Morrissey & Company Intern Emily Wienberg featured on Ragan’s PR Daily

For those that missed it, you can read our intern Emily Wienberg’s Ragan’s PR Daily blog on “Top 5 tips for PR interns—from an intern” here.

An excerpt:

“Eat lunch with your co-workers. 
It’s so simple, but many interns may not realize how important it is to connect with co-workers on a casual level. Taking a half-hour break during the day is necessary, so why not spend it with people who can offer advice and share stories about the industry you’re interested in?”

Tweet us your advice for interns!

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Facebook + Moderation = Happiness

If you work in public relations, you have little choice but to be on Facebook.  If you’re not, you’ll be conspicuous by your absence.  After all, social media is likely an increasingly important element in your company or clients’ communications strategy — or perhaps the most important element — and you have to be walking the talk.

As PR and marketing pros, we have to understand Facebook’s role in any integrated communications campaign; we need to keep up with all of the platform updates from the ever-so-ambitious Facebook team; and, of course, we need to keep a watchful eye on how our competitors are using it to build their fan base.

We know “fans” spend money on (hopefully) the brands we represent as PR agents.  We understand that “fans” develop brand loyalty which compels them to buy over and over. And these same “fans” recommend our clients’ products and services via the Facebook version of word-of-mouth: by letting their fingers do the talking.

But for the hard-working, stressed-out and often maligned PR person, Facebook presents an interesting dilemma:  there’s Facebook for business-sake (and don’t we love showing off how smart we are with cool links and witty comments); and then there’s Facebook for our own sake. This is where Facebook can get a little tricky. When you consider how much time the average PR account person spends on Facebook on behalf of their own agency/company and clients in addition to “personal” time spent on Facebook, the minutes quickly add up to hours.

This is where Facebook can become, if you’re not careful, a total time suck.  This is where Facebook can rob one of time better spent on other activities like the relationship building part of the PR job, writing, reading a great book, exercising, sleeping or spending time with family and friends.

What prompted this post is a former client and a Facebook “friend” for the past couple of years caught the social media marketing wave some time ago and transformed herself into a fairly well-known social media maven (let’s call her Kim to protect the innocent).  Her posts were broad in scope and included marketing and PR trends, thoughts on blogging (including blogger burnout), trading paperbacks for e-readers and politics, among other topics. Kim is also very candid. She wears her heart on her sleeve, thus many of her posts were personal in nature, including how she felt about her job, the challenges of a recent job search, etc.

Well, about a week ago Kim hit the proverbial Facebook wall and announced, on Facebook of course, that she was leaving Facebook.  Mainly, Kim pointed to the time she spent on Facebook could be time better spent on more productive pursuits like reading novels (a passion) and being with family and friends.

Classic Facebook burnout.  And apparently Kim is not alone.

According to the latest stats I could find, Kim is among the 6 – 7 million US users who have left Facebook.   Relatively significant numbers of Canadians and Europeans are also giving Facebook the brush off.  Some of the reasons for leaving include rediscovering “real” friends, focusing more on work and family, and generally being more productive with spare time.

For the average PR person, however, leaving Facebook is not an option.  With nearly 900 million monthly active users and close to a half-billion daily global users, a presence on Facebook is necessary — at least for business sake.

With that said, when it comes to time spent on Facebook perhaps more PR and marketing pros should heed the words of the great Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero, who more than 2,000 years ago said, “Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide.”  As a result, I bet most of us would have a healthier relationship with Facebook, and with other things in life too.

I wonder what Kim is up to.

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Leveraging Sustainability through Communications

I was traveling this week and noticed a new bus at Boston’s Logan airport branded with Enterprise, National, and a few other car rental companies touting the slogan “Working together for the environment.” I also noticed the big yellow Hertz bus, conspicuously independent and, one had to think, seeming like a blight to the environment, as Hertz ‘s one bus gave off emissions equal to that of the bus operating on behalf of a number of companies.

Communications, reputationThe buses were a good reminder that every interaction is an opportunity for an organization to communicate what it stands for. The bus branded just “Hertz” communicates only the company’s name and whatever it is you might associate with Hertz. The jointly-branded bus with the environmental slogan communicates that these companies are committed to sustainability and reducing their environmental impact (not to mention that the shared service and equipment benefits their bottom line).

In an age when consumers are increasingly interested in engaging with companies who are doing good – be it through their community involvement, environmental efforts or charitable giving – it left me wondering: What is Hertz doing around sustainability?

I was surprised to find, quite a bit. A link at the bottom of their homepage takes you to the Hertz Living Journey – a microsite devoted to the company’s sustainability efforts. Hertz talks about its sustainability efforts around smart mobility (fuel-efficient vehicles that use clean, low-emissions technology), the environment (renewable energy, operations, construction & design and resource use), their community (philanthropy), and their corporate commitment (“Our goal is to integrate sustainability throughout our business, partnerships and employee programs”).

The company tracks and makes visible its impact, too – such as 50,000 IT units recycled since 2005, more than 80% of car wash water recycled, 645,000 gallons of used oil recycled in 2010, and annual paper use reduced by 56% since 2006. You can download their summary report if you want to read more.

I don’t rent cars often, but when I do, I usually shop by price. However, that’s not the case with everything I buy (which one of my colleagues says is “a lot”), and seeing that jointly-branded bus touting the environmental message at Logan made me rethink that strategy. If I didn’t take the time to look into Hertz’s commitment further, how would I have known about their efforts? I might have crossed them off my list as a company I want to support.

This is a good reminder that, while your organization may be doing good, others won’t know about it unless it’s communicated. When Hertz’s competitors started conveying their environmental commitment on the shuttle buses, Hertz should have thought about how it could convey its own commitment, and also how that communication shift by competitors could negatively impact the company.

Hertz has the opportunity to increase communication around its sustainability efforts and build goodwill among consumers. For starters, the company could feature the Hertz Living Journey prominently on its homepage, start a blog about the company’s sustainability efforts, add a decal to the side of the Hertz bus, or better yet, partner with other car rental companies/airport services to consolidate efforts and decrease the number of buses giving off emissions. Doing good but not communicating it is a missed opportunity.

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Part II: MassChallenge’s Founder Advises Start-Ups to Focus Their Public Relations Efforts (video)

Recently, Akhil Nigam, founder of MassChallenge (MC), spoke with Morrissey & Company about how public relations (and an understanding of public relations) benefits early stage companies. In the first of two videos, Akhil discussed MassChallenge’s public relations efforts, including its TV channel, as well as why MC added PR support to its portfolio of entrepreneurial services.

One piece of advice he offered entrepreneurs was to focus on the customer as “hero” in public relations campaigns, versus the entrepreneurs themselves.*

“Although, yes, MassChallenge is interesting, I really feel like some of the great work our entrepreneurs are doing is much, much, much more interesting, and I’d rather have them tell the story and have them profiled,” he said.

Today we’re sharing part two of the interview with Akhil, in which he talks about MC’s happy hour startup showcase at SXSW (hosted by Bing and MC sponsor Microsoft) and concludes with a significant piece of public relations advice for entrepreneurs.

*For Akhil’s full list of tips for early stage companies, see related press release.

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MassChallenge’s Founder Advises Start-Ups to Focus Their Public Relations Efforts (video)

MassChallenge's 2012 Launch Notes - displayed proudly on its walls (credit given to Collective Next and IdeaPaint). Photo via

Akhil Nigam, founder of MassChallenge (MC), the largest-ever startup accelerator and competition, has a lot to say about how public relations plays into the success of  early stage companies (view related press release here).  MassChallenge is the first program of its kind to support entrepreneurs with no strings attached.  As part of its 3-month accelerator program, MC competition winners enjoy free public relations and legal counsel, training/networking events, and a robust mentorship program.  At the end of the three months, a final competition results in 10 to 20 winners who will share $1,000,000 in cash awards.

Akhil and MC also know a thing or two about how to run a successful public relations program of their own. It’s an organization that walks the talk. In the last month alone, for example, MC was featured in leading publications Forbes (“MassChallenge: A Colossal Startup Accelerator That’s 100% Free”) and The Boston Globe (“Start-ups compete for $1m in prizes”).

Akhil recently graciously agreed to talk public relations at MassChallenge’s office in Boston’s Innovation district (an area that quite literally knows no bounds). Immediately upon exiting the elevator on the 14th floor of One Marina Drive, you enter MC’s world. The space – glass floor to wall windows overlooking Boston harbor, an industrial-feeling open floor plan, the genius Ideapaint covering its walls– reflects the energy of the program and its entrepreneurs.

This video is the first of two parts. In part 1 (below), Akhil talks about how Mass Challenge leverages the power of its TV channel to communicate with key stakeholders – entrepreneurs, private investors, its partners and the city of Boston. Akhil also explains why Mass Challenge added PR support to its portfolio of entrepreneurial services, and imparts what he considers the best ways for companies to earn media coverage.

Stay tuned for part 2, when Akhil talks about MC’s happy hour party at SXSW (hosted by Bing and Mass Challenge sponsor Microsoft) and concludes with a significant piece of public relations advice for entrepreneurs.

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The AOR Gravy Train Has Run out of Fuel

Digital Equipment Corporation — aka DEC or Digital — had close to 80 public relations agencies working on its behalf around the world by the mid 1990′s.  The tech giant’s global PR budget was extensive, but I don’t think anyone really knew how extensive because the company operated as decentralized as possible.  Accountability and measurement was non-existent.  Country general managers and PR managers re-upped with their pet PR agencies, unchecked, year after year after year.

Then, circa 1995, Digital started to bring in communications executives from inside and outside the tech  industry.  Public relations and marketing communications executives from HP, IBM, Sun Microsystems, and AT&T, among others, such as a Travelers Insurance, joined the struggling giant that was on life support and immediately saw that 80 PR agencies, and the resulting siloed approach to PR, was one of the many elements bringing the company to its knees. Too many disparate messages, too many untrained and unauthorized employees talking to the media, too many PR managers spending money like students on Spring break.

But in 1995 all this began to change. The Digital gravy train enjoyed by so many PR agencies over the years was coming to a close as the new PR guard conducted a massive agency review designed to consolidate under a single global agency — an Agency of Record, or AOR.  Golin Harris got the win and the rest is history.  In retrospect, perhaps it was too little too late and about two years later Digital was history too.

Now we’re hearing that the AOR is pretty much history as well.

Just 10 years ago, about half of the public companies in the US had an AOR for their public relations activities.  Today, that number stands at about 15 percent, according to a new report by The Strategic Communications and Public Relations Center, part of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg’s Public Relations Studies unit.  At the same time, PR budgets are going up, with about 25 percent of the 620 PR executives who participated in the study reporting increased PR spending.

So what’s going on?

Well I’m not saying that maybe DEC was right by employing so many agencies.  The problem there was most of Digital’s agencies were “traditional” agencies, and redundant by definition.  Today it’s different. Companies are moving away from having a single PR agency in their employ, an AOR, and moving to a model where specialized agencies are augmenting core PR programs — agencies who specialize in a PR-related discipline or region.

“We found that the trend away from the single AOR continues, and that’s a finding we’ve now seen very consistently over the last 10 years,” said Burghardt Tenderich, associate professor and associate director of the strategic communication and PR center (SCPRC).

As the report points out, the eventual demise of the AOR presents a formidable challenge, especially for the big global agencies who try to be all things to all companies. Their AOR status has meant relationship durability and predictable profitability.

At the same time, smaller specialist firms are licking their chops and poised to take advantage of a window of opportunity not seen in a decade.

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Instagram without the filter: a growing community on and offline

Emily Wienberg is currently Morrissey & Company’s PR intern. She is a senior studying public relations at Boston University.

As an Android mobile device user, I haven’t had the pleasure of personally using Instagram (yet) but have enjoyed following the company and its staggering growth through other users and its activity on social media. At the beginning of March, Instagram hit 25 million users while only employing nine team members, so that theoretically, each employee manages 2.8 million users. To give you some perspective, 2.8 million people live in Jamaica. For a start-up that hasn’t even celebrated its second birthday, that’s impressive. It’s worth noting that Pinterest, another fast growing start-up focusing on visuals, boasts almost 11 million users, and only has 21 employees on the team.

However, since early March, Instagram has hired three more employees and has most likely collected a few more million users. Of those three employees, two are cited as joining the Community department at Instagram. A few years ago, a community manager or associate position was a rarity in business, but today these jobs are much more popular and require a certain type of person, according to a description by BostonInno. Especially for start-ups, it can pay to have someone that loves your company to convince other people to love it too. Instagram’s early investment in hiring people to build community and to keep the social aspect a priority speaks volumes about the kind of company Instagram is.

And that’s just it. That’s why Instagram is succeeding and growing – they get what it means to build and foster a community. Here are some communities that have spawned from the photo sharing application:

  • In October 2011, the East Gallery at Brick Lane in London hosted the first ever exhibit of Instagram photos in the UK. The event was organized by London Instagrammers, a community of people who work to connect users in real life, and have communities all over the world.
  • Tiffany & Co. asked its community to use Instagram to take pictures that exemplified love and use the hashtag “trueloveinpictures” and then created a microsite to display users’ photos.
  • Musician Jason Mraz asked fans to snap pictures using Instagram that described visually his new song “I Won’t Give Up.” Mraz then chose 25 of his favorites and put them on display at the Animazing Gallery in New York City.

Photo by sarzola1 for Jason Mraz's Instagram contest

  • Another high-end brand, Burberry was one of the first brands to jump on the Instagram bandwagon. It posts behind-the-scene pictures of models at photo shoots, historic moments in the company’s history, shots from fashion events, and images of London.

Burberry model Cara Delevingne on set

These are just a few of the many ways people are using Instagram to connect, share, and build community. And take it from Instagram’s new community team member Dan Toffey who gets the importance of building a community to see a product succeed: “Seeing intimate glimpses of everyday life through the lens of someone not just on the other side of town, but on the other side of the world, is really exciting.”

Instagram is connecting people around the globe through photos that are constantly being shared on social networks. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of Instagram to Android devices, and am looking forward to joining an already established and successful online community.

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Pinterest – Passing the Buck

If you use Pinterest, a website where you can organize and share images you find online, you may have heard about its recent copyright infringement troubles. Content creators are concerned about their photos “being copied wholesale” to the site by Pinterest users, and their complaints seem to be falling into a vaccum.

Based on its lack of response, it seems Pinterest was unprepared for this issue. Like Pinterest, at some point, most organizations will encounter a situation they’re unprepared for. What is most important is how an organization reacts to that situation.

Pinterest, Amazon, This American Life, Apple, FoxconnUnfortunately, Pinterest has quickly earned the reputation of being impossible to reach and unresponsive. The site is hosted by Amazon’s Web Services, and due to Pinterest’s lack of response, Amazon has agreed to process DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notices concerning infringements by Pinterest members.

I credit Amazon for stepping up to the plate, but the company also runs the risk of harming its own image if it isn’t clear about the role it will play. Amazon has said that it will “process DMCA notices concerning infringements by Pinterest members,” but there seems to be some confusion around what that means. Amazon is willing to ensure Pinterest complies with the DMCA, but it has only agreed to ensure the company is following the appropriate process, not actually address the complaints.

This situation with Pinterest and Amazon is a bit like being in a meeting when no one wants to accept responsibility for an action item. This lack of clarity and response makes the companies seem unreliable, and like customer service isn’t a priority (which should never be the case). While quick, decisive action and communication would help enhance their reputations, the longer Amazon and Pinterest flounder and fail to communicate, the greater the negative effect on their reputations.

As an example of the right way to address an unexpected issue, consider the recent retraction by NPR’s This American Life of its popular story on Apple’s Foxconn factory. While many believe it leans to the left, NPR (and its programs) have a stellar reputation. And, in this instance, the organization reacted exactly as you would hope a well-respected organization would react: they accepted responsibility. David Carr, writer for The New York Times, commented, “The story came up bad, they found out about it…, and they amended it with an hour-long retraction that was very straightforward and very powerful.” Carr maintains that the program’s reputation is intact as it reacted responsibly.

Whether you’re prepared or unprepared for an incident, move as quickly as you can to communicate with your key audiences and remedy the situation. Admitting you’re wrong and apologizing goes a long way, as does thoughtful, honest, and direct communication.

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Why Digital-Only Newspapers Make Sense (but not for me)

Every once in a while I ponder cancelling my long running home delivery subscription to The Boston Globe, the “newspaper of record” in Massachusetts — and New England for that matter — and just go digital.  Time to read it is so limited weekday mornings when getting out the door to sit in traffic on Route 93 and ultimately wind my way to 6 Edgerly Place, Boston trumps a leisurely cup of java and a flip through newspaper.

But I just can’t bring myself to do it.  At least not yet.

Today’s 24-hour news cycle and access to technology makes a very strong case for digital-only newspapers.

Among public relations professionals, for example, addiction to our smartphones, tablets, laptops and e-readers means there’s little news (at least business and breaking news) many of us aren’t aware of as it’s reported throughout the day.

If you’re in PR, chances are the last thing you do before hitting the sack is to check your smartphone’s news apps before setting the alarm on that very same device.

And earlier in the evening, following dinner, you watch TV with your tablet or e-reader or notebook PC on your lap and at every opportunity (like during commercials or whenever your significant other leaves the room) you check news sites, as well as Facebook, probably Twitter and always email.

What happens in the world while we’re sleeping isn’t going to make it into the print edition of a morning newspaper anyway. But it will be there on your mobile device. So why bother with a home delivery newspaper subscription?

The numbers don’t lie.  According to Pew Research Center, many more of us are getting our news fix on mobile devices and as a result, in the next few months we’ll see another wave of newspapers moving to a digital subscription model.

Pew also says we’re less discriminating about which mobile device we’re getting our news from –almost like whichever device happens to be nearby will do:  “people who go mobile are getting news on all their devices. … They also appear to be getting it more often… .”

  • 34 percent of desktop/laptop news consumers also get news on a smartphone
  • 27 percent of smartphone news consumers also get news on a tablet
  • 17 percent of desktop/laptop news consumers also get news on a tablet
  • 5 percent get news on all three

As for me, I’ll eventually need to be weaned away from my Boston Globe home delivery subscription.  I’ve thought about the Thursday – Sunday package the Globe offers, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

And, of course, there’s the Sunday-only option. Unfortunately, it appears that’s where all of us die-hard print news junkies may be headed. About 15 newspapers per year are shutting down their presses and some newspaper industry executives are saying that by 2017, many newspapers will be dropping a newspaper on our door steps only on Sunday — when most print ad revenue is accounted for.

Personally, I can’t — I won’t — envision a day without my Sunday newspaper.   Until then, for me, it’s home delivery 365.  Holding out as long as they let me.

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Business & Ethics? Take the Quiz.

Yesterday, we heard about the outgoing Goldman Sachs executive who, in a blazing New York Times opinion piece, attacked the company for its “toxic and destructive” culture. In his controversial editorial, Smith states, “The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for…I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.” Pretty significant statements considering Goldman Sachs’ long 143-year history.

Last weekend, I was talking with a friend who’s reading “Coming Apart,” in which author Charles Murray looks at an extreme divergence in behaviors and values between the classes, the different cultures people live in and different code of ethics they operate under. (Not having read it yet myself, I refrain from commenting.) My friend talked of little else besides this book, and one of the comments he made was that, in business, U.S. companies don’t behave ethically, citing the banking scandals.

business, ethics, morals, values, america, u.s., goldman sachs, "coming apart"While this is one individual’s perspective, it sparked an interesting debate. When I think about unethical behavior by U.S. companies, Nestlé and Wal Mart came to mind. Nestlé‘s accusations include dishonest marketing of infant formula, use of suppliers that violate human rights and abuse of water sources in bottling operations; Wal Mart has faced accusations of discrimination,  unfair wage practices and employment of illegal immigrants.

In a recent blog, Robert Reich, who has served in three national administrations and is currently chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, states that the “moral rot is…in the public behavior of people who control our economy and are turning our democracy into a financial slush pump. summarizes Reich’s blog as “Santorum has it backwards. The real ethical breakdown is in Wall Street boardrooms, not private bedrooms.”

Ethics form the basis of an organization’s reputation. To “beat our competition,” ethics must be a top priority for U.S. businesses. To be integrated fully, values must be consistently communicated to internal audiences, and all external behavior must reflect them. 

Ask yourself the following questions about your employer:

  1. What are your organization’s values?
  2. Do you take pride in and agree with these?
  3. Can you say, with certainty, that everyone in the organization would answer the same way?
  4. How are these values communicated and reinforced?
  5. Are they reflected in every business transaction?
  6. Are they upheld by your management?
  7. Do you believe your organization behaves ethically?

If you answered “no” to questions 2, 3 5, 6 or 7, it could indicate opportunities for improvement, or also be an indication that it’s time to consider how your own personal values align with those of your organization.

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