Thursday, January 17, 2013

The ThinkInk 2012 Review Has Arrived! Get Your Copy Now

It’s that time again… time for ThinkInk’s annual review of the year gone by as seen through the lens of PR professionals.

Every year has its ups and downs, its moments of jubilation and of terror. A year may pass quickly but a lot can happen in 52 weeks. 2012 certainly felt that way for us at ThinkInk!

Amidst all the news that hit our multiple screens, overflowing Twitter feeds and at times nonsensical  Facebook posts, making sense of what happened in our community and in our 24/7 news cycle proved challenging at the best of times.

This year’s review, called “Think Again,” aims to provide some fresh perspective on the scandals, trends and uproars that really got us thinking (and doing) in 2012. From loose lips to sinking ships, Think Again delves into:

·         Why it’s in poor taste for big brands – or any brands – like Gap and American Apparel to “bank” on a national disaster

·         The reasons why remembering the victims of 9/11 is (definitely) more important than educating TV viewers about Kris Jenner’s breast implants

·         How to avoid the plague of plagiarism that has a habit of impacting journalists and PR professionals
·         Why the US President’s slow-jamming ways on national television translated into a PR win for his camp and really made Obama the ‘POTUS with the mostest’

·         What happened when a cruise ship and the reputation of its parent company both sank in the Mediterranean Sea

Of course, not everyone will agree with the opinions expressed in our annual review, and that’s the whole point. If you feel strongly about any of our commentaries, we want to hear from you! And feel free to share Think Again with your friends and colleagues while taking care to attribute appropriate credit.

You can download the Think Again here.
Thought you knew 2012?  Think again…

Happy reading from the ThinkInk team!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Calibrating Your Crisis Management: Sometimes a PR Fail isn’t Fatal

As I dug into NBC’s recent coverage of Boeing Co’s 787 Dreamliner jet, which had suffered its third mishap in as many days, I was ready for action. Here comes another blog post chastising corporate America for failing to be transparent in their PR missteps.

But the story made me cool my jets.

While the Dreamliner’s problems aren’t trivial – a 40-gallon runway fuel leak, brake problems, and an electrical fire on three separate aircraft in three days – no one, not Boeing corporate, not passengers, not aerospace analysts, and not Japan’s All Nippon Airways or Japan Airlines, which purchased the 787s are freaking out.

Instead the news coverage had a very measured tone.  

In an almost deadpan fashion reminiscent of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the story’s point was simple. Take a deep breath. We’ll get the problems fixed. These types of glitches are common on new aircraft – the Dreamliner began service in November 2011. And no one was injured.

Of course, Boeing’s stock price did drop and concerns have been rightly raised. But NBC’s story provided lessons beyond appropriate crisis management.

Knowing your client and knowing how to respond when things don’t go according to plan also comes down to an appreciation of culture. I really believe that if this was a Boeing story with mostly North American players and not Asian companies, there would be a tendency to exaggerate the situation. 
There would be the obligatory quote of a panicked traveler and tacit threats of legal action following the harrowing and stressful experience of being aboard a damaged plane.

Many Asian cultures take respect very seriously. Which is not to say that others don’t. Even our clients and other companies within the same industries can have widely-varying internal cultures. Communications tactics that work for one company don’t always apply to another client, let alone another country.

For goodness sake, it wasn’t the Costa Concordia sinking.

Other airlines still want Dreamliners – NBC pointed out that Air China and Hainan Airlines  plan to keep their orders for 15 and 10 planes, respectively, further calming the situation. Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker even called the planes “revolutionary.”

Imagine that.

Three nations (four if you include Boeing’s Chicago headquarters), separated by thousands of miles and with widely varying cultures holding similar, non-threatening positions. If only that happened more often. They don’t want to fan the flames of outrage or play the blame game; they want to admit fault, measure the seriousness of the situation and move on.

So, before adopting a communications one-size-fits-all approach, remember this story about airlines and cultural relevance. Sometimes a PR fail isn’t fatal. In other words, a two-alarm fire doesn’t require a four-alarm response – overreacting can be just as dangerous as under-reacting.

What’s your view on a “PR fail” and overreacting in times of perceived crisis?

Monday, January 14, 2013

AIG: Mensch, Schmendrick or Something in Between?

As a PR professional, someone who’s familiar with language, words, wordsmithery, and the subtleties of word meaning, Yiddish is one of the more fascinating tongue twisters. Many languages possess words that are hard to translate into others, but Yiddish earns high marks. Somehow emotion, more than literal translation, is bottled up in those strangely-lettered words.

“Mensch” and “schmendrick” were the two Yiddish terms floating around in my head after reading the latest AIG developments and the insurance giant’s 11th- hour decision not to sue the federal government. defines mensch as: “a decent, upright, mature, and responsible person.” For the purposes of this blog post, we’ll expand that meaning to include companies.

Last week, after mounting concern that AIG would in fact join a lawsuit filed by its former CEO Hank Greenberg over the allegedly “unfair” terms of Uncle Sam’s $182 billion 2008 bailout loan decision, the company’s reverse course – and the motivations behind it – are again getting mixed reviews. 
For a refresher, this was the loan that ultimately saved the company from collapse and what supporters say helped soften the resulting US recession.

The PR industry news source, Bulldog Reporter also raised the question in one of its articles, “Did Insurance Giant Forsake Shareholders To Protect Its Own Reputation?” If so, the article says, it would mark a “PR-affirming” break with the tradition of putting shareholders’ interests ahead of the company.

I, however, don’t think AIG’s decision requires much over thought. A public company’s first duty is toward its shareholders, true, but there are times when a “greater good” must be sought above all. 
Forget shareholders for a moment, if AIG were to throw its support behind the lawsuit, their “Thank You America” advertising campaign would be shot to hell. More than that, the company’s credibility, their “menschyness” (menschy is actually a real word) would be non-existent.

It also shouldn’t require a PR team to advise AIG that biting the hand that fed them would be a PR disaster of bailout proportions. The fuming reactions of millions of Americans should have been enough.

AIG probably doesn’t deserve mensch status for its late-in-the-game wise decision. But nor should it be considered a corporate schmendrick, which defines this Yiddish winner as “a stupid and ineffectual nobody.”

So go on AIG, give yourself a big pat on the back for repaying the money you borrowed, thanking 
America publicly, and ultimately making the right PR decision. 

If you’re still hungry for more on AIG, I suggest reading a rather aggressive post on Gawker, by Hamilton Nolan called It’s All Just a PR Calculation for A.I.G.

Oh, and Happy Monday!