Griffin Strategies Blog

Preventing Foot-in-Mouth Disease

Allison Griffin - Monday, June 16, 2014

Rarely has there been a time so rich in valuable PR lessons on what not to do. From the racist rantings of Donald Sterling to the deflating comments by US soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann to the farmer bashing by Iowa Democrat Bruce Braley, recent headlines are chock full of examples of what not to say.


"Well, I'm not that stupid," you are probably thinking. 


But have you ever thought about what you would say if a reporter -- or even a friend -- surprised you with a question about the controversial topic du jour? 


Step One in the prevention of Foot-in-Mouth Disease: Be Prepared. Pay attention to the news and form your thoughts about the hottest topics. Read up on them so you know the facts. You might even jot down some key points you would want to make. But before you speak your mind, be sure to practice... 


Step Two: Filter Yourself. In this era of smartphones and social media, ill-chosen words can create a ripple effect so powerful, it cannot be stopped. Think about what you are about to say. If your words would make your grandmother, your boss, your Sunday school classmates, or your shareholders cringe, then restraint would probably be a good idea. You can also choose to pursue... 


Step Three: Refrain from Speaking at All. Whether you are thinking about railing against someone (the little rabbit Thumper's mom had it right when she taught, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.") or just trying to demonstrate your knowledge of something about which you know nothing (think of Jimmy Kimmel's Lie Witness News interviews), you do have a choice. Speaking out is not a requirement. In fact, you might be well advised to refrain from speaking at all, especially if you are tired or have been enjoying a beer. 


In this world of hidden cameras, social media and viral videos, stick to talking about what you know and avoid talking about what you know could land you in trouble. Your reputation is too important to be sloppy and create your own public relations crisis. 

If you can't laugh at yourself, then who can you laugh at?

Katie Simon - Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Every once in a while, there are moments so humiliating and reputation damaging that it’s difficult to foresee any possible way to fix the viral media sensation you’ve created. Last Sunday, the country cringed in unison as 2013 Miss Utah Marissa Powell gave quite possibly the worst response to a Miss USA interview question since the “everywhere like such as” answer Miss Teen USA South Carolina gave during her interview in 2007.

In case you missed Sunday’s round of Miss USA events, Powell was asked to answer a seemingly simple question: A recent report shows that in 40 percent of American families with children, women are the primary earners, yet they continue to earn less than men. What does this say about society? Her response:

“I think we can relate this back to education and how we are continuing to try to strive to... figure out how to create jobs right now. That’s the biggest problem and I think, especially the men, are, uh, seen as the leaders of this and so we need to try and figure out how to create education better so we can solve this problem.”

It was certainly not Miss Powell’s brightest moment. Was it personal humiliation? Absolutely. Could she have let it define her, and thus potentially ruin her future career? No doubt about it. But let it define her, she did not. Three days later, TV personality Jimmy Kimmel invited Powell onto his show, where she cleverly redeemed herself – in song, and she had the chance to explain her fumbled answer on the “Today” show.

How you handle a situation is how you define yourself, and in this case, Powell set a perfect example for how PR professionals should handle their clients’ not-so-shining moments. Rather than hide from it, bury it and hope everyone forgets (they won’t), or let it build up beyond the point of no return, Powell decided to tackle her slip-up head on, and that’s exactly what we as PR professionals sometimes have to remind our clients -- and ourselves -- to do as well. Be honest, explain yourself without over-excusing yourself, and don’t take yourself too seriously. As Tiger Woods said after his far worse moments of humiliation, “If you can’t laugh at yourself, then who can you laugh at?”

 

Social Media vs. Traditional Media: Competing or Complementary Channels?

Allison Griffin - Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Remember when Americans got their news from the morning paper, a crackling radio report, or Walter Cronkite’s familiar face on the TV set? Back then, Americans got most of their information straight from the mouths of the well-respected news media.

Fast forward a few decades.  How do you get your information?  Are you more likely to get the scoop from a newspaper or the nightly news, or do you hear it hours earlier from someone’s post on Facebook or Twitter?

For a growing number of Americans, the answer is the latter. 

The world of communication is changing rapidly, thrusting credit union marketing and PR professionals into a quandary: do we keep reaching out to people in the traditional ways or do we move to an entirely new approach?

The answer? Both.

More Americans rely on digital news sources

According to a 2010 Pew survey, sixty-one percent of Americans seek out news online, and three-quarters said they get news forwarded via email or posts on social network sites.

Meanwhile, a 2010 Gallup poll found that only one in four Americans said they have “a lot of confidence” in the mainstream media.    

Perhaps most compelling us communicators, 37 percent of the Pew respondents said they themselves have reported news, commented on an online story or shared stories on social media sites.

The news experience has changed from a one-way delivery of information by journalists to an increasingly interactive information-sharing experience.  In other words, your members don’t want to be talked “to,” they want to be talked “with.”

Or at least most of your members.

The Communicator’s Quandary: Part I

With limited resources of both time and money, is it possible to strike a balance between traditional media and new media?

Absolutely.

Though traditional outlets are losing ground to social media news delivery, Pew did find something very compelling.  Some 80 percent of all social media links originate with traditional media sources.  Journalists continue to serve as the backbone of news, which means they cannot and should not be ignored. 

Credit unions must continue to pursue traditional media to help tell your compelling story about the first-generation college student helped by the credit union’s financial literacy program because it is likely to spread far beyond the original media outlet where it appeared. 

And of course, you’ll also gain appreciation for the credit union story among all the Texans who still love their favorite news anchors and the feeling of a newspaper in their hands.

The Communicator’s Quandary: Part II   

Interestingly, the Pew study found a significant difference in how news topics gleaned attention in traditional media vs. social media … and even within the social media category itself.

Whereas traditional media invest more time covering politics and government, health and medicine, and the economy, Twitter users tend to post more stories related to technology.  YouTube viewers share a lot of videos about foreign events, while blogs focus on stories that elicit emotion or involve individual or group rights.

In other words, the same news stories did not garner the same amount of attention across the various news channels.

So how do you tell your credit union’s story in all these different media channels?

Tailoring the Story

As credit union communicators, the job of figuring out where and how to tell your story is an art that requires creativity and experimentation:

  1. Seek traditional media coverage for your credit union’s story. Remember, the more self-serving your story, the less likely it is to garner coverage. Focus on stories about how your credit union is helping real people, particularly a struggling family or a group of children.
  2. Identify bloggers with an interest in consumer or education news. They tend to cover those topics twice as often as traditional media, and you also may gain more traction if you position your story as part of a larger trend.  
  3. Talk technology for Twitter. Share news about consumer-friendly tech updates or tips to help people protect themselves from cyber criminals, for example.
  4. Turn on the creativity for YouTube.  Show how your credit union serves people from all walks with a “day in the life of a teller” video. Or create a financial literacy video with some of the cute children your team is educating. (Be sure you have the right permissions and security guidelines in place, of course!)
  5. Cross-promote your news on Facebook or use it to offer interactive challenges to drive your members to your website or the nearest branch.

In today’s rapidly-changing environment, credit unions have more opportunities to tell their story.  Measure your results and don’t be afraid to experiment. Invest time to identify your target media, tailor your approach and push out your story in tandem among the various media channels to connect the credit union story to those who ought to be members.

Allison Griffin is the president of communications consulting firm, Griffin Strategies, Inc., and a co-founder of SocialRise, a social media strategy and software firm. This article was published recently in LoneStar Perspectives magazine, a publication of the Texas Credit Union League.