The First 24 Hours of a Crisis: Offer Questions, NOT Answers

Boom.  Out of nowhere, a crisis hits your company or community. As the leader, everyone’s turning to you.  In part to see how you react, but mostly for instruction confirming how they’re supposed to respond. 

Everyone’s turning to you for answers- but that’s the last thing you should be doing during the first 24 hours of a crisis.  Your job the first 24 hours is to ask questions, and to avoid giving answers.

The first questions you ask should be directed to your employees.  What do they need to deal with the immediate problem? How can you help get them the help they need, quickly? These questions not only demonstrate your support to your team but instructs them to take action.

The next set of questions are to gather information.  How many people were initially, directly affected by the crisis issue?  Follow that with questions about how to prevent new victims from being negatively affected by the same crisis in the coming hours.

These questions upfront are necessary to gather the information you need to make strategic decisions and ultimately later, proclamations for the future.

Even when talking to reporters, customers or the public, you should still focus on asking questions during the first 24 hours, not giving answers.

During the first 24 hours avoid making declarative statements or accusations against others that commit you or your company to certain actions. Avoid giving definitive answers or suggesting long-term solutions that could be considered controversial as your statement will come across as opportunistic instead of as a genuine solution.

The only initial statements you should make are holding statements (see our earlier blog entitled Part 1 of what to do in a PR crisis). Otherwise, you essentially should be rephrasing and sharing the questions you asked your staff and the answers you were given.  Basically you’re going to say that your team is still investigating details of the incident to make sure it never happens again, but your immediate priority is to better understand the full impact to those effected and how best, and most quickly to help them.

It’s only on day two, after more facts are known and cooler heads prevail, that you can start delivering answers and rallying support for specific actions. 

If there’s a general uproar over the crisis, you can also ask rhetorical questions.  For example, if the crisis is a criminal act made against your company, ask aloud who would do such a heinous thing effecting so many. Share in the public outcry and frustration, but be careful in pointing blame outwards if you suspect a member of your team might be involved.

As the leader, your job when a crisis hits is to ask questions and support your teams in resolving the immediate threat.  After the immediate pressure of the crisis subsides, your job refocuses into identifying what caused the problem and initiating a long-term fix to avoid a repeat of the crisis and regain the confidence of your customers and the public.

A fantastic example and story of how to deploy the 24 hours of questions before providing answers strategy can be heard in a podcast called Without Fail where in an episode featuring Dayton, Ohio Mayor Nan Whaley talks about the immediate aftermath of the mass shooting outside a Dayton entertainment area called the Oregon District. Here’s a link to the episode including a transcript of the discussion.

Does Your Company Have a Media Emergency Playbook?

How your Company Can Win By Preparing for a Media Crisis Like It’s a Game.

Remember from childhood the game “Mad Libs”?  It’s the grammar game where there’s a one-page story with a bunch of missing words in the narrative.  The game leader asks the other kids to yell out what’s called for in the blank space- like a Verb, or a City name, a person’s occupation, an Adjective, etc.  After all the missing words are filled in, the game leader reads the now silly story to the enjoyment of the other kids who help contribute to the narrative. 

Games are fun, but some games are more important to win than others.  If you want to your company to win during a media emergency/PR crisis, you need to prepare in advance.  One way to win is by copying the Mad Libs game structure to creating a media emergency playbook your company can use when needed.

Let’s face it, it’s not IF a media emergency will occur, but WHEN.  A bad response can create a significant, lasting negative perception for a company, while a well-handled crisis can earn you long-term customer, employee and investor loyalty. The good news is that it’s possible to manage a crisis well, aided a little bit of planning.

Here are some tips to create a media emergency response plan.

Start by creating a list of the five most likely negative crisis scenarios that could happen to your company. 

For example, if you have employees driving company branded vehicles, a likely crisis could be a bad crash.  If you have employees performing manual, skilled labor, maybe there’s potential for a significant injury or loss of life. If you handle personal information or credit card information, there’s a significant risk of a hack or stolen data.

Create a one or two paragraph written statement for each scenario of how you would respond. 

The initial statement is simply to acknowledge the issue and demonstrate to the public and media that you’re taking the issue seriously and professionally and are investigating it to gather more facts.  It isn’t supposed to be detailed nor is it to explain how you’re fixing the problem.

This initial statement (often called a holding statement) will give you time to provide a more meaningful update (several hours or even a day) later, when you would share more details and examples of how you’re dealing with the situation.

Get sign-off from Executives, Legal team, etc. on your proposed statement.

Get approvals for your template statements now, before the crisis scenario actually occurs.  Examples would be Executives or the Legal team, who most normally would delay a response in the moment because they’d insist on reviewing and wordsmithing it first.  With your pre-approved response, all you’ll need to do is “fill in the blanks” and update some of the details like names, locations, other vital stats, etc.  With the initial media statement out of the way, you will save the entire team significant time allowing them to focus on the actual crisis and to help get it resolved.  Your fast response will also help protect your reputation and influence the public’s response when they learn about the crisis.

Start over and create another list of five potential scenarios which may be less likely to occur, but which scare you (or your CEO) the most. 

Maybe it’s a #MeToo scenario, or fear of an employee being arrested at work even though their crime has nothing to do with your business.  Go through the same process of preparing a short response and getting Executive and Legal approvals.

Strategically share the Media Emergency Playbook with key Executives and company spokespeople.

Not everyone should get a copy of your template responses.  Only share it with the handful of people most likely and authorized to share them with reporters on short notice.  These aren’t public documents for all to see in advance.  While the circle of people with copies should be small, it needs to be a large enough group where the people who ultimately need them can’t locate or find them. Especially in the event the most obvious people are on vacation and/or unreachable. 

While there’s a lot more to be done to properly prepare for, let alone handle, a crisis, having a “Mad Libs” style media emergency playbook is a great start for any company.

Welcome to the Nerd Zone

Out of nowhere, a silly gif image made me swell with pride as a small business owner.

A couple weeks ago, a new employee joined my team.  At the end of her first week, she sent a note to her coworkers thanking everyone for making her feel so welcomed and for helping her to learn our processes, resources, etc.  

Another employee quickly responded with a gif of Stephen Colbert saying: “Welcome to the Nerd Zone, My Friend!”

I know that shouldn’t be one of the gratifying moments I’ve had as a business owner, but it felt that way.  Building a culture for a company is hard. You can be a good person, but not fit because company culture is a mix of personalities, passions, and experiences.  Culture is more than simply the employees that work for the company, but the clients that employees serve.   It’s why we have a “no jerks” policy (which includes both co-workers and clients).

I say this admiringly… while they might be cooler than I am personally, collectively my team is a super cool collection of nerds, dorks, and dare I say it, geeks. We aren’t for everyone, and we don’t want to be.  I want to work with people who are passionate about earning stories and getting results for their clients.  I assume those same likeminded people enjoy working here because we’re focused, like to work, and abhor office drama.  

Our clients tend to be similarly driven- albeit individually as people most are more “cool” than we are.  It’s when we see the same nerdy passion that we know we’re a good fit.  A “normal” person might think a company is boring.  It’s hard for some outsiders to see that electrical contracting has so many interesting stories attached to it, or that there are so many different neat facets and angles to topics like orthopedics or generic medicines. But get together two people with a similar interest or knowledge base and the excitement and passion you witness during a discussion can become riveting. 

That’s what we look for in a client. People who think their business or industry is fascinating, even if the general public (or a reporter) may not initially see it.  Passion is what’s contagious, and we want to catch your disease. Don’t forget, the word influenza (flu) is very similar to influence.   We want to spread your “cool flu.” 

Yes, we’re proudly in the nerd zone. You’re welcome here, too.  Click here to drop us a line and join us in the zone. 

The Best Time of Day and Strategy to Contact Newspaper and Magazine Reporters

As a former reporter, who transitioned into public relations, I’m well aware that reporters can be quirky, irritable and hard to reach. Not that I ever was any of those things.

In any case, if you want to play in the news media sandbox, to get your business’ news out to the public, you might find it useful to follow my advice for reaching them and getting their attention. It’s a matter of respect for them and their time.

It’s no secret news media staffing has been shrinking for close to 20 years and that means far fewer reporters are pressed to cover more news with tighter deadlines in a 24-hour news cycle.

Here are six tips to help you connect with reporters and get the stories you desire.

  • Find the Right Reporters

First of all, get to know who is covering or likely to cover your business sector at weekly and daily newspapers, magazines and online, as well as at broadcast outlets and trade publications. It’s vital to find the right target for your pitch to a reporter or assignment editor.

Some media websites will have this information listed. But do a search on a reporter’s byline to see if they’re still covering that beat. Assignments change often and the websites aren’t always updated promptly. You can also find reporters and editors on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

  • The Best Time of Day to Contact Reporters

Secondly, it’s important to figure out the best day and time of day to phone a reporter or send them an e-mail. After three decades of working in newsrooms, I can tell you that many reporters are reluctant to answer their office phone unless the caller ID shows up as a number they recognize. Good timing can help but getting past that hurdle can be difficult.

Developing a relationship via e-mail or in person as a trusted source is not easy but it’s the best way to overcome that challenge.

With that said, I recommend trying to reach a daily news reporter earlier in the day and generally avoid calls later than midafternoon when they’re likely to be busy reporting and writing on deadline. Most reporters during my era would arrive by 9 or 10 a.m. and would take some time to get coffee and start their workday.

A call or e-mail pitch might get more attention in that window from about 9:30 to noon. Maybe hit them up a little later if it’s a Monday morning.

  • The First Thing to Do When Calling a Reporter

After introducing yourself and your business, you should ask if the reporter is on deadline.

If they say yes, then give them a brief summary of why you’re calling. Let them know you’ve already sent them an e-mail with some details or that you will be sending an e-mail.

  • What do When Sending an Email or a Leaving a Voicemail.

When sending an e-mail or leaving a voicemail message,  quickly provide the five W’s of reporting – who, what, when, where and why – along with all your contact information and any social media handles you’re comfortable sharing. If you’re leaving a voicemail, lead with you’re your name and a callback number, and also end with it a second time. That way if they’re interested in your pitch and need to listen to a message again because they didn’t write down your phone number and name fast enough, they have it at the start of your message so they don’t need to listen through the entire voicemail again.

  • What To Do If the Reporter Doesn’t Call You Back or Respond to Your Email

If a reporter does not respond to your call, e-mail or voice mail, you can try a follow-up e-mail to persuade them to cover your news. But don’t hold your breath. You’ve made your case and they’ve made their decision that it’s not newsworthy for them.

Aim high with your first outreach and then move on to other reporters down the media food chain who might be more interested in your story.

  • When to Contact Reporters of Weekly Newspapers or Monthly Magazines

If you’re pitching to reporters at weekly or monthly publication, figure out what day they publish and when their deadline is for final copy. Magazines have long lead times and will often list this information online. Weekly publications usually have deadlines at least two days before distribution. Getting information to these outlets as far in advance as possible is going to pay the most dividends.

While legacy media outlets have been disappearing for decades, there still are a significant number of neighborhood and community newspapers, monthly lifestyle magazines, business publications and digital outlets with an appetite for well written news releases they can publish with little editing required.

In conclusion, don’t be intimidated by reporters and don’t be offended if a reporter doesn’t write your story.  Just do what you can to set yourself up for success.  You’re two steps ahead of the game if you can write a good news release and find the right publications and media for your target audience. If not, a good public relations company like 10 to 1 PR can write one for you. We also have trusted media contacts and a list of thousands of media outlets to help tell your story.

About the author: Before joining 10 to 1 Public Relations, Peter Corbett worked for three decades at the Arizona Republic, Phoenix Gazette, Scottsdale Progress and weekly newspapers in Flagstaff, Sedona and Verde Valley. He most recently served as a public information officer for the Arizona Department of Transportation.

What’s with the Marble Wall? Explaining Why Companies Should Invest in a Signature Piece

When I first told people about my idea for a custom designed marble wall, some asked me if I was losing my marbles. It’s not your typical office artwork. There are flashing lights, bells and things that twirl. But once they see the 10 to 1 Public Relations marble wall, everyone loves it and just wants to watch it for a while because there are so many moving elements. 

The response grows even more favorably when they hear the story behind it and recognize how it visually demonstrates our unique strategic approach to public relations. They love how we’re using the marble run to showcase our team’s success on a regular basis, too.

I’ve been asked several times for the backstory on it, so I’ll share that in a moment. What I really hope this article does is encourage companies to invest in and promote some type of signature piece in their office that describes their brand and approach to achieving success.  Not just for their clients that visit their office, but for their staffs as well.

There are actually two different audiences that you’re doing this for. First are your office visitors, as you’re trying to give them something visual that they can remember that ties them to your brand or strategic approach. The second is your staff who see it or interact with it regularly.  It serves as an excellent reminder of your philosophy and the company culture whenever they see it and provides reinforcement and acknowledgement for their great work in promoting the brand. 

With that out of the way, here’s the backstory on our marble wall.  We recently moved into new office space and wanted to create something that would really stick out as a signature for the office.  Something worthy of sharing on social media, but also something that fit the company brand. 

To create this signature piece, 10 to 1 Public Relations commissioned an art piece that is a 4 ft. wide by 3 ft. tall marble run with a public relations theme that reflects our philosophy. 

We believe it takes 10 good things to be said about a company to make up for one negative comment, and our public relations strategies for clients generate lots of positive stories to create a “good will bank.” This helps our clients inoculate and protect their brands and their people when that negative story eventually occurs. 

We started out with an idea for a selfie-friendly wall graphic in our conference room that would reflect our philosophies towards PR. While the designs on their own were impressive, none felt right for 10 to 1 PR. 

Our team was trying to think of something unique around the 10 to 1 philosophy, and someone brought up the “drip” analogy that I use when describing our strategy to prospective new clients. The drip analogy refers to how small seemingly minor stories on their own (like new hire announcements or minor contract announcements) can add up to have a big impact. Like drips out of a faucet, if collected the water adds up and can be used however it’s needed in the future. We tried to think of alternatives to a faucet analogy and thought of a marble run where the marbles could each represent a different story and could be collected at the end like drips. 

That night I searched for artists that created marble runs and found Matthew Gaulden of Rolling Ball Structures. I sent an email to him and we quickly started talking about what a public relations themed marble run might look like. Ultimately, we came up with the following.

  • Bells that sound like the NBC news theme
  • A spinning “Breaking News” sign
  • An “On Air” light that would turn on
  • A press conference scene which would flash like flash bulbs
  • A spinning microphone
  • Reference to print and online media
  • A television set
  • A social media carousel

Matt added some additional elements including a waterspout where the marbles would drip out and be collected.

Every week, our team now counts out how many stories we helped our clients earn, and we do a “Running of the Marbles” to celebrate these successes. We then collect those marbles and add the count to a separate jar for the year. 

Since January, we already have more than 900 positive stories for our clients, and that number continues to grow daily. 

Every time we run the marble wall and share on social media our new count of stories generated for clients, it serves as a reinforcement; reiterating to our team, our clients, and our supporters that our 10 to 1 long-game public relations approach and strategy work, making it an office signature piece worth sharing. 

Click here to watch a short video with a tour of our new offices including the marble wall.

The Public Relations Reason to Always Hold a Ribbon Cutting

Congratulations! You’re moving into new office or retail space! 

You’ve already spent a lot of time and money moving in.  For public relations purposes, you really should spend a little bit more to host an open house or ribbon cutting. 

Here’s the part that might surprise you:  the purpose and success of the event has zero to do with how many people actually show up to celebrate in person with you. Here, we share some common misconceptions and best advice around hosting a ribbon cutting event:

It Doesn’t Matter if No One Shows Up.  The event itself isn’t about getting people to attend, it’s about educating people that your company is celebrating a milestone. It’s an opportunity for free publicity to demonstrate how strong your company is and why they should hire or buy from you.

The Event Can Be Months After You Actually Move In.  There is no need to rush an event, as you can hold a ribbon cutting or open house as late as six months after you have moved in. It’s totally understandable to want to get settled in the new office first, but make sure to schedule and promote the event date early, otherwise you will never get around to hosting the event and the opportunity gets lost.

Invite People Who You Know Won’t Attend.  Invite people who live out of state or who you know won’t attend your event.  They’ll appreciate the fact you thought of them, and it will give you an excuse to remind them that your company is doing well and able to help them if needed.

It Doesn’t Matter if the New Office is Smaller than the Old One.  Almost no one will realize it if your new offices are smaller than your previous one. All they’re going to know is you’re excited about your new space and, instinctively, they’re going to assume your company is growing and expanding. 

Let Your Local Chamber of Commerce Do Most of the Work.  We often work with clients who aren’t members of the local Chamber of Commerce. When they move into new space, we always encourage them to join their local chamber- if only for the ribbon cutting. 

The initial response is often that they don’t want to pay the typical $500 to be a member.  I turn around and ask them if they’d pay $500 for the Chamber to promote your event in their newsletters and social media, invite their members to your offices for the event, coordinate with elected officials to attend and speak at your event, and to bring the ribbon and over-sized scissors with them as they coordinate the short ribbon cutting ceremony.  When they say yes, I tell them, great!  And guess what: you get a free one-year membership along with all that publicity and ceremony coordination!

Invite those Key People Who You Want to Thank for Their Support.  There have always been people in your corner cheering you on.  They may be family members, friends, mentors, peers, it doesn’t matter. They deserve to be thanked, and their investment in time to you was so that they can attend an event like this to celebrate your success.  They don’t care if the event is fancy, all they care about is that you’re going to be there and that you’re proud of what you accomplished. Don’t rob them of that opportunity.

Use Social Media Before the Event: Use your social media channels, both professional and personal, to promote your ribbon cutting event.  Create an event on Facebook and invite your contacts to attend your ribbon cutting.  Write a personal note thanking people for their support to help you reach this milestone.  Yes, it may be “humble-bragging,” but you’ll truly be humbled by the warm comments you receive and all the likes congratulating you on this milestone.

Use Social Media During the Event.  If you have a nice crowd, consider recording some video or sharing it live.  Invite attendees to say nice things about your company on the milestone.  Regardless of how many people are in the room, you can live-tweet the event.  Encourage people to take selfies or other group pictures in your offices and share them online, tagging your company in the images.

Use Social Media After the Event.  Share photos and tell everyone how successful your event was, even if it really wasn’t.  It’s okay if it only ends up being you and your staff at your ribbon cutting, have someone take a photo of the group behind the ribbon.Use the photo in a post-event press release or social media posts.  No one will know how many people attended your event- as far as they know there were hundreds of people.

Keys to a Great Ribbon Cutting Photo

  • Have the key company leaders in the center of the ribbon holding the big scissors for the photo opportunity
  • Have people you appreciate/want to thank hold the ribbon on either end so that it’s straight and not dangling—but pick the people purposely as they’ll appear in the photos, so make sure it’s someone you like!
  • Ask EVERYONE in the room to join you behind the ribbon.  Let the company people be up front but have 40 or 50 people in the photo as it makes you look even bigger and stronger. Someone looking at the photo won’t know that there was no one watching.
  • Pose a few photos with everyone looking up before the cutting begins to make sure you have some decent images.
  • When cutting, remind everyone that they need to keep their eyes up toward the camera and not watch the ribbon falling/actually being cut. You’ll dislike the photo if the key people are all looking down at the falling ribbon and it won’t look as good when shared on social media. 
  • Hire a professional photographer to capture the event. The only way to guarantee that you will get great photos is to have someone who knows what they’re doing take the photo. You’ll be using these photos for days, weeks, and years after the event, so it is worth the investment to have a professional on site to capture the event.

Ribbon cuttings and open houses are great opportunities for business owners and staff to reflect on how far a company has come, and to demonstrate confidence in the company’s future. Celebrate your milestone and allow others to celebrate it with you!   

Awards Add Credibility to Your Business – Here’s How to Win Them

How do you stand out in your industry? One way is to apply for industry and community awards that recognize your business savvy, your community involvement, or your individual leadership. Anyone can apply for these awards, but to actually win them takes a lot of planning, effort, and time. We would know, as already this year we have submitted dozens of award nominations on behalf of our clients and ourselves.

Just this month, 10 to 1 Public Relations swept the PR category at the American Marketing Association’s 2019 Spectrum Awards, the Valley of the Sun’s only award ceremony dedicated to recognizing both the art and science of marketing. Of the four award nominations we submitted for different public relations campaigns, we won them all!

10 to 1 Public Relations went four-for-four sweeping all the awards in the public relations categories at this year’s AMA Spectrum Awards in Phoenix!

We’ve become masters of crafting the perfect award nomination, so we thought we’d share a few tips with you to increase your chance of winning that next one on your bucket list:

  1. Be strategic – Don’t waste time applying for every possible award available. Think about where you’d like to enhance your credibility and focus on awards that would highlight that area. For example, if you want to be better known for your excellent customer service, identify awards with that specific focus.
  2. Absorb the judging criteria – Every award will usually list specific judging criteria. Spend time really understanding what the judges will be looking for in an award application, and make sure to include all appropriate information.
  3. Bold or highlight keywords or phrases in your application – You never know who will be looking at your application and under what circumstances, so make it easy for them to give you a favorable review. By bolding or highlighting keywords or phrases, you make it easy for the judge to find the content that they are looking for in their judging rubric.
  4. Plan ahead – By doing research on the available awards that make sense for you and your business ahead of time, you can create an annual award calendar so you can plan around deadlines. A rushed award application is rarely a winner, so make sure you realistically allow yourself enough time to submit a winning application.

Bonus tip: If you’re selected as a finalist but you don’t win, know that you’re still a winner! You can market and brand yourself as a “Finalist” in that award category, which is still a great accomplishment and something to be proud of.

Then, once you’ve secured that Finalist or Winner award, don’t just put the award on the shelf and forget about it! That’s when the public relations campaign kicks in, where you can promote yourself as a leader in local and national outlets within your community and industry.

It’s also worth noting that our “batting average” on award submissions is nearly .500, proving that we know how to attract the interest of selection committee judges. If you want some help in putting together an effective awards strategy to differentiate your business from the competition, we are here to help.

By Erica Fetherston, Sr. Account Exec at 10 to 1 Public Relations

Look at the Calendar to Generate Newsworthy Company Stories

A common refrain among companies is that they can’t get positive stories from media unless it’s for something really big like a major new product launch or a new facility opening.  They couldn’t be more wrong. 

Sure, big announcements can make great stories.  It’s the small stories where the true PR pros really shine.  The secret for these pros isn’t really a secret. Companies already have an important tool to success that they look at daily. They just need to look at it differently.  That tool is a calendar. 

When we start working with a client, the first thing we ask for is calendars because looking at what the company already has upcoming allows us to start building the PR calendar we intend to follow for the coming months.  Beyond the obvious stuff (like launch dates or major conferences you’re attending), look deeper at the calendar to identify story opportunities.

Hard dates on the calendar.

Start by looking at the dates on the calendar that don’t change.  Halloween, Christmas, July 4th, Valentine’s Day, all of these dates happen every year like clockwork.  You have no excuse to claim you didn’t know they were coming, so the question is, how can you create an event around those hard dates? 

For example, doing a story around Tax Day (April 15) is an obvious opportunity for a CPA firm.  It could be last minute tax filing tips, or a story about how the company got all their filings done early so the entire office went out for lunch together on the filing deadline day since they had nothing to do because they’re simply so great at their job. 

Another idea would be a care facility taking advantage of Valentine’s Day to focus on a couple that met and married at the facility or some other appropriate love story.

Media are always going to acknowledge hard dates on a calendar, and media are often looking for a unique way to talk about it.  Find a way to insert your company within that hard date to increase your chances of generating a positive story for your organization.

Soft Dates on a Calendar 

While the exact date each year might change, school always starts around the same time of year.  The baseball season always starts around the same time of year. High School prom and graduation always happen around the same time of year.  Take advantage of these annual events and identify a tie-in for your company.  

For example, if you work for an air conditioning company, look up what days of the summer are historically the hottest, and watch the temperature.  If you’re in Arizona, have a story ready to pitch for the first time that summer the temperature tops 110 (you’ll notice I didn’t say 100 because anyone in Arizona a few years will tell you that 100 isn’t considered that big a deal). 

Scheduled Dates on the Calendar

Look at the events your company is scheduled to attend in the next year or any travel key staff may be making related to work. Take advantage of travel plans and other events to generate stories.  For example, if your company is exhibiting at an event for disabled Veterans, identify some appropriate involvement stories or employees that are veterans that you can spotlight as part of your acknowledgement of that event.

Made up Dates

It seems like there’s a made-up date for everything.  Talk Like a Pirate Day.  March 14th is Pi (3.14) Day, May the 4th (be with you) is Star Wars Day.  But there are also days, weeks and months for different issue topics. Construction Safety Week is in May.  Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. Do a search and read through the lists of all the different days, weeks and months.  Identify any that could relate to your company or an issue that is consistent with the company’s values and find a way to be part of that calendar event. 

There are story ideas everywhere if you’re willing to look for them. Start by looking at the calendar. 

by Josh Weiss, President of 10 to 1 Public Relations

How to Prepare Before an Interview

How to Prepare Before an Interview

I was recently rereading a New York Times article about Terry Gross, the host of NPR’s Fresh Air who is widely acclaimed as an amazing interviewer. The article was entitled “How to Talk to People” and it included several examples of her interview techniques that she uses to engage her interviewees and deliver an informative and inspirational story.

Many of Terry’s interview suggestions mirror what I coach clients before a media interview, so I thought it might be helpful to list some of my own tips here. 

Six Interview Tips for Executives and Spokespeople:

  1. Don’t be surprised by the questions a reporter is likely to ask. Even for interviews on the happiest of topics, most reporters will refuse to share a list of questions they plan to ask ahead of time. That doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared in advance to answer them. Create your own list of likely questions and prepare an answer for each. You may not get asked each question on your own list, but the preparation will give you confidence that you’re ready with the answers, which will result in a better overall interview (and minimize the “ums”). 
  2. Decide your boundaries before any interview begins. Before ever talking to a reporter and participating in an interview, know your own boundaries. Decide in advance what you’re NOT going to say and, regardless of how many ways you might get asked, stick to your plan. Knowing your boundaries and limitations in advance will make it easier not to accidentally share information you later regret providing.
  3. Pivot when necessary.  Sometimes you’re going to get a question where you don’t have a good answer. It’s not that you’re trying to hide something, it’s simply that you don’t feel knowledgeable enough to answer the question and you don’t want to get it wrong. A great way to pivot is to say: “Let me give you an example of how we handled a similar scenario in the past.” In setting up the scenario and focusing on your strengths of how it was handled, you can often successfully reframe the question in an appropriate way where you’re more comfortable answering the root of the original question, and the reporter will likely move on to the next question.
  4. Don’t fill dead air. It’s the reporter’s job to keep the conversation going, not yours. Once you’ve answered the question, stop talking. Some reporters use an old interview trick of not saying anything when they were looking for a different, or less rehearsed sounding answer. It often makes the person being interviewed uncomfortable so that they start speaking again. The second answer to the same question often isn’t as polished as the first—thus sometimes making a less flattering quote—or that’s when the person being interviewed sometimes offers up more information and details which they otherwise would have preferred not to share.
  5. It’s okay to refuse to answer a question. Sometimes questions are uncomfortable on a personal level, or legally on a professional level. It’s okay to not answer every question, but you do need to acknowledge it was asked. If the question is appropriate and you simply don’t know the answer, tell them that but offer to try and get them the answer after the interview. If it’s something that you can’t answer, or don’t want to provide an answer later, it may help to simply be more blunt. It’s okay to say you’re not comfortable discussing the topic, or that you only have permission to discuss the topics that were the original reason for the interview. Another tact might be to refuse to answer because you’re afraid the answer will hurt someone’s feelings.  Don’t be defensive when answering, but also don’t be angry that a reporter is asking. They’re simply doing their job, and most reporters will accept your decision not to answer.
  6. Take the Open Question– twice.  You often will have two opportunities to frame the interview. The first is at the very beginning of the interview when they often ask an open-ended question like: why are we here today or could you tell us about your big announcement? This lets you share your good news unfiltered, and it’s from this initial answer that the reporter will ask follow-up questions for additional details. Lay it all out upfront for the reporter and don’t assume they already know what questions to ask. Without getting in to too much detail, give a good outline of what’s happening that’s worthy of this interview. The second opportunity you’ll have is often at the end of an interview. When a reporter has finished asking all their prepared questions, they will often ask: anything else?  You should ALWAYS answer this question with any important details you think were missed that you want included in the story, or simply to give one last short highlight recap of your big news which could ultimately be used as a quote.

Oh, and if you ever find yourself being interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air, I want an autograph. Not yours, hers! She’s simply masterful at getting people to share their stories, whether it be celebrities, politicians, media members or scientists. If you’ve never listened, I highly encourage you to download a podcast or listen on your local NPR station.

It’s OK to Be Strategic About Corporate Social Responsibility

Guest blog written by Toby Cox

Strategy and authenticity are often viewed as opposing forces in the business world, and it’s not difficult to see why: Businesses, by definition, are for-profit organizations with a primary goal of generating revenue.

Because of this, companies and CEOs who give back to the local community are often unsure of how to tell others about their good deeds.

“One of the biggest challenges that I see from a public relations side is that a lot of companies are committed to corporate social responsibility and are doing it for the right reason, but they don’t promote it enough,” said Josh Weiss, CEO of 10 to 1 Public Relations, one of the leading PR firms.

Many companies fear seeming boastful and inauthentic if they talk too much about their socially-responsible policies or how they give back to the local community.

In the name of humility, however, they’re doing themselves and their community a disfavor.

It’s actually OK to be strategic about corporate social responsibility (CSR) and here are 3 reasons why:

CSR Can Elevate Your Brand

All companies will face criticism eventually and, unfortunately, it takes a lot of positive things to make up for one negative. However, companies can collect these positive stories and draw on them when they need to.

“We believe that it takes 10 good things to be said about a company to make up for 1 negative,” Weiss said. “You have to build up a goodwill bank of positive stories to protect and inoculate yourself.”

Promoting your dedication to CSR and giving back to the local community doesn’t have to be a huge campaign every time. It could be as simple as a photo with a caption shared on social media or as in-depth as a feature story.

“All of these little stories add up and can have a huge impact,” Weiss said. “It’s like drips out of a faucet. If you collect the water, you can use that water any way you need it going forward.”

Customers Want to Support Companies That Share Their Values

recent study by Clutch shows that people are likely to support or boycott companies based on their brand values.

Seventy-five percent of people (75%) are likely to start shopping at a company that supports an issue they agree with.

Conversely, 59% of people are likely to stop shopping at a company that supports an issue they disagree with.

People tend to view their buying decisions as an extension of their beliefs.

When they see a company promoting their CSR endeavors, they won’t see it as overly self-promotional. Rather, they’ll notice the company helping the local community and associate its brand with social responsibility.

Strategic CSR Benefits the Local Community and Cause Your Company Supports

The cause your company donates resources to actually needs you to be strategic.

When you choose a cause that aligns with your brand and then promote your work in giving back to that cause, you are raising awareness for the cause itself and the organization(s) you’re working with.

“We often tell clients that it’s about their power as a company to promote those other organizations,” Weiss said. “If you’re collecting food for a food bank, don’t view it as promoting what your employees are doing for your company’s benefit. Think about how the company is helping promote that food bank.”

When companies approach CSR strategically, everyone wins – the company gets good coverage, consumers see the company positioned as a socially-conscious brand, and the cause/organizations its supporting gets extra coverage, boosting people’s awareness.

You Don’t Have to Sacrifice Authenticity for Strategy

Being strategic about CSR doesn’t mean having to sacrifice authenticity.

You can preserve authenticity by identifying your brand’s values and then choosing a cause that not only closely aligns with those values, but is also one you and your company can stand behind, unwavering.

“There’s nothing wrong with corporate social responsibility being a strategic decision, but it should also be one that you strongly believe in and are willing to stand up for,” Weiss said.

Strategic corporate social responsibility benefits not only you and your brand, but also your customers and the cause you’re supporting.

About the author: Toby Cox is a content writer and developer at Clutch, a B2B research and reviews firm, where she covers topics relating to public relations.