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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Don’t Get Buzzed: How to Use Buzzword Effectively

Voltaire once quipped that "one great use of words is to hide our thoughts." A Wall Street Journal piece raised the issue of whether buzzwords actually obscure your message vs. serve as a shorthand code that everyone in an organization or social group understands.

The Journal highlighted words such as "innovation," "solution," and "creative" which in overuse may have stripped them of any meaning they once had.  Another WSJ study found that the word innovation appeared 33,528 times in the total of annual reports filed with the SEC in 2011. Similarly, PR Daily and Business Wire report that "solutions" was the most used word in companies’ headlines in 2011.

At CommCore, we’re agnostic about buzzwords – depending on how you use them and with or without additional proof points.  Here are a few guidelines:

Whenever you use buzzwords make sure that you:
    •    Use them precisely
    •    Back them up with specifics, stories, and examples
    •    Translate into plain English for audience members who may not know the lingo

Do not use a buzzword if:
    •    It is not easily understandable
    •    The lingo is so vague and expresses only bland generalities without supporting specifics
    •    You sound like everyone else

What's your buzz on buzzwords?

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Don't Give Them The Finger

When it comes to crisis response, TV and Social Media can be either friend or foe. It all depends on how you handle it.

Consider what is called the Letterman-Leno Syndrome – when an incident that puts your brand at risk becomes fodder for network TV comedy monologues or skits. That's what happened to fast food chain Arby's last week when an unfortunate employee's sliced fingertip was found in a sandwich by a 14-year-old Arby's patron in Michigan. Guess what made CBS’s David Letterman’s popular nightly "Top Ten" List?

Arby's quickly posted a statement on its website explaining how they had "sanitized" the location in question and its food. But was that enough? Several PR and Crisis bloggers and experts say no – that the statement was generic, didn't explain in enough detail what Arby's was doing company-wide to prevent such a mishap from occurring again elsewhere, and that the chain failed to proactively engage publicly-visible sarcastic social media postings.

At CommCore we regularly advise our crisis communications clients that once a determination has been made that an incident requires public response, they should consider:
·         A rapid response on your corporate or "dark" website acknowledging the problem, stating how it has been (or is being corrected), and what is being done to ensure it won't happen again. If you can't give many details – because it's too soon or the response is not fully formulated – at least develop an appropriate holding statement
·         If the incident is deemed to be serious enough, include the face and voice of a senior executive expressing genuine, appropriate concern for anyone affected by the incident
·         Monitor social media and engage as necessary. (A corollary: be aware of the so-called Streisand Effect where efforts to quash social media commentary merely serve to spread the story even more widely).
·         Reach out to journalists and bloggers with whom you should already have pre-existing relationships, and let them know what you are doing to redress the problem.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Audio Interview with Andy Gilman: The Art of the Sound Bite at PRSA International Conference

Eric Schwartzman interviewed Andrew Gilman at the 2008 PRSA International Conference on the Art of the Sound Bite. Download the complete audio interview below to learn about the history of the sound bite and the ingredients that make a winning sound bite.

Eric Schwartzman - On the Record...Online with Andy Gilman - President CEO Commcore Consulting Group

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Catch the Spirit...

If a tree falls in the forest do you hear it?  You do if Spirit Airlines is holding the saw.

In case you missed the latest coverage surrounding Spirit...dying Vietnam vet Jerry Meekins tried to get a refund after being told by his doctor that he was too sick to fly.  Spirit refused his request for days citing its iron-clad no refund policy.  They even suggested that he should have bought travel insurance.

We're not privy to what happened at Spirit, but a company with a good monitoring policy and good antennae as to what could become a crisis would have picked this up and the rest of us would never have heard about this incident.

A firestorm ensued and finally, CEO Ben Baldanza said he would personally pay back the retired soldier and donate money to Wounded Warriors.  This was only after at least one media outlet sent Mr. Meekins a check for the $197.  We wonder if the "Boycott Spirit Airlines" Facebook page that went from zero to 41,000+ in a matter of days was a factor?

At CommCore we tell our clients to never underestimate the power of public opinion.  If management had fixed the problem quickly, it would have been our definition of an emergency:  A flash problem that was fixed and probably would have stayed out of the news.  It turned into a crisis when Spirit let it simmer into a full Social Media boil-over.

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