Monday, October 25, 2021

New Roles For the Old News Release [Abbott Media Group]

Long gone are the days of your PR firm or your own organization simply sending out a press release to the local TV and print media, sitting back, and thinking that the job of promoting product, service, or individual has been completed.

That's because the news media are no longer the sole audience of the news release; and understanding this new truth is vital to keeping this communications tool fresh.

Stephen Abbott of Abbott Media Group is skilled in using tried and true tools and techniques such as the news release, but putting them to work in new ways.

AMG understands that news releases today can play several functions in the promotions process,. Releases sent to the media aren't necessarily to ensure immediate coverage. In fact, it's unrealistic to assume that everything sent will be published.

In Abbott's political campaigns, frequent releases have served the purpose of showing that a campaign is active, has hired staff, is raising money, is engaging with voters, and is seriously contesting the race. 

From these roles, it becomes clear that releases from political campaigns have several audiences. 

It's not just local news media, which may or may not be covering local politics, but also political leaders, local business leaders, elected officials, and of course, voters, especially those who are engaged in the process early on. 

Sometimes several releases, specifically targeted to these Publics, make more sense than a single, standard release.

Releases written for business can play a similar role by simply reminding local news media and others that the business is active in the community and open for business.

Releases sent to internal Publics - sush as repeat, regular clients - also have a reassuring effect, and can communicate best practices within a business organization, as well as communicating new policies and procedures to everyone, not just to a select few.

Effective internal Communications  like this can also build a sense of rapport and togetherness within organizations,  reduce gossip and misunderstandings, as well as lower employee turnover.

They can also be employed to convey the new or long-held mission and vision of a group or company. 

These reminders, written in news-worthy, fresh ways, help solidify the reputation of the group or company within a community, and help clarify the purposes towards which they're striving. They can also clear up misconceptions that could damage reputations or cloud the purpose of a company in the public's perception in the long term.

News releases, of course, continue to fill the traditional role of introducing new products and services to current and future clients and customers. 

They still must primarily be sharing something NEW, and be News Worthy in order to be considered for print and digital distribution. 

But they also can demonstrate to clients that a business has the expertise in the field in which they operate, and that they are capable of bringing the latest technology and techniques to bear on their behalf.

Frequent news releases posted on a company or campaign website are an easy way to provide fresh content for visitors. Web content that is frequently changing and updated ranks higher in searches, and encourages future traffic to the site.

Finally, news releases can play a vital role in conveying to relevant Publics within the community that a business is engaging actively with it, playing a positive role by giving back through charitable giving and social involvement. 

This has the effect of building positive feelings towards the business, enhancing its reputation and making future business transactions with them more likely.

AMG and Stephen Abbott understand how to fully employ all the aspects of news releases, and use them to the fullest effect on behalf of clients. 

Contact AMG today for more information.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The Value Of Hiring A Professional Wordsmith

I once noted on Facebook that you know you have a popular profession when everyone tries to dabble in it. Such is the case with writing. Everyone believes that professional writers do something very easy. After all, everyone writes words. How hard can it be?

In fact, every word a professional communications consultant writes must be carefully considered and written with the knowledge and experience gleaned from their entire career.

I know, for instance, that a single improper word, whether written or spoken, can not only lose the trust of your reader, but can ruin a reputation or derail a campaign overnight.

Such was the case of George Allen, a Virginia Senator who was running for re-election in 2006, and planning a future presidential campaign.

During a campaign event, he made an unscripted remark, referring to one of his opponent's staffers, who was there taking pictures, as "Macacca." The staffer was of Indian descent, and the word was used as a slur against dsrk brown people in India. 

The resulting media firestorm ruined his campaign and any chance for a future in politics.

This is among the primary examples I use when telling candidates for office that they must campaign from written speeches and ought not ever tweet or use Facebook themselves.

The same is true for a CEO of the major company, or a single businessperson just starting out in their profession.

Professional writers know what words to avoid, and not just obvious slurs. Avoiding the wrong words, phrases, slogans, context, tone, confusing jargon, trigger words, or trite sayings - and using the most effective words - can keep a message on track, whether you're a politician or a business professional.

Words have the power to move people to action, to inspire the mind, and to touch a human being's deepest emotions.

Words, therefore, ought to be chosen and used with great care and skill. Professional writers are worth having, and worth compensating fairly.

When so much rides on the written word, it just makes sense to have someone assist you who has made a career of writing. 

Consider Stephen Abbott of Abbott Media Group for your firm, campaign, or group's communications needs.

Stephen Abbott is principal of Abbott Media Group, located in Central Texas, but available remotely, worldwide. He brings decades of news media, political, and business writing skills, along with political and social media management skills to the table for every client.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

4 Ways To Build #Trust With Your Customers [Abbott Media Group]

People will do business with those whom they trust. Public Relations is an effective tool to help you build that trust with your customers.

There are several ways a PR can help you to begin to build trust with your customers and with future (potential) customers. Among the most important of them are Consistency, Courtesy, Care, and Community Involvement.

Consistency is a critically important factor in a business' future success. There's a reason why fast food restaurants, pet stores, hotels, and hardware chains, among others, are so popular. Ideally, they offer consistent service and products in multiple locations. Customers know they can get the same products and services offered for about the same price, wherever they go. For some, that may seem "boring," but customers actually yearn for boring over the alternative: inconsistent service and the inability to get their favorite products.

Public Relations professionals can guide a business to craft and disseminate standard internal policies, graphics and messaging that will help create a consistent experience for customers.

Courtesy is also an important factor in building Trust. If service is offered in a cold manner, or worse, in a rude manner, the bond of Trust between a customer and a business is broken. This is even the case in a long-term business relationship. There's no such thing anymore as a small incident of discourteous conduct. Even one incident in which a customer is treated poorly can ruin a company's reputation in this era of instant online reviews and cell phone videos.

A Public Relations professional can help isolate and identify areas in which internal standards aren't being met, and can, once those are addressed, help repair and rebuild Trust with customers who experienced a lack of courtesy during a business transaction.

Care is shown in a multitude of ways by a business, and customers recognize when it's not there, contributing to a lack of Trust. Products or services offered in a sloppy, slapdash way can instantly signal to the customer that the business doesn't really care about them. Caring isn't a small thing, it's a major thing, and in fact, should be a top concern of any business. If you're not in business to care for the customer, why are you in business? 

Care can be bolstered by proper training and internal messaging that makes it clear that business owners have high expectations of their employees. (Caring generates caring.) PR can deliver those internal messages in a compelling and clear way that leaves no doubt that Care is required from everyone.

Finally, Community Involvement can be a tremendous trust-building tool. While some effort should be made not to alienate a customer base with involvement in overtly political or controversial causes, showing concern for one's community is more than a gimmick to grab headlines.

Instead, it shows that a business is intimately tied to the community in which they do business, and that they care about their customers' well-being, not just as a source of cash. Public Relations professionals can help identify community activities that reflect well on a business and help this involvement lead to stronger feelings of trust with their current and future customers.

For more information about building Trust, visit Abbott Media Group at

Monday, March 8, 2021

BK UK's International Women's Day Tweet Sparks Controversy

Ad agencies in the United Kingdom and Europe, even more than those in the United States tend to always skirt controversy with their advertising campaigns and PR efforts.

That certainly was true on Monday, which was International Women's Day around the world. 

Whule most companies used the day to focus on their women employees or customers and their accomplishments, Burger King in the United Kingdom tweeted this:

The second and third tweet below the original one went on to explain that more women should go into the culinary arts, and study to become chefs. A worthy goal, but few people got beyond the shock of the first statement, which is a bigoted, Archie Bunker-like slam against feminism and women working.

The firestorm that this ham-fisted statement created on Twitter and offline as well didn't much more damage to the Burger King brand on both sides of the ocean then the positive good that their internship program will ever do.

Just another lesson that being too clever by half can backfire very quickly, and that a second and third pair of eyes should look at everything that's posted in a national and international ad campaign, which is what anything posted to Twitter needs to be considered.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

The Robinhood PR Disaster - What They Must Do To Make It Right [Abbott Media Group]

When the lists of 2021 PR disasters in business is written next January, Number One on that list will likely be the Robinhood app debacle of this week that left their reputation in tatters.

The Robinhood app, which allows average investors access to the stock market, buying trades without fees, abruptly froze users' ability to buy shares of some hot-selling stocks, among them GameStop and AMC.

Of course, they were "hot" because the internet, specifically the Reddit online chat boards, had made them so, deciding that these stocks - and they companies they represent - shouldn't actually fail (as the hedge funds had decided they should, and were "shorting" their stock in anticipation of their immanent deaths.)

This caused both stocks to rise "to the moon," as many on Twitter put it, and cost the hedge funds BILLIONS because their bets now were suddenly wrong.

Enter Robinhood, which had tweeted early on in its life, "Let the people trade." That slogan became one of bitter irony when, on Wednesday, upon rumored pressure from Wall Street hedge funds and even the Securities and Exchange Commission, they froze the ability to buy further stocks in these two hot properties (but still allowed sales.)

They posted a message which said, in part, "In light of current market volatility, we are restricting transactions for certain securities to position closing only, including $AMC and $GME."

While other brokerage firms reportedly did the same - including TD Ameritrade and other big names - Robinhood received the brunt of the online firestorm that soon erupted. And in the age of Twitter, the reaction was a tsunami of anger and criticism.

What Chris Buskirk, a contributing writer for the New York Times tweeted was typical:

"$AMC was struggling due to COVID lockdowns. Hedge funds shorted the stock to force bankruptcy.

Small investors saw an opportunity & bought $AMC driving it’s price up. $AMC raised $900 million, saved the business & 1000s of jobs. But they’re the bad guys for saving the company?"

One investor said, "There is no free market. There is only a manipulated market that is built to enrich hedge funds. The "capitalists" on Wall Street are being exposed as a bunch of cry babies who aren't actually that smart. If they were so good, why not compete in the free market??"

The cynicism did not end with investors. Politicians were also    quick to express outrage at Robinhood.

New York Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called for hearings in Congress about Robinhood and its actions. 

"This is unacceptable. We now need to know more about @RobinhoodApp’s decision to block retail investors from purchasing stock while hedge funds are freely able to trade the stock as they see fit. As a member of the Financial Services Cmte, I’d support a hearing if necessary."

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R- Texas) agreed with the liberal Democrat, tweeting simply, "Fully agree." (Prompting an outburst from Occasio-Cortez, in which she said she would work with other Republicans but not with Cruz, who allegedly, "almost had me murdered three weeks ago." During the Capitol Hill riot.) Whatever.

Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn was also blunt, tweeting:

"Part of Free Market Capitalism is having a Free Market. Wall Street is pressed because normal, working Americans outplayed them."

Regardless of party differences, this rare demonstration of bipartisanship seems to indicate they will at least be some hearings in the app's future.

For its part, Robinhood tried to stop the bleeding, posting a policy U-turn Thursday afternoon (4:15 pm ET) posting on Twitter and on the app that they would restore the ability to both buy and sell these hot stocks. Vlad Tenev, the Bulgarian entrepreneur who co-founded Robin Hood, tweeting:

"Starting tomorrow, we plan to allow limited buys of these securities. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments as needed."

But things continued to spiral out of control for Robinhood. On Thursday, a class action lawsuit was filed in federal court (the Southern District Court of New York) against Robinhood on behalf of its clients, legitimately claiming loss a millions of dollars due to the inability to buy these stocks as they rose drastically on Wednesday morning, and while hedge funds were not similarly restricted.

Late Friday, Robinhood kept digging a hole for itself, releasing a list of 50 stocks for which they were restricting buys. This prompted the investment site  Seeking Alpha to predict the new restrictions "could lead to big exodus" from the app.

As Inc. columnist Jason Aten wrote: "It takes a long time to build a brand, but not long at all to destroy it. In Robinhood's case, it took less than a day."

So, how does Robinhood regain its reputation as a fighter for the little guy investor? Or can it?

I believe it can, but it must demonstrate in the coming months that it did not respond to pressure from Wall Street, or even the White House which many speculated had occurred.

It has already begun the work it must do, including dispelling rumors that it acted to stop trading on behalf of a hedge fund, Citadel - something which would likely mean the death of the app, if true.

Tenev tweeted,

"As a brokerage firm, Robinhood has many financial requirements, including SEC net capital obligations and clearinghouse deposits. Some of these requirements fluctuate based on volatility in the markets and can be substantial in the current environment. 

To be clear, this decision was not made on the direction of any market maker we route to or other market participants."

(The California-based Sequoia hedge fund sought to squash such rumors late Thursday afternoon, tweeting, "Sequoia did not pressure Robinhood to halt the trading of any stocks. This rumor is completely false.")

Over the next few weeks and months, Robinhood needs to act decisively and speak out clearly to restore confidence and trust in its product, and, frankly, the system it works with. Speaking for an entire market is definitely a tall order, and usually not one public relations would need to take on.

But given the tremendous lack of trust that has accrued in such a short period of time (just a few days!) It's one the app must take on.

Hopefully they have a PR team that is instructing the Robinhood application's board that it cannot hide behind technicalities or even the SEC, and preparing them for the Congressional grilling that surely awaits them.

The Robinhood app must take strong, clear actions, and their PR team must then explain those actions in a confident way to investors and customers alike. 

Then, maybe six months from now, the Robinhood app just might still exist.