We get it. It’s a busy time of year. You may be trying to get everything done so you can take time off over the holidays. Or maybe the client is insisting on a “funny parody” to promote an event or product. Whatever it is that’s pushing you toward any of these clichés, resist—and instead insist on a little more imagination. Be firm and say “no” to:
- Any parody of any line from “A Visit From St. Nicholas.” Commonly referred to as “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” Clement Moore’s poem has been parodied to sell everything from mobile phone plans to men’s underwear. (Nothing says “Christmas” like a pitch to package the family jewels.)
- It’s beginning to look a lot like… We love Meredith Willson’s holiday song, but we don’t love it as an intro to the weather forecast or copy for a department store sale. It’s tired and uninspired. So, no. Just no. (And helpful tip: “a lot” in any context is two words: a and lot. Never alot.)
- The white stuff. While we’re mentioning weather, please just call it snow.
- The Grinch who stole… the money for the homeless shelter, the donated toys for tots, the wise men from the crèche—just fill in the blank. Sad stories all, made all the sadder by the same words we heard and read last year. And the year before.
- ’Tis the season. This is, hands down, the laziest of holiday copy writing. Whether it’s promotional, sales or news copy, anyone older than 12 who uses “’tis the season” is guilty of gross lack of imagination. ’Tis the season? ’Tis the reason you’re fired.
You’re probably thinking, “Wow, what a Grinch!” But no, we’re not stealing anything other than the opportunity for taking the easy way out in holiday copywriting. The principles that work all year round, work especially well during the holidays: tell a story, keep it simple, make it personal, know your audience.
One other helpful tip—no one actually likes fruitcake.
Kardashian, with 48.3 million followers on Twitter and 84.2 million on Instagram, is the antithesis of shy. She generously shares every moment of her life with her fans and they with her. You may well wonder why she has fans, but that would just reveal your card-carrying membership in the Society of Crankypants.
While her reported ordeal at the hands of masked gunmen who tied her up and helped themselves to $9 million of her well publicized jewelry did elicit an outpouring of sympathy for the mother of two small children, it also unleashed a storm of scolding and outright skepticism. Everything from “Who travels with $9 million worth of jewelry?” to “Well, you know, Kanye West is $53 million in debt…”
Despite the tens of millions of fans, Kim Kardashian’s is a love/hate brand. Her fans love her. And, as they say, the haters gonna hate. In this era of living out loud and bilious anonymity, where everyone’s a pundit (yes, the irony of writing this in a blog abounds), love is all around, until it isn’t.
Is the Kim Kardashian brand in trouble? Does her crisis communications team need to swing into high gear? (The Paris Tourism bureau’s certainly does.) Will her new status as crime victim eclipse her image as CEO in charge of her fame and growing fortune?
With a net worth pegged at $51million derived from reality TV, and a mobile app, her savvy goes beyond being a PR machine. Her brand will withstand the raised eyebrows and the doubters, and likely will emerge stronger than ever—especially if the culprits are found and brought to justice.
One piece of advice for Kim: Get a new security firm. The one you have now has a real PR problem.
It’s been such a good week for it, we thought we’d return to that favorite format of PR bloggers, the listicle. Here are this week’s Winners & Losers.
- New England Patriots
With Tom Brady warming the bench under a dubious suspension and Rob Gronkowski out with a hamstring injury, the Patriots—the team everyone outside of New England loves to hate—led by second string quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, beat the heavily favored Arizona Cardinals 23-21.
- New England Patriots (Hey, we’re a New England Public Relations firm)
Because this may be one of the best things we’ve seen this week.
- David Ortiz (It’s important to stick with a theme)
The beloved Red Sox DH hit his 536th home run to tie with Mickey Mantle.
- The Galaxy Note 7
When a consumer product spontaneously explodes, that’s never good. While the combustible phones were recalled several weeks ago, this week, it was determined that a manufacturing flaw in the battery is the cause, allowing for another whole news cycle of news detailing the recall and the dropping stock prices.
- The Sugar Association (and Harvard University)
Who says saturated fats are bad for you? Turns out, the American sugar industry paid scientists at Harvard to publish a study that took any blame for ill health effects off of sugar and pushed it on to saturated fats. That’s not to say that a diet of burgers and fries is heart healthy, but the revelation of the flawed study suggests, “five decades of research into the role of nutrition and heart disease, including many of today’s dietary recommendations, may have been largely shaped by the sugar industry.” The sugar industry took a very low road toward winning the public relations war.
- Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo will pay $185 million to the federal government plus restitution to customers after years of pushing customers into high penalty, costly financial products that they neither needed, nor requested. But wait, there’s more! The executive who heads up the community banking division, Carrie Tolstedt, who in part oversees the retail banking and credit card operations part of the company, which was responsible for the fraudulent accounts is retiring—and taking with her a $125 million payout. Can you say, “poor optics?”
Never had a PR crisis in your business, your non-profit, or your campaign? Good for you! Just don’t get complacent, because someday you probably will.
The biggest names in their fields have been “ridin’ high in April, shot down in May.”
SeaWorld, Volkswagen, Target, and Subway are just a few of the corporate names that have suffered PR crises in the not too distant past. And then there are bold- face names such as Anthony Weiner, and Colin Kaepernick (Who actually wasn’t a bold-face name until two weeks ago, so his experience may even move from PR crisis to PR bonanza.)
You may think because yours isn’t a big company or a large enterprise that “crisis” is too big a word to befall your corner of the universe, but here’s a tip—if you have employees, if you deal with the public, if you handle money, if you have email, or a computer system—you’re vulnerable to a PR crisis. And that’s just a partial list of potential problem areas.
The best way to handle a crisis is to avoid it altogether, but that’s not always possible. Still, there are ways to prepare:
- Make a list of where you’re vulnerable: cyber security, employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, on-site safety, etc.
- Look at your response capabilities: do you have someone on staff who understands crisis mitigation or how to communicate with media?
- Take stock of your internal and external communications.
- Do you have a lawyer?
- Do you have a trusted PR professional?
A crisis doesn’t always give you warning, but sometimes, you really can see one coming—if you know where to look.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, there are roughly 228,132 words in the English language. This includes about 47,000 that are no longer in widespread use.
With so many to choose from, you’d think those in the public eye would choose more carefully. Especially considering the forever-ness of anything uttered or written in this digital age.
If you think there’s no longevity in poorly chosen words, we invite you to Google “Depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” and see how 17 years later, the most famous words of her husband’s presidency were used—rightly or wrongly—against Hillary Clinton. (Who has had her own trouble with parsing and verbal coyness.)
Some might argue that is the careful choice and over parsing of words, the excessive message development that has led to the rise of a new crop of blunt-speaking politicians. Straight talk is certainly preferable to obfuscation, but there’s a difference between being plain spoken and being irresponsible.
The natural progression here is to now take Donald Trump to task for everything from overtly racist comments to casually inciting violence but his poorly chosen words—and there are many—are hardly the only ones out there.
This isn’t a plea for political correctness. It’s a call to choose wisely, lest your poor choices haunt you for months and years to come via Google, YouTube, and the myriad social media channels that haven’t been invented yet. Reputation management isn’t always on the minds of public—or private—citizens. But it should be.
Ten years ago, Sen. George Allen’s 2006 campaign imploded thanks to a video that was shot just months after the founding of YouTube. Yet, as the digital age unfolded, promising there would be lasting records of everything, people still seemed inclined to choose the wrong words and share them publicly.
Despite riding to the Republican Presidential nomination on a conflagration of inappropriate words, Donald Trump is now seeing his poll numbers suffer. Sixty-nine percent of people in a recent Fox News poll said his comments criticizing Khizr Khan and his wife were “out of bounds.”
Free speech is protected by the Constitution and there are no laws against poor judgment or having a poor vocabulary. But the law of averages says that poorly chosen words eventually will come back to masticate you in the gluteus maximus.