

Maybe you’ve been there before. You need to write a press release but don’t have the slightest idea of where to start. You’re unsure about the content, the news factor of your story or what it’s worth. But you were always good in English, so you’ll figure it out.

Or maybe you’ve been here: you have an important message to get out to the media and want give them all the details. You’re uncertain of how to send your press release or if it will even get noticed. But you’re a fairly intelligent communicator, so you’ll make it happen.

By journalistic standards, a story without an angle is a “non-story.” What you may think is news may not exactly be what journalists consider a topic of interest for their readers. In a TV newsroom, a story without a visual element to capture for viewers lacks appeal and may be conveyed as a waste of time. Thus, your beloved press release that you’ve sweated and slaved over adorned with all its’ elaborate details and superlative-like adjectives ends up in File 13.

On the surface, writing for news isn’t much different from what you’ve been taught. However, there is one exception: style.

Enter the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook. Considered the “Bible of the Newspaper Industry,” it is the gold standard of writing for news. AP recently released their 2009 Stylebook packed with rules on grammar, spelling, punctuation and usage, capitalization, abbreviation, word and number usage. It is the one reference with fundamental guidelines for news reporting that all writers, editors, students and PR pros will follow.

When it comes to writing, none of us wants to be told that we’re wrong. Writing for news requires a certain clarity and professionalism that writing for everyday purposes may not hold up. Weak, cloudy writing can be the worst because it reflects our intellect, skill and thought or lack thereof.

Your writing for news should be closely matched with the standards that professional writers go by. While writing in AP style won’t guarantee you any coverage, it tells journalists who receive your press release that you care about good writing and value their craft enough to learn their precise language.

Guard yourself when writing for news by proofing, tailoring and checking your press release. Oh yes, and go get an AP Stylebook.

Reality Checkpoints for Athletes

With football season now over and basketball season about to climb to its peak, sports fans couldn’t be more excited.The thrill it brings with each year continues prove the sports industry to be one of the powerful agents of media culture. But the public’s interest spans further than touchdowns and championship trophies.

More than ever before, pro athletes are increasingly seen as celebrities, stars and ballers but known less for their power plays on the field. Sure, that’s great branding for name recognition but how many players can you name but have no idea what team the guy plays for? More importantly, at what moment did you learn or remember his name – during a hot media crisis buzzing amid the news or after reading a good magazine article about his journey to the pros?

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The reality is athletes aren’t hard to brand. Their public relations efforts are made simple by their league and team affiliations. Take the media legend of Terrell ‘T.O.’ Owens for instance. Though he grew into some rather unfavorable moments while becoming one of the most outspoken and unpredictable players in the NFL, T.O. has weathered the storm. The Dallas Cowboys’ receiver is getting his own reality show on VH1 this summer showing what life off the field is like. Kudos to his publicists Monique Jackson and Kita Williams tasked with the taming of success.

Not every athlete will have a shot at a reality show. Not every athlete wants their daily life off the field to be peered into. Not every athlete will face public crisis or turmoil. Nonetheless, the responsibility for athletes to manage their image very carefully couldn’t be greater.

Here are three reality checkpoints of PR for athletes:reailtycheck1

First, realize that the sports industry has gone far beyond just getting in the game. PR is a must. Athletes have to study both games and acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses. Knowing this firsthand will help them tackle their seasons with success.

Second, work hard. Hard work never kills but it pays.
If you’re an all-around hardworking guy, you will surely make progress in your career. This will make people respect and see you as an icon. Hardwork includes going to practice on time and as well as maintaining your character in front of the public.

Third, humble yourself and be disciplined.
This is one of the greatest assets of success. Remember, its public relations, the art of relating to the public and it requires you to be in touch with who you are as player and a person.

She Said She’s Not Here

I remember a story my family often tells about my aunt when she was young and dating. One of her many suitors called and she didn’t want to talk to him. She tells her little brother (my uncle), in an attempt to avoid the guy, to say she’s “not here.” Being innocent to the dating game, her little brother grabs the phone tells the guy, “She said she’s not here,” a comic yet embarrassing scene of wordplay on a misunderstood message.

Communication is a two-way process. The message is sent then it’s received. But sometimes messages aren’t always relayed or decoded the way we intend for them to be. shesaid

Unclear communication leads to confusion. Yet, clearly in my uncle’s mind, he knew my aunt could have easily come to phone and talked to the poor guy. He wasn’t trying to blow her cover. He just told the truth by saying exactly what we she asked.

Now, imagine if my uncle had been your secretary or co-worker, taking a message for someone you were trying to avoid. That might have been a communication disaster that cost you a client or damaged a relationship.

Never assume someone knows what you’re talking about or understands the method of madness by which your message comes out through. Be detailed in your messages to others. Even ask them if they understand or have any questions. Sometimes we hear messages in one way when they actually have a whole other meaning.

What are some of the ways you try to practice effective communication?

Think Like A Journalist

Last month on Journchat, Twitter’s hottest new sounding board for journalists, bloggers and PR folks, there was lots of talk about where PR falls into the shift in news coverage by journalists and who bears the most responsibility in deciding what news stories are most relevant.

Journalists have the utmost requirement to be objective in their approach to storytelling, leaving a reader to determine how they feel about a topic and to draw their own conclusion. And even though most people probably don’t know or could care less about the seven elements of a news story, everyone knows a topic must be worth talking about or else it’s not news. thinklike1

As more news goes online, PR folks have to gain a greater edge on how to get a story placed. Journalists have to take a stronger approach to how they tell a story. Ultimately, that means companies have to challenge themselves a bit if they want better news coverage.

Identify the niche of your brand. Figure out what makes it stand out. Without any assumptions or false hope, be honest about where you are and why a journalist might take interest in your company.

If you were a journalist, would you write about your company? As a reader, what is it about your organization that others would find interesting? What unique facts about your business could a PR person use to publicize your business?

Try this. Write your own story about your business. No fluff – just tell the facts about you and your company in a creative way. Spend some time with it and question its level of newsworthiness. This will help you develop better expectations for your PR strategy and strengthen your ability to gain news coverage.

*** Learn more about Journchat, Monday nights on Twitter, at http://journchat.info

Prep Your Rep

Who knew the social media movement would be such a trendy yet powerful tool? If you’ve ever “Googled” yourself or your business, you must be aware that you now you have an online reputation. It’s not the type of reputation based on what others say about you like maybe after they’ve met you or got word about your business. It’s the kind you create. prep-your-rep

An online reputation is based your online activity. The sites you frequent, the comments your post, the blogs you write, the tweets you Twitter – they make up your online reputation.
Your professional rep, and sometimes your personal one, can be identified and judged through online content and essentially defines what type of business person you are.

Prepare yourself to define an online reputation. Your rep is re-established every time you log-in or click a mouse. If you dedicate time to joining social media sites or writing a regular blog column, think about the outcome of what you plan to achieve in the long run. Ask yourself, “How do I want to be remembered?” or “Will this affect my business identity or ability to generate revenue?”

An online reputation is mandatory for survival but a bad one can turn away future customers, clients, employers and business partners. You don’t have to jump on the bandwagon of every new social media trend. Use what’s best for you and your business.

Take to time to prep your rep and make it a good one.