Monday, February 23, 2009

6 Reasons to Talk to a PR Expert Before Building Your New Website

This week I’ve invited Tim Kane as my guest blogger. Tim Kane is Executive Vice President of Makovsky+Company’s Branding + Interactive group.

6 Reasons to Talk to a PR Expert Before Building Your New Website:

1. The web is a conversation.
Sure, you can use the internet as a cheap way to publish your company’s brochure. But to get the biggest possible ROI, you should think of your website as a dialogue between you and your customers: a vehicle for influencing interaction, sharing information and developing relationships. Which, come to think of it, is an excellent definition of public relations.

2. Yeah, you’re getting Googled.
What results come up when your company is searched? Positive? Negative? Nothing at all? Reputation management is one of the key functions of public relations – and should be the foundation of your online communications strategy.

3. PR delivers a constant flow of timely, relevant content.
It’s a simple equation: frequently updated content equals higher search engine rankings, more traffic, longer visits and better conversion rates. Only PR firms are set up to produce real-time content instead of one-off campaigns.

4. Community relations is a PR core competency.
Everyone’s heard of public communities like Facebook or LinkedIn, but private and specialized communities are now being developed to deepen relationships with customers, investors and employees. The technology may be new, but the idea is classic PR.

5. PR agencies don’t buy media; they sell your story.
In the online world, paid media is a distant second to natural linking. The only way to achieve these links is with digital shoe-leather: packaging stories and pitch- ing them to influential bloggers, communities and publications.

6. PR is truly media-agnostic.
Unlike advertising agencies that receive commissions on media buys, or “web shops” that have a vested interest in selling complex custom technologies, a PR firm’s revenue rests on implementing an effective communications strategy for your brand. Using whatever tools and tactics are best for you, not most profitable for them.

Technorati Tags: Arthur Page, Tim Kane, Makovsky+Company, Branding + Interactive, PR Expert, Website, ROI, internet, interaction, Googled, Facebook, LinkedIn,bloggers brand, communications, public relations

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


“All business in a democratic country begins with public permission and exists by public approval.”---Arthur Page, the late and legendary former director of communications for AT&T.

Is Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod), the superstar baseball player of the New York Yankees, a business? In 2007, he signed the richest contract in baseball history ($275 million for 10 years…plus $30 million more if he breaks the all-time home run record of 762). He is an investor, a product endorser, has his own public relations advisors and agent, recently had a stadium named after him (following a $4-million donation) at the University of Miami, and so on and so forth. Alex is more than a business; he is a franchise. Without his fan base, however, his earnings would decline considerably.

And, as I see it, that is truly what is at issue with the revelation that A-Rod took steroids – performance enhancing drugs -- during the 2001-03 seasons as a player with the Texas Rangers. The steroid test that he and his teammates took was supposed to be confidential…the results never to be revealed. This revelation was a violation of privacy. The news has recently dominated the media with headline and “front page” stories on the internet and print and broadcast channels everywhere.

The issue is complex. A-Rod lied in a 2007 interview with Katie Couric of CBS, when he said he never took steroids. He did not volunteer this recent admission—which was revealed by a third party—and he only admitted to it after the story broke. Another complicating factor: Major League Baseball did not rule steroids illegal until 2005. (Steroids have been part of baseball's banned substance list since 1991; however testing for major league players did not begin until 2003. It wasn’t until 2005 that MLB announced a new drug policy, with year-round testing and suspensions for violations.)

His fans feel defrauded. They are concerned about the outstanding years he had while taking steroids and whether he would have done as well without them. His role-model position with youngsters has been sullied. Therefore, should his records stand or be erased? Is he indeed one of the greatest players of all time?

What should A-Rod do? There is no formal punishment for his “crime” in Major League Baseball. This is unfortunate for the fans and the game. The Commissioner has been urged to come out against A-Rod and suspend him for a period of time…the only way the game can make a public statement. But nothing has been done to date.

Hank Aaron, the home run leader, believes that baseball cannot erase the past and that A-Rod’s records are etched in stone. The likelihood is that his point of view will prevail.

I for one am disappointed in A-Rod, despite the privacy violation, which is not to be condoned. Even his admission was suspect. He said he had no idea what kind of steroids he was taking. Are we to believe that? Assuming he performs on the field, however, which he most likely will, I don’t believe he will pay the price he should for his behavior. The fans are fickle in the U.S., and they will support him if he is a vital factor in Yankee victories. He is a young man, and if there are no other incidents, this event—under our current system—will gradually diminish in importance.

As a precaution, however, A-Rod should undertake a reputation rehabilitation program involving major charitable donations, support for under-supported causes, and even lead a program to prevent drug and steroid use among kids and the public in general, where he can talk about his own mistakes. That will not make me forget his violation of trust, but it will likely increase my regard for his apology.

Technorati Tags: Arthur Page, Alex Rodriguez, AT&T, A-Rod, New York Yankees, University of Miami, steroids, performance enhancing drugs, Texas Rangers, Katie Couric, CBS, Major League Baseball, business, communications, public relations

Monday, February 09, 2009

Why I Am Optimistic

These are tough, turbulent times. The national debt is now pushing $11 trillion. Unemployment is way up; the S&P, way down. In fact, in the 185-year history of the Standard & Poor’s Index, the two years with the lowest return (-50%) were 2008 and 1931 … during the Great Depression.

So why am I so optimistic about the future of the country and my firm?

Because history demonstrates that the entrepreneurial spirit can triumph in even the most trying economic times … even in the depths of the Depression. Take a look at three companies launched in 1931:

• When Standard Oil of New York merged with Vacuum Oil, it created the predecessor of the company now known as ExxonMobil.

• In 1931, Shojiro Ishibashi founded the Bridgestone Tire Company — today, the world's largest manufacturer of tires and a range of other industrial products.

• That same year, Sears Roebuck President Robert Wood was convinced he could make money selling car insurance through a mail order catalogue. Today, Allstate is the largest publicly held personal lines insurer in the U.S.

In 2007, the combined sales of these three companies totaled $471 billion. That’s more than the total GDP of Sweden! And it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

A host of other great companies and brands trace their birth to the ten years immediately following the Great Wall Street Crash of 1929 … among them, Hewlett-Packard, Revlon, Unilever, Baxter International, Sara Lee, Westin Hotels, Canon, GMAC Insurance, Zabar’s, Morgan Stanley, Krispy Kreme, Pepperidge Farm, Avery Dennison, DC Comics, T. Rowe Price, Owens Corning and GNC.

In 2005, Senator John Kerry said, “In this remarkable time for the world, I refuse to believe it’s time to stop believing in the possibilities of our remarkable country. I refuse to accept the downsizing of the American Dream. I refuse to bet against American entrepreneurial spirit and American ingenuity.”

I believe that the entrepreneurial spirit — which is alive and well in the United States — gives us the power to turn adversity into advantage. And that’s why I have every confidence that we will successfully weather the current storm.

Technorati Tags: national debt, Unemployment, Standard & Poor’s Index, 2008, 1931, the Great Depression, future, history, Senator John Kerry, the American Dream, entrepreneurial, American, business, communications, public relations

Monday, February 02, 2009


In just the first few weeks of 2009, a number of corporate CEOs were sent packing. Seagate, Tyson Foods, and Borders Group were just some of the companies that announced changes at the top. Also, Apple chief Steve Jobs is taking a leave of absence for health reasons after months of speculation. More CEO changes are rumored to be on the way and may include some of the world’s leading companies.

The company’s reputation can be seriously tarnished if the succession issue is left unaddressed. For instance, commenting in his blog on the situation at Apple, New York Times business columnist Joe Nocera wrote: "The time has come for Apple's board to take control of this subject from Mr. Jobs and do the right thing by the company's investors.”

One of the main responsibilities for a CEO and the company’s board of directors is the development of a succession plan to insure the continuity of the company. Despite the critical importance of CEO succession, many companies are unprepared for the “changing of the guard” – either planned or unexpected. As a result, what should be an orderly, well-planned transition often turns into a crisis situation alarming virtually all of the company’s constituents – employees, suppliers, customers and, of course, investors.

One of our clients faced a succession issue, more specifically how to communicate the change at the top. The outgoing CEO was popular and successful. The board had identified his successor, a dark horse candidate virtually unknown to the outside world. Their initial plan was to announce the early retirement of the CEO without mention of his successor; a follow-up release would have identified his successor. We advised them that the executive changes should be announced in one comprehensive release to avoid unnecessary speculation and investor panic. They listened and we helped build an identity for the incoming CEO by arranging media interviews as well as through direct contact with the company’s investors.

In its report entitled, “A Practical Guide to CEO Succession Planning,” Russell Reynolds Associates, a leading executive search firm, outlines a number of steps designed to insure a smooth transition at the top. These include creating a written succession plan by the board, which should be reviewed twice a year. This plan establishes the basis for selecting a new leader through an examination of the company’s strategic direction while factoring in various business challenges. With the plan in place, the board can review internal as well as external candidates. The report also outlines the steps to insure a successful transition such as knowledge sharing between the outgoing and incoming CEO as well as a program to communicate with the company’s various stakeholders.

The current economic downturn will undoubtedly lead to more CEO departures. As the CEO is often “the face of the company,” its standing and reputation will depend on how the issue is handled.

Technorati Tags: Seagate, The New York Times, Tyson Foods, Borders Group, Steve Jobs, Apple, Joe Nocera, succession plan, Russell Reynolds Associates, investing, CEO, investors, business, communications, public relations

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