Friday, August 12, 2016

5 Characteristics of Reputation [Abbott Media Group]

Like any tool, a reputation constantly needs sharpening to be effective. But it can be double-edged instrument that can cut you and severely damage you, if you're not careful, or mishandle it.

Reputation can be a hard concept to wrap one’s head around. So, bolstered by wise words of wisdom, here are five characteristics of reputation of which businesses and individuals need to be cognizant when seeking to change or improve their reputations.

1. A Reputation can’t be built on false promises - "The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear," said the Greek philosopher Socrates. Your advertising materials won't fool anyone if your promises aren't being kept. If our luggage is lost, we will not believe the ad calling the airline "competent." In the same way, your company’s reality-on-the-ground must match the rhetoric your Reputation Agency is putting out about you, in order for your believability to remain intact.

2. Reputation must reflect what you’re doing NOW - Automobile manufacturer Henry Ford said, ‘You can’t build a reputation on what you're going to do.” It’s all well and good that you PLAN to do something great. But if you’re not doing it yet, or (worse) if you don’t follow through, it will hurt you more than if you hadn't promised to do it at all. In short, your reputation is a result of what you've done in the past.

3. A reputation pays off in the long run - “A reputation for good judgment, for fair dealing, for truth, and for rectitude is itself a fortune,” said social reformer Henry Ward Beecher. There’s not really a way to weigh the value of a good reputation, or that of a good one that’s been lost. Your customers, if they’re happy, reach out to dozens of people about your products and services, but also about your attitude and helpfulness, and that of your employees. A reputation pays off in many innumerable ways, most of which you will never know.

4. A reputation can’t be a con job - Author and artist Elbert Hubbard wrote, “Many a man’s reputation would not know his character if they met on the street.” A reputation must be true and reflective of the subject it purports to represent. No one can "create" a glowing reputation for someone who's character is genuinely bad. Again, today’s consumers simply are too smart for such a cynical exercise in deception, and frankly, AMG (along with every other ethical PR professional) will not participate in such a deception. As in other examples here, the perception must match the reality. A con job will simply further tarnish a damaged reputation, and it’s simply not worth it. Issues involving the character and practices of your company must be addressed BEFORE “re-launching” yourself and your name to the public.

5. Your reputation can be ruined by others - George Washington said, "Associate with men of good quality, if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company." If you’re associated in the mind of the public with a rouge company or an unscrupulous person - even if it’s not YOUR company or employee - your reputation could be hurt by it in the eyes of the public. That may not be fair, but it’s reality. People sometimes don’t distinguish between you and a bad act committed by someone close to you. As Washington said, in that case, it’s better to be seen alone and apart from them, and AMG can help you distance yourself from trouble with a clear reputation management plan.

Contact Abbott Media Group if we can help create compelling messages that build your reputation!

By Stephen Abbott, Principal Abbott Media Group, which creates inspiring, engaging messages that build reputations. On twitter and Facebook.

Friday, July 29, 2016

"Earned Media" And Why You Should Seek It [Abbott Media Group]

I was discussing earned media with a local business owner today and thought I'd share what I shared with him.

Businesses tend to know about paid advertising. They buy an ad, people see it, and then they come and do business with them. But that is a greatly simplified explanation, and doesn't tell the full story about what advertising is, what it can do, what it often CANNOT do, and what can help supplement its shortcomings.

Ads are paid for, by their very nature. Even if those who see them don't consciously think it, they know it's been paid for, and that the buyer (you) has an agenda: that you want them to see it and feel good about your business or the product being advertised.

Unsurprisingly, this tends to undercut the message you're trying to convey. Sure, your product might be good, but the fact that you paid to tell them this fact actually decreases its effectiveness.

Earned media can help solve this problem. Exposure for your brand, business or products can be "earned" from newspapers, magazines and online media sources without the costs associated with paying for an ad.

This is usually accomplished through news releases - documents prepared by public relations professionals who understand how to write about news-worthy items that will attract the attention of the media, and be placed where readers see them usually without changes. Sometimes, the news release sparks the interest of  reporters to do a more in-depth story about your business, product or cause.

And while paid media - advertising - is blatantly paid for, earned media carries with it the credibility of being freely chosen by the owner of the media source. Again, almost subconsciously, the fact that the paper or magazine is doing a "news story" on your product or business is seen as far more credible than if you had paid for it.


Paid media makes sense when you want 100% control of your message - and a PR pro can make sure that your advertising is consistent with all your other messages. But seeking earned media makes sense when you have something new, unique, and interesting that sets you apart from competitors or other similar businesses, and want greater credibility by getting news coverage to promote them.

Contact Abbott Media Group if we can help create compelling messages!

By Stephen Abbott, Principal of Abbott Public Relations, a division of Abbott Media Group, which creates written messages which inspire, inform, educate and engage, in mass media, publishing and public relations. On twitter and Facebook.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Is Print #Media Dead? (Not Another Obituary) [Abbott Media Group]

Is print media dead? I just read yet another post online saying just that. It's not difficult to draw that conclusion, given the decades-long slide into oblivion by many major and minor players in the field of print journalism.

Print publications large and small have long struggled with rapidly diminishing ad revenue, fewer eyeballs, and stiff competition from online media sources.

Public Relations consultants for business and political clients have more and more utilized and relied upon online media and social media to the detriment of print publications.

In politics, especially, print media has shot itself in the foot by failing to consistently offer balanced and responsible journalism. Given the slash and burn nature of the economics of the newsroom, it's not surprising that coverage has suffered. But there's literally no reason why this must necessarily result in shoddy, unbalanced coverage of political candidates or mere "horse race" and process stories.

In business, too, pay-to-play (stories for payment) have become the norm in many cash-starved papers. I recently went to the press release submission page of a prominent Florida newspaper, only to find that it offered publication for a "subscription." Whatever that is it's not journalism. It sure isn't "earned media."

So print media, if it's not dead, exactly, may be on life support. There's actually no solution to this problem except a complete re-dedication to journalistic excellence in the print media profession.

Papers, however cash-strapped they may be, must recommit to sending out reporters to actually cover the business community, political leaders, elections, and the people and places that are committing hard news within the readership area. Fluffy feel-good stories and police blotter stories have their place, but over-reliance on these tends to cheapen journalism.

I have seen political candidates who either have gotten perfunctory coverage, or none at all, because the newspaper had a favorite candidate or party, and decided on its own to filter out all candidates who did not meet their standards or biases of its editors. If they believed this would prompt ad sales, this has actually had the opposite effect, in many cases.

Many political campaigns, for example, have simply ignored the dead tree media and have focused almost entirely on new, online media, especially social media, which is becoming increasingly popular among voters as a source of both news and political information.

Businesses and the consultants representing them are also less enamored with the negative changes in print media, and are turning to alternate ways of reaching out to present and future clients and customers. And of course, ad revenues spiral ever more downward as a result.

And instead of "pay to play," which is ethically revolting as well as defeating the idea of earned media, news releases that are sent on behalf of candidates and businesses (and are actually timely and news-worthy) should actually prompt news stories that are balanced and fair.

Does Print have a future? Sure. But it can only have one if it re-dedicates itself to the fundamentals of journalism, including fairness, balance, and equality of access by all parties involved in an issue.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Why "Winging It" Is A Bad Approach For Candidates [Abbott Media Group]

Political newcomers will make mistakes, and perhaps it's a bit unfair to judge someone like Donald Trump to harshly when it comes to his many gaffes and errors when speaking.

After all, his supporters often say, Ronald Reagan also made gaffes during his 1980 campaign. Jokes were made about his misstatements, and his advisors said it was okay for him to make the occasional mistake when speaking because, after all, he wasn’t a professional politician. "Let Reagan be Reagan," was their frequent statement.

And that’s fine. Everyone is going to say something incorrect on the campaign trail. Barack Obama famously said he had been to almost all of the 57 states, after all. George W. Bush had made his share of verbal faux pas, and so has anyone who spends seven days a week on the road campaigning for president.

In the end, however, words do, in fact, matter. And actually speaking the right words is critical for a candidate if they want to effectively convey their beliefs, principles, hopes and aspirations to voters.

"The difference between the right word and the almost right word,” opined Mark Twain, “is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."

And saying something that is inconsistent, shocking, or simply incorrect can be devastating to a candidate’s credibility.

That's why the words Donald Trump uses really do matter; and they matter in any political campaign.

They matter to those who don’t support him almost as much as to those who are inclined to do so. In fact, in the final analysis – and on Election Day in November, if he’s the Republican nominee – the words Trump has used in this election year will either convince people to either acquiesce to his candidacy and support him, even if they didn’t in the primaries, to stay home, or to vote for the Democrat or another candidate not a member of the two Major Parties.

Of course if too many voters make any of these choices other than supporting the Republican nominee, it could easily have devastating consequences for House and Senate candidates and other statewide candidates on the ballot.  And party officials are fearing just that.

In my professional career as a campaign consultant or as a manager for a political candidate, I’ve stressed repeatedly how important messaging is to a campaign’s success. 

Candidates, especially wealthy ones and first-time ones, tend to believe that whatever falls from their lips is golden. I take pains to make it clear to them that this is not the case.

In fact, based on my experience with them, many first-time candidates seem to believe they don’t need to use a script or to answer the same way each time they’re asked about a particular issue.

They believe "winging it" will help them come off as more authentic and even "folksy."

And while being universally known with near 100% name recognition, as Trump enjoys, may allow a bit of a "pass" and a cushion for errors and even a bit of deliberate low-browism, two examples from The Donald’s campaign thus far will illustrate why this is the wrong tactic, even for him.

Donald Trump’s campaign announcement speech, as written, was brilliant, to the point, and conveyed a message and a candidate that was strong and focused.

His audience at the Trump Tower in New York, and the television audience who watched it on TV and hundreds of times thereafter online never heard this speech.

Instead, he took the bones of this written speech – written perhaps by an aide but clearly expressing Trump’s own views – and ad libed. Profusely. What was written as a 20-minute speech lasted well over an hour.

This is the origin of his famous/infamous “they’re rapists” comments, along with numerous iterations of his brags noting that he’s “very rich.” These set off alarm bells, though to be fair, they also attracted many disillusioned voters who were seeking just that kind of “politically incorrect” and bold language.

Fair enough. But the problem with this is that the result of this speech was almost universal condemnation and a silent fear that, as the primaries progressed, more “straight talk” would bring harm to the Republican brand. Which of course it has, possibly irreparably.

(Note here that Ronald Reagan's announcement speech was dignified, uplifting and greatly beneficial to both his image and, ultimately, to that of the Republican Party.)

That brings us to the second example.

The March 30 interview with Chris Matthews – a liberal progressive, with whom a seasoned conservative politician would take great care answering questions – demonstrated why off-the-cuff policy-making is also a bad idea.

His seemingly off-handed remark that women who get abortions would be “punished” was not only a rash and dangerous statement, it shocked pro-life campaigners who, for decades, have said just the opposite, and have fought the stereotypes of the Left that being pro-life is somehow “anti-woman.”

Not to mention his seemingly off-the-cuff remarks that NATO should be all-but disbanded and that Japan and South Korea should be armed with nuclear weapons. Pacifist Japan, along with South Korea, reacted strongly and angrily to these comments and those suggesting they’re not paying America enough for their defense (they pay over half of all expenses for having our troops there.)

But whether you agree with Trump’s policies or not, the impression, if not the reality, was that he was making them up on the spot. He recanted the abortion position later that day – perhaps at the demand of his shocked and appalled aides – leading one to believe he did in fact make them up.

The bottom line is that any candidate, be they running for president or city council, must be clear, articulate and consistent when they speak.

Policies spoken to one group that don’t match up when said to another suggests clear pandering, and subconsciously, that the speaker is inconsistent and, by extension, untrustworthy.

And it’s worth noting that presidents must always measure their words, and express their policies, in a very cautious and mature manner. There’s a reason why presidents have spokesmen in the White House press room calmly and cautiously answering reporter’s questions each day.

It may be frustrating to reporters looking for a “gotcha” moment, but in truth, any rash or poorly thought-out statement by a president or his spokesman could send stock markets reeling and, as we’ve seen with our Asian allies, diplomatic incidents occurring. 

(And back to Reagan; he never appeared to anyone to be making up his philosophy or principles as he went along, despite occasional missteps on the campaign trail.)

Candidates should therefore view what Donald Trump is doing as a textbook case illustrating how NOT to handle political speech. To take the opposite lesson would make my job infinitely harder, not to mention the destruction and damage that could be done to individual campaigns – and to political discourse in the United States, generally.

Stephen Abbott is a public relations consultant and political messaging specialist, and the principal of Abbott Media Group, specializing in helping political candidates, business leaders, groups and start-ups craft effective messages. More at