Category: Public Relations

8 steps to clean up your online reputation

social media pr
Sean McGinnis recently wrote an interesting post about online reputation and how he ended up in porn.One day, he Googled himself to discover an adult movie called “The Fluffer” had been released and the star character’s name was none other than, you guessed it, Sean McGinnis.An SEO expert and Web strategist, he set about to take back the rights to his name on Google.
As you can imagine, it wasn’t easy.

Negative reviews, untrue comments, and trolls are pushing their way to the top of search rankings so, when someone Googles you, they find all of these negative things said about you online that might be 100 percent false.

Cleaning up your online reputation is now a very real thing—and just one person, or one movie, can ruin for you fairly quickly.

The proper process goes a little like this.

Conduct an online audit

Likely you already know what’s there, but it doesn’t hurt to do a Google search, see what is being said, and where it lands in search results (second listing, first page or third listing, second page).

Do this both logged into your Google account and logged out (or you can open an incognito window in your browser without having to actually log out; do this in Chrome by going to “file” and then click on “new incognito window”).

Logged-in results will show you what your friends, colleagues, peers, and clients will see, and incognito results will show how the rest of the world perceives your online reputation.

It’s important to have both.

Use terms such as “I hate COMPANY NAME” or “COMPANY NAME sucks.”

Also, do searches on key employees or executives at your organization.

Create an online reputation strategy

Based on what you learn from the audit and what internal and external implementation resources are in place, put together the company’s online reputation strategy—and make sure it’s tied to your goals.

The very first thing you should do (if you haven’t already) is set up Talkwalker alerts to let you know when someone says something about you online—positive, neutral, or negative.

Then write down what it is you’re trying to accomplish (push one review from the first page to the second or fill the first page of search results with positive information about your organization) and get to work.

Create a clean-up list

With the online reputation audit complete and your strategy in place, now comes the clean-up.

As you create the list, read the reviews, read the comments on blogs and in discussion forums, and read all other negative things people are saying about you.

Aggregate all of that information into one place to help you decide if your products need to be tweaked, your customer service needs to be enhanced, or your operations need some work, particularly if there are negative comments about the same things over and over again.

More often than not, people just want you to respond to them. They want to be heard. When they post something and it goes unanswered, their fire is fueled.

As you create the list of things that need to be cleaned up, make a list of sites where your team should respond to complaints.

You will want to create some pre-approved messages for your team to use when responding—such as, “I am so sorry to hear about your troubles with our company. If you’ll privately send me your phone number or email address, I’ll be glad to help you offline.”

What this does is show anyone else who reads the complaints that you are responsive, but takes the conversation offline where you can be helpful.

In the best cases, the person will go back to the site after you’ve helped them and post how grateful they are for your help.

Assign a person or a team to do the work

They will need usernames and passwords, branding guidelines, sign-off on copy/images, and the power to make changes without a laborious approval process.

The one thing you should think about when you assign a team to do the work, particularly for those who are responding to customer complaints, is that these people are representing your organization in a very public forum.

Just like you’d only send experienced people out to meet with high-profile clients or to close a big sales deal, you want your clean-up representatives to have enough business experience to make informed decisions.

That’s not to say an intern or a young professional who has great social media expertise can’t help—they can.

You just want those people to be supervised by someone who has the expertise to make the right decisions devoid of emotion and defensiveness.

Begin the clean-up

Some of this is painful because you’ll need to work with the social networks’ customer service departments to reset login data, delete a profile, or take down an untrue review.

This could take weeks.

According to the social networks, you are guilty until proven innocent. They assume you’ll say and do anything to take down negative reviews…especially if they are true. You have the burden of proof on you and they’ll make you jump through a gazillion hoops to make sure you’re telling the truth.

Be patient. Follow the messaging outlined above. Create compelling content that is written both for humans and robots. The negative reviews will move.

Build your online reputation through social media

There was a time when social media didn’t make sense for every organization. Now, though, it is the best and most efficient way to connect with your customers and prospects.

There is one social network every organization should be on, no matter what you sell: Google+.

Not only does Google rank you higher if you use their social network to promote your content, it helps to push down the negative content if it has been shared on Google+.

Google also now allows you to connect your social networks to your analytics so you can see not only the biggest drivers of traffic to your site, but what keywords they used to find you, what conversations (or pictures, or links) drove them to you, and what they did once they arrived.

Content is prince

Like McGinnis, you may find a fictional character has your name. Or you may find untrue reviews, blog posts, or stories.

But many of you will have negative reviews that are, unfortunately, true.

The very best way to manage these is to create content that is interesting and valuable, and something people want to share.

You cannot delete the negative information. The best you can do is push it off of page one results.

Implement the strategy

Once you’ve cleaned up the organization’s online reputation and figured out how you’re going to use content to build a strong reputation, it’s time to put your strategy into action.

You’re about to become transparent.

In the past, we had the perception that we are in control of our reputation even with an issue or crisis.

The curtain has been pulled back now, and the only way to participate in the conversation is by being transparent: You’re opening yourself up to criticism and feedback.

  • Allow employees to talk about your products or services publicly.
  • Establish a one-to-one communication channel where customers can engage and converse with you in real time every day.
  • Proactively ask for feedback.
  • Don’t hide criticism: Address it publicly.

Once you’ve decided to be transparent, honest, authentic, and human in your online conversations, the content, brand ambassadors, influencer marketing, customer reviews, and a solid product or service will help you cross the marathon finish line.

Warren Buffett famously said: If you lose money for the firm, I will understand. If you lose reputation, I will be ruthless.

An organization’s online reputation, today, is only as good as its search results.

This is an excerpt from the newly released “Spin Sucks” by Gini Dietrich, founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, Inc. She also blogs at Spin Sucks, where a version of this article originally appeared.

Sandy Hermanoff on FOX2 News Discussing GM Crisis


A study conducted by the The Center for Auto Safety, a private watchdog group in Washington DC, reports that 303 deaths occurred after airbags failed to deploy in 1.6 million compact cars recalled last month by General Motors Co.

General Motors issued this statement in response:

“As knowledgeable observers know, FARS tracks raw data. Without rigorous analysis, it is pure speculation to attempt to draw any meaningful conclusions. In contrast, research is underway at GM and the investigation of the ignition switch recall and the impact of the defective switch is ongoing. While this is happening, we are doing what we can now to ensure our customers’ safety and peace of mind. We want our customers to know that today’s GM is committed to fixing this problem in a manner that earns their trust.”

Just how bad is this crisis situation for General Motors’ business? Should the company have responded and reacted differently?

VIDEO: Auto analyst John McElroy, public relations and marketing executive Sandy Hermanoff and FOX 2 legal analyst Charlie Langton discuss the crisis with FOX 2’s Murray Feldman

Open Secrets: What Makes Email Subject Lines Work?

In a series of “think-aloud” studies in 2011, the Carnegie Mellon professors asked participants to sort through emails in their own inboxes and in inboxes developed for the study.

The results? Readers were most likely to open emails with subject lines focusing on:

1. Utility, or relevance: People are most likely to open emails when the subject line focuses on “information I can use to live my life better.”

2. Curiosity: Carnegie Mellon is heavily invested in “knowledge gap” research. That is, once people know what they don’t know, they’re eager to close the gap. So this study tested emails with vague subject lines, not entertaining ones.

Curiosity worked when recipients:

  • Knew who the email was from but were uncertain about the contents
  • Understood the contents because of a detailed subject line but were unfamiliar with the sender

Utility was more effective than curiosity in getting emails opened. And the more emails recipients received, the less effective curiosity became.

The researchers did not look into the effect of interesting, or feature-style, subject lines. I suspect that engaging subject lines that raise interest in the topic, but don’t spell it out clearly, would also be effective.

But unless your reader knows you personally and will be driven to open your message solely based on your relationship, I do not recommend using vague or empty subject lines.

Given the research, here are three ways to make your subject lines more effective:

1. Focus on readers’ self interest.

The best subject line I received last year came from Portland Monthly’s Shop Talk e-zine. It said: “Talk to Tim Gunn | Free Kiehl’s Product | Bad Mall Photos.”

You had me at Tim Gunn!

Opportunities, offers and discounts drive the most opens, according to Lyris Technologies. So focus on what’s in it for the recipient, not what’s in it for you, the sender.

2. Make it interesting.

Among the most popular subject lines for my e-zine, Wylie’s Writing Tips:

  • “Pleading for shorter sentences”
  • “Don’t commit verbicide”
  • “Can you read me now?”

Why did these lines get higher click-through rates than usual?

Because they focus on what the reader will learn and they sound intriguing.

3. Make it easy.

EmailLabs studied 23,475 email campaigns of more than 650 companies. They found that:

  • Recipients opened email messages with subject lines of less than 50 characters 12.5 percent more often than those with 50-plus characters.
  • The click-through rates for the shorter subject lines were 75 percent higher than for the longer ones.
  • Some email platforms truncate subject lines after 5 words or so. So limiting your subject line to 50 characters or less will also ensure that it displays fully in inboxes and on mobile devices. Plus, shorter subject lines are easier to understand at a glance.

Copyright © 2014  Ann Wylie.  All rights reserved.

AnnWylie_headshotAnn Wylie works with communicators who want to reach more readers and with organizations that want to get the word out. To learn more about her training, consulting or writing and editing services, contact her at
Email: ann at

Newspaper Op-Eds: A Frequently Overlooked PR Tool

Newspaper Op-Eds are very important pieces to the puzzle of comprehensive coverage for a client. We use them for our clients. Here is an article from Public Relations Tactics by Scott Berman.

newspaper op ed

op ed

Newspaper op-eds — signed opinion pieces on the page opposite editorials — are important PR tools too frequently overlooked by communications professionals. And for many of those who use this tactic, efforts often stall because of common pitfalls in the three-step op-ed process: envisioning, preparing, and marketing. Nevertheless, there are internal and external benefits to op-eds that make the effort pay off.

Putting together an op-ed can serve as a catalyst for organizations to develop language on important issues. Thus, an op-ed is a manifesto for external and internal public relations: helping organizations stake claims on a range of important issues.

Possible hooks are not hard to find. Try your own files. There are news releases and speeches whose still-relevant content likely reached a limited audience. Your organization is probably fighting some of the same battles described in those documents. Use them. I once developed a piece that was derived from a months-old news release about a dangerous, overlooked loophole in federal law that created hazards on city streets. The issue — to make laws that would save lives on roadways — remained pertinent and was again of keen interest when a particular kind of traffic accident occurred: demonstrating why the issue mattered. In turn, op-ed language can be used for interviews, speeches, and other internal and external communications.

Further, decision- and lawmakers are keenly aware of the opinion pages of national and regional newspapers. They read, think about, and are often sensitive to op-eds. Many officials regard such print forums as particularly prestigious and influential, whether or not they like the opinions that appear there. Although a quick, routine news package is likely to reach more people, it tends to be fleeting, unless there is a crisis. Op-eds have staying power. They may show up in the paper, in that official’s news summary at the office, in their staff’s files, or in later letters to the editor. They can be conveniently reviewed, held in the decision maker’s hand, copied at a moment’s notice, and cheaply circulated.

Build the op-ed around a timely or regional hook. Watch news coverage for possible opportunities. For example, I once found a newspaper list of needed infrastructure projects in all 50 states. This was of great interest because the issue directly affected my client. I then checked and used the data to market localized versions of an op-ed on the subject nationwide. More than a dozen appeared.

Newspaper editors rely on the anniversaries of news events for updated coverage. For instance, I once tied op-eds about the need to restore a monument to reported comments by a state official, the anniversary of D-Day, and July 4. Another time I tied versions of a piece to the anniversary of the introduction of a historic bill in Congress. A year and a half later, I revisited the issue in a version linked to the anniversary of when the law went into effect.

Too many agencies and organizations blanket mail op-eds without any reference point or clear local angle. Others lack a valid hook, besides an organization’s desire to get ink on a particular issue. Make connections between your issue and hooks that are logical, newsworthy, and of strategic value to your client. In addition, be prepared to describe the piece to editors accordingly. Help editors identify relevant issues of interest to their readers, even if the topic or hook is unconventional or unexpected.

Also, think of op-eds in terms of internal relations. I once asked a technical expert to edit a draft of an op-ed for accuracy. “I’ve been here for 30 years, and no one has ever asked me to review anything like this,” the expert said appreciatively, even though speeches and releases were prepared through the years that touched on aspects of his area of expertise. Let experts know you need them — they will appreciate it and their future help will come in handy.

Op-eds can be credible components of media kits. With a newspaper’s copyright approval, such pieces can be copied and serve as meaty, thought-provoking items for others as they form perceptions about your organization.

The majority of op-eds are targeted to one or two newspapers and, when not printed there, are presumed dead. Prepare a prioritized list of publications to approach in turn. Work your way through it as you receive answers. Remember, placing an op-ed is like getting a date — you only succeed if you ask.

Find out who handles op-eds at the target newspaper. Regarding op-ed pitch letters and communication, be ready to offer one exclusively in terms of time, content, or circulation area — whatever the editor requires. Make appropriate follow-up calls, and take no for an answer with courtesy — you may have other op-eds to offer in the future.

Source: Public Relations Society of America

How to avoid being misquoted by the media


Brad Phillips on how to avoid being misquoted by the media




Brad Phillips is author of The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview. He is also the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm, and blogs at Mr. Media Training, where a version of this story first appeared.



What is a Communications Plan?

The Strategic Communication Plan: An overview

by Les Potter, ABC, IABC Fellow (guest post)

Much is said and written about strategic communication and communication planning. The essential question is what can a communicator do in order to be considered a strategic communicator? The short answer lies in the communication plan she develops. A good plan embodies all the necessary components of strategic communication.

Becoming a competent, results-oriented strategic communicator takes years of study and practical, hands-on work experience. Once the foundation is firmly in place, then the strategic communication plan manifests all that knowledge and experience to focus on the strategic communication an organization needs to accomplish its mission.

There are key sections that must be in a strategic communication plan. They are, in order: the executive summary (written last); a description of the communication process for non-communication-trained decision makers; the background that led to the need for the plan; the situation analysis (formative research); the strategic summary; the implementation schedule; the budget; and the evaluation and monitoring of the plan (summative research).

While each section is important, there are four that demand serious consideration. Let’s review these main sections of a successful strategic communication plan.communications plan

The situation analysis (formative research)

The first step in developing a strategic communication plan is conducting formative research. To be strategic, communication programs must be built on fact, not fiction or guesswork. The strategic communication plan is the outline—the road map—for successful program implementation and management.

The first and most important step is conducting formative research to find out as much as you can about the issues facing an organization. Formative research can be primary, that is, original research that is designed and conducted by the communicator to address the specifics of her organization’s situation. Or it can be secondary, adapting already-conducted research that relates most closely to her organization’s situation.

Primary research is the most demanding and expensive, but yields the best results. It is made up of qualitative components, like interviews and focus groups, and quantitative components, like surveys and questionnaires. The completed research then becomes the basis of writing a credible situation analysis. This analysis tells the communicator what must be treated for the organization to be successful.

Strategic summary (goals, objectives, strategy and tactics)
Once a situation analysis is written, the strategic communicator has a basis on which to make her recommendations for actual strategic communication activity. The recommendations should be captured in a strategic summary. The strategic summary involves setting goals and objectives. Goals are broad strokes, higher-level concepts about what needs to be accomplished, such as improving an organization’s relationship with key publics or enhancing its reputation/image among key publics. A number of objectives are set under each goal to help make it a reality. Objectives are the workhorses here. Each objective should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-sensitive) to accomplish the goal it serves. In formulating objectives, the communicator must consider an overall strategy that will effectively reach the target audience, such as using a mix of tactics, including interpersonal communication (face-to-face) and/or the various media that an organization uses to communicate with internal audiences.

Here’s the problem: All too often communicators set squishy objectives, like “communicate that we care about employees” or “inform the community about our….” For an objective to have any relevance, it must be measurable. Setting measurable objectives is the cornerstone of the strategic communication foundation, following research and situation analysis. You simply must set measurable objectives in order to be able to conduct meaningful, summative evaluation in the end. All too often, squishy objectives are followed by evaluation that amounts to silliness like, “We got a lot of compliments on [the tactic],” or “The CEO really liked it,” or “All of the copies were taken by employees.” These statements prove nothing.

Once goals are set with relevant objectives and an appropriate strategy, the strategic communicator must decide on a mix of tactics that will reach target audiences. This involves dipping into the strategic communicator’s toolkit and selecting a mix of tactics that will reach the audience in a timely and cost-effective manner. A mix of tactics that have the highest credibility with target audiences is always better than only one or two tactics. Devising effective strategy also must take into account the time schedule for tactical implementation. Gantt charts work exceptionally well for plotting tactical implementation.


After recommendations have been formulated in the strategic summary and backed up by strategy and tactical implementation, the strategic communicator must budget the activity as competently as would be expected of any business manager. The greatest tool since the handheld calculator for this purpose is the Excel spreadsheet. It allows you to play “what if” games until the budget is within guidelines and meets needs. Concentrate on budgeting to achieve each objective. The real cost of achieving each objective will be in its related tactics.

Summative (or evaluative) research
Now the strategic communication plan comes full circle. You begin with research to know what needs doing. Then, you set goals and objectives to achieve the expected outcomes. Now you end with research to see if your strategic communication efforts have accomplished the goals and objectives. The key here is to concentrate on measuring and evaluating the success or failure of your objectives, the workhorses of strategic communication. Strategic communicators don’t wait until a communication plan is finished to evaluate it. It’s too late then to do anything about it, except learn from mistakes. Strategic communicators monitor and evaluate all along in order to make any needed course corrections to stay on target. Final evaluation then helps set you up for success in the next cycle of activity.


Les Potter, ABC, IABC Fellow, is a senior lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication and Communication Studies at Towson University in Maryland. He has previously served on IABC’s executive board and accreditation committee, and as a trustee of the IABC Research Foundation. Les is author of The Communication Plan and he blogs about strategic communication and public relations at More with Les.

Planning and Prevention Goes a Long Way in Crisis Communication

Just read about a CEO with 8,000 employees who warned his employees that if one of the candidates for president wins, they could lose their jobs. How would you feel going to work every day for that company?

That’s an internal crisis:  one that is going to take some quick turnaround time to give his employees a comfort level. Communication is the key – traditional and social media took this story viral.

Then there’s the case of the custom-made steroid prepared by New England Compounding Center, a specialty pharmacy in Framingham, Mass., that has caused the outbreak of rare fungal meningitis from steroid shots for back pain. The steroid was recalled Sept. 26, 2012, but 13,000 people were injected and who knows how many people will die from it. That’s an external crisis:  one that should be addressed immediately with an internal crisis issue as well. Again, communication is the key – and traditional and social media are taking this story viral.

If your company experienced either an internal or external crisis, are you set up to tackle it right away? Do you have a crisis team in place with a list of cell and home phone numbers for quick access? Is there an attorney on the team? Do you know how to prepare and handle media inquiries? Who are the audiences you must reach immediately? Does someone in your organization understand how to use social media in a crisis?

Don’t get caught like the chemical company that was asleep when a crisis occurred and lost just enough momentum in communicating with their audiences to eventually put them out of business. There were high stakes, they gambled and lost everything.

Crisis prevention is very affordable and can be a company life saver. The Tylenol case is a prime example. They communicated well with their audiences often and honestly and saved lives and jobs of thousands of people.

Our message is to have a crisis plan in place, hoping you will never need to use it.  Any good PR firm will be able to help.  At Hermanoff Public Relations we do all of the above – and offer 24-hour crisis counseling.

It’s always better and safer to stay ahead of the curve.  And planning for a crisis is just one smart move before the holidays.

Good PR Starts with Good CR

So, let’s say you’re a business owner – a relatively new one at that.  You’ve come up with this great product or service that you can’t wait to spread the word about.  You may have even hired a PR firm to help you out.  And yet, your business is still anything but booming.

While you’re thinking of new ideas, you think of the phrase about networking: “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”  So now you’re browsing the Internet looking for local events to network with like-minded people.  But after hours and hours of looking you realize that attending all, if any, of these events could play a huge factor in your expense report; and right now you’re likely not in a position to spend big on anything non-business related.

So, now what?

If marketing and public relations is best achieved from a relationship approach, then your potential clients need to know who you really are.  What better way to connect with them than doing some community relations? That is, community relations (CR) is just the way your business interacts with the environment you work in.

Believe it or not, community relations is one of the easiest ways for you to promote yourself.  It lets your potential customers know that you care about the things they do as opposed to just selling to them.  By dedicating your time to the community, you start to build trust with others and make a name for yourself as being people-oriented.

Please note, however, that it’s just not enough to attend volunteer events just to show your face – you have to be down with the cause!  That means you have to be genuinely interested in the community work you choose to do.  For instance, if you participate in a community clean-up event, but are afraid to get down-and-dirty with the other volunteers, they will notice your actions and may feel uncomfortable working with you.  In other words, they’ll question your character and you won’t have the trust from them that it takes to build your business; and you know what they say about trust!

If you’re looking for low-cost ways to get involved in your community, here are just a few ideas:

  • Coach a youth sport – If you work well with kids, you’ll leave a lasting impression with parents.
  • Community cleanup days – Interact with the area’s most passionate citizens and get a sense for what the community wants.
  • Join a committee – Get to know the most influential people and offer your ideas to an organization in need.
  • Mentor those who aspire to do what you do – Remember, even you had to start somewhere.
  • Offer a free sample, demo, or presentation of what you do – Some people have to see it to believe it – nothing wrong with a little show-and-tell!

At the end of the day everything is brought in full-circle.  Just as you had to put in some elbow grease to get your business started, you have to do the same to promote yourself.  People don’t buy what you do, but rather why you do it.  And what better way to show them why you’re in business than by getting involved with your community?

Just make sure you have fun doing it along the way!