Tag Archives: Public Relations

September 25, 2015 | cwinters | Tagged , , , ,

If the Pope were a PR Guy, Here’s what he’d tell your CEO


As Pope Francis continues his tour of the United States, people of every faith, race and creed have lined the sidewalks for a glimpse of this simple, humble servant of the poor.  The topic of servant leadership isn’t a new one, but it is always relevant.

This Pontiff has captured the imagination of the public in a way we haven’t seen in some time, and his leadership style is both inspiring and effective. Fundamentally, it boils down to three things.

  1. Stay close to the front line – when the Pope is offered the opportunity to meet or dine with the great leaders of our nation, he prefers, instead to be with the poorest of the poor.  He recognizes those people who are generally under-recognized – from people living in poverty, to immigrants to women of religious orders. And along the way, his humility reminds us that what you do is more important than what you say.
  1. Don’t ignore the elephant in the room – the Pontiff has apologized to the victims of abuse at the hands of clergy – the biggest Church scandal of our lifetime; he reminded pro-life Members of Congress that supporting the death penalty is inconsistent with being pro-life, and urged us all to remember that this is a nation of immigrants, and that he is the son of immigrants.
  1. A positive message elicits a positive reaction – even the most stern of messages are delivered with compassion and kindness – and what this Pope does better than any other in my memory is his ability to help us all see the good in ourselves, and encourages us to aspire to be our best selves.  In an environment where leadership, particularly elected leadership, is defined and discussed almost entirely in the negative, a leader who takes a positive approach is a refreshing change of pace.

August 14, 2014 | cwinters | Tagged , ,

The Art of Communications: When To Be Quiet

When you work in the public relations business, you learn to work the news cycle for your clients.  Bright ambitious professionals diligently track breaking news, and get creative about how to fit their clients into the trend.   A celebrity loses a ton of weight on your client’s diet program.  A prominent attorney comments on a verdict.  A CEO gives advice to college grads, or shares lessons learned from his Father on Father’s Day.  All in a day’s work.

But there are some news cycles that you should just sit out.  And some in our profession just don’t learn.  I remember UPromise getting hammered when a well meaning, presumably very junior PR person pitched reporters on the “other tragedy of the day” -  lack of college savings -  shortly after the terrorists struck the World Trade Center on 9/11.  Rarely are the offenses so extreme, but it is these kinds of events that damage the reputation of the public relations profession.

The most recent example comes from a major agency that tried to capitalize on the tragic suicide of Robin Williams by critiquing the mental health organizations who hadn’t engaged in social media, and reminding everyone that they are “in the business of helping clients create or join conversation.”

Simple rule of thumb: if it doesn’t pass the cringe test, don’t say it or do it.  How can we expect clients to get it right when the PR counselors get it wrong?

September 26, 2012 | cwinters | Tagged , ,

PR’s Continued Reputation Battle

In the never ending battle for respect, the reputation of our profession is once again under fire, related to the practice of “quote approval” – or more specifically, the end of that practice at The New York Times. My first reaction was, “Really? People ask for that? And they get it?” Followed by, “Really? Weren’t we just celebrating the fact that PR pros were finally getting a true seat at the table, and full partnerships at VC firms?”

Granted, POTUS has never been a client. But truth be told, I’ve never asked for quote approval, and it has never been offered. Heck, I’ve spent years, maybe decades, explaining to clients why journalists don’t need to submit their questions in advance…much less allow you to preview your quotes.

That’s why an entire cottage industry of media trainers exists…to be sure that people make the most of those interview opportunities. Get quoted the right way, and for the right things. Isn’t it?

I find it ironic that journalists ending their questionable practice becomes another black eye on our profession. Two steps forward, three steps back.


July 24, 2012 | cwinters | Tagged ,

Brevity is the soul of wit, and effectiveness: How to pitch anything in 15 seconds

They say brevity is the soul of wit. Is it also the soul of effectiveness?

Working in PR, we are often tasked with helping clients tell their stories effectively. We strive for crisp, compelling messages that require little explanation. Sometimes consensus, complexity or both can get in the way. “Elevator speeches” become jargon laced run-on sentences about paradigms, engagement, solutions and other overused buzzwords.

But what if we could keep it simple? Here is some great advice about the need to sell your company, your product or yourself in 15 seconds or less. Easy to say, hard to do. Try it. Go ahead, I dare you.

And that’s all I’m going to say about this. But I am all ears….how do you tell your story with brevity?

May 25, 2012 | cwinters | Tagged , , , ,

Dan Rather’s Words of Wisdom for the PR profession

Last night, I attended the PRSA-NY’s Annual Big Apple Awards. It was my first time attending this function, and I expected another long night that would only be fun if we were winning. Well, we did win big. And that was fun. MWW Group and JetBlue Airways won four awards for our labor campaign with the pilots that has been sweeping the industry awards this year. But the real thrill was listening to Dan Rather talk about his views on our profession, creating reputation and leadership. There is a reason he is the person America trusts for news – and among the last of the great generation of broadcasters.

Here’s what the man who’s covered every President since the Kennedy assassination, and every war since Vietnam had to say:

  • Journalists and Public Relations professionals (he never called us “publicists”) are not enemies. We each have an important role to play to serving the public interest.
  • The work we are doing is important for our nation – we need to continue to be a catalyst for dialogue and transparency so that we can help restore public trust in our nation, in our capital markets and in Corporate America.
  • The most important ingredient in reputation is authenticity. He opined that authenticity was Mitt Romney’s problem – and that whichever candidate had greater authenticity with the American people would win in November.

Certainly, the opportunity to promote his new book – Rather Outspoken: My Life in the News – was what brought him to our event. But what a treat for us. At 81, Dan Rather is trustworthy, authentic, and more relevant than ever.

May 9, 2011 | cwinters | Tagged , , , ,

MWW’s New POV: It’s all about relevance

Last week, MWW Group held its annual leadership summit – and our first all hands meeting since we bought our agency back from IPG….and we unveiled our “new” point of view. (Technically, this is a new articulation of the point of view that has always driven our agency – but I digress).

Trust + Relevance = Action

Trust – too big to fail and the GEC (Global Economic Crisis) have created a crisis of confidence of serious magnitude. We don’t trust leaders, companies, religious institutions. So lots of big thinkers in our industry talk about trust & transparency as the end game.

Trust isn’t the end game. Trust is the table stakes. Unless you plan to go out of business, trust is a requirement. Not the goal. It’s true that some clients need help establishing, building or increasing trust…but if we stop there, we haven’t done our job.

Why relevance?

• Because ultimately PR is about driving action….trust gives us permission to act, relevance makes us act.

Because participation, without relevance, is just noise….tweeting, blogging, posting, sharing….none of it matters if no one is paying attention. Relevance makes us pay attention.

Relevance provides staying power…when something is relevant to us, it becomes a part of our lives…and a part of who we are. We stick with it.

Relevance is the engine of the peer-to-peer economy. It’s why sharing is eclipsing search. When something is really a part of us and our lives, we tell a friend.

Relevance is the game changer. It is what causes us to buy a product, apply for a job, welcome a company into our community, invest our hard earned money. It’s what makes a client newsworthy. It’s not just the end game. It’s the whole game.

Maybe we should call this blog Return on Relevance…because isn’t that really what a reputation is all about?

April 26, 2011 | cwinters | Tagged , ,

Does the Term “Public Relations” Have a Reputation Problem? Three things that can change the reputation of PR for the better.

Shakespeare said a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Can the same be true for the term public relations? If you follow the industry blogs at all, over the past few days there has been some interesting conversation about the term public relations v. the term communications – which one is narrower? Which one is broader? Which one better describes what we do? Most of the pundits seem to agree that public relations, when done well, is more than communications – communications is one just one facet of public relations. Others advocate for a different term entirely – like reputation management.

The fact that there is this much debate suggests that the term public relations – too often cast as “spin” and suggestive of manipulation or downright dishonesty – has a reputation problem. And that problem is usually based on a bad experience someone has had with a PR firm. Like every relationship, agency-client relationships begin with baggage – of the agencies that pulled a bait and switch, or failed to deliver – of the clients who put their team in a compromising position with a journalist or an industry association. This isn’t something that can be changed by changing our vernacular.

So what’s the solution?

1. Know your client’s baggage and their organizational attitudes about PR. If offering a communications strategy (vs. a PR Plan) is the path to building consensus, securing budget and getting the opportunity to demonstrate the value of PR, so be it.

2. Practice your profession with integrity. Provide your best advice. Be honest and transparent in all you do for your client, and on your client’s behalf.

3. Think holistically, broadly and strategically. Provide integrated programs that meet your client’s business needs. Sometimes that means partnering (and sharing your budget) with a third party.

Earn your clients’ trust, and the reputation of PR will surely follow – one client and one company at a time.

February 3, 2011 | cwinters | Tagged , , , ,

What Everyone Should Have Known About PR 20 Years Ago…And Still Need To Know Now

Twenty years ago this month I put on my new Ann Taylor suit, accessorized with a scarf (flight attendant style) and began my entry level job at a little PR firm in NJ that no one had ever heard of. Those were the days when press releases were mailed (yes, my 20-something colleagues, you read that right), executives carried beepers, and you waited for the giant Burelles envelopes to come in the mail with your clips.

MWW Group was a startup – we’d just opened our 2nd office in Trenton, NJ, (of all places) and had a whopping staff of 5. I did it all….answered the phones, pretended to be our CEO’s assistant (he couldn’t’ afford one), made media lists…and got my first “hit” in The New York Times. Back then Bill Gates was “the devil” – not the hero-philanthropist of today. Gordon Gecko told us (the first time) that greed was good. And the overnight news cycle ruled the day.

A lot has changed in our business since then, and I guess I’ve changed a lot, too. I’ve worked in every practice in the firm – yes, consumer marketing and public affairs, too. I’ve held every position (ok almost every position…I haven’t run the finance department or been CEO). And I’ve seen some of the most dramatic changes possible… The (original) real estate bubble. The rise of the Internet. The dot com boom, and bust. Strategic Philanthropy has given way to CSR, employee communications is now employee engagement. Visibility became buzz and then, conversation.

But there are some universal truths that haven’t changed since I was an Account Coordinator. When it comes to the PR business, and building, enhancing, and protecting reputations these 5 things are constants:

1. We trust people, not companies. Back then, the Celebrity CEOs ruled…Iaccocca, Welch, Crandall. But we knew that putting a face on a company was a good thing…and we understood that it was important to have a story and a POV beyond just your own Company.

2. Third parties tip the scale. What others say about you is more important than what you say about yourself.

3. A mistake in the initial response of a crisis can damage your reputation forever.

4. The only way to build a great media list is to work the phone. Whether using today’s databases, or my trusty old 1992 edition of NY Publicity Outlets…nothing substitutes for direct conversation.

5. If you want to learn to write a great headline, read the NY Post. And in our 140 character ecosystem, headline writing is more important than ever.

Another universal truth — my family still doesn’t understand what I do. Except now, when someone says I am in advertising, I don’t argue about it.

I’m thinking these might still be the same 20 years from now.

January 7, 2011 | cwinters | Tagged , ,

PR’s Reputation and Dancing with the Devil

Flack. Hack. Spin Doctor.

We’ve all heard these terms to describe Public Relations professionals. And it is about the only thing worse than your grandmother telling everyone you work in “advertising or something.”
Public Relations is a legitimate profession….and when done well, provides real added value to Companies, brands and communities. Why can’t we shed the Spin Doctor rap?

Every time we promise senior counsel, and then deliver an intern, we reinforce the bad reputation. But perhaps there is nothing more damaging to the reputation of our industry than when a public relations consultancy represents the “bad guys.”

There is a difference between representing a point of view different than your own – everyone deserves a voice and the ability to provide all sides of an issue so constituencies can make educated decisions. But what about the issues that are true third rails? Tobacco. Guns. Illegal or illicit businesses.

Take these attempts to preempt a menthol ban. Buying negative URLs – that’s standard operating procedure. Pushing content via Twitter and Facebook that supports your position – reasonable. But Loillard’s efforts to thwart suggestions that menthol is more addictive than non-menthol tobacco do little to help their reputation, or our industry’s. Their arguments are simple, and come complete with tobacco funded coalitions, paid spokespeople and some “grey area’ contributions to third party groups:

• People who prefer menthol cigarettes should have a choice. (For the record, I am OK with this one, so long as they are adults.)
• Removal of menthol cigarettes will create a black market in communities who have enough trouble with crime. (Menthol cigarettes are largely preferred in the African American Community)
• Banning menthol cigarettes is a jobs issue.

I am sure this account is lucrative. And perhaps for the strategists, the challenge is stimulating and interesting. But is it right to take on this issue? Should agencies use their resources to protect a lethal product being marketed heavily to a minority community? Every agency needs to answer that question using their own moral compass. But as long as there are people willing to do this work, we really shouldn’t wonder why our industry has a negative reputation.

January 6, 2011 | cwinters | Tagged ,

Happy Independence Day, MWW Group

I’ve worked at MWW Group for almost 20 years….and I’ve seen a lot of changes. When I first started, I answered the phones, brought clients coffee and did just about anything no one else in our 5 person, one office agency wanted to do. It was a time when we mailed press releases, held lots of press conferences, carried pagers (and calling cards to dial the pay phones to check the page) and research was done in a library.

In these two decades, our agency has grown a lot and changed a lot. We’ve added offices, practices and people. Interns have grown up to be senior counselors. Faxing replaced mailing, then gave way to e-mailing then tweeting. The Google generation approaches research in a whole new way.

But one thing hasn’t changed….our Aim High and Deliver mantra that keeps everyone at MWW continually raising the bar for ourselves and for our client programs. And in our own version of Back to the Future, we are going back to our independent status after 10 years as an IPG agency.

It’s a great time to be independent….you can read all about it here. The world is changing faster than ever…and we’ve always prided ourselves on staying ahead of the changes…and helping our clients determine how, where, when and why to change their communications priorities, approaches and programs.

Look for great things from MWW Group in 2011…we are ready to take our new, independent agency to new heights.