Speak for Yourself

THE PR FIX LOGO FINALThe following is an excerpt from “The PR Fix for the Everyday Person” © 2013 by Jenny Fujita and Joy Koerte.

We always tell our clients that when they’re asked questions about a situation involving several parties, they must only answer for their own company. The same goes for you. If you’re asked a question about how another person may feel about a situation, pause and then say, “I can’t answer for them but I know that I…” (more…)

Update Your Working Wardrobe

MH900444652On January 21, 2013, the world watched as President Barack Obama was sworn in as the 57th president of the United States of America. The traditional Inauguration Day events kicked off with the president and his family attending the morning worship service and finishing up their duties well into the night at the Inaugural Ball. Every major news station covered all of the day’s events and analyzed how the president would perform in his second term. However, the headline that trumped all of the day’s activities, even the much anticipated inaugural address, was “What will Mrs. Obama wear?” (more…)

The Holidays Are A Time For Giving

donationIt’s that time of the year when people start delivering their holiday cards, gifts and well-wishes for the new year. And every year, it seems to be a struggle when it comes to figuring out what you are going to give or send. When you feel like you have exhausted every option out there, do you ask yourself, “what can I do differently this year?”

 

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CASE STUDY: COLORED KETCHUP

By Jenny Fujita and Joy K. Miura, Fujita & Miura Public Relations, LLC.
Last June, according to the July 9, 2001 issue of PR Week, “Heinz announced it would disclose the new (ketchup) color in ‘a few weeks.'” Notice that the real news, Heinz’s next ketchup color, hadn’t been communicated. Still, this pre-announcement release resulted in more than 100 media placements all over the nation leaving the public waiting in baited breath until the new color was made known. And when it was, the PR frenzy began all over again. (more…)

TELL THE TRUTH. ALWAYS.

THE-PR-FIX-LOGO-FINAL1-590x166The following is an excerpt from “The PR Fix for the Everyday Person” © 2013 by Jenny Fujita and Joy Koerte.

This may seem elementary, but it isn’t. The truth gets cloudy sometimes, and that’s what gets us in trouble. Most of us don’t intentionally lie or exaggerate the truth to hurt anyone. In fact, many of us get caught up in an occasional white lie or embellishment to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. You know what we mean. “I’m so sorry, I can’t attend your son’s play because I have another appointment at that time,” (even though you don’t).  In today’s modern world, we’ve become too accustomed to seeing media, paparazzi, and advertising exaggerate the truth.  Embellishment has almost become the norm, and we’ve become desensitized to it.

What’s so wrong with a white lie to preserve a friend’s feelings? Well, first off, what would happen if they found out that you fibbed? How would they feel then? And what would your friend feel about you?  Besides that consequence, the fact is, when you tell a lie, your intentions are to deceive, and deception is never the right thing.  It’s just not good for the soul.

Sometimes we avoid the truth so as not to create tension or “make waves” among the people we love. “I don’t mind missing my anniversary dinner to watch your kids tonight. I’ll just reschedule.” (Really?!?) If you don’t want to do something, don’t do it. If something bothers you about someone else, address it with them. Don’t shrug it off and then let it fester until you blow up or internalize it until you become depressed.  If you make a mistake, own up to it. Don’t make excuses. Say, “I’m sorry” and fix the problem you created. The more you get used to telling the truth, the easier it is to do, and this results in a more authentic life.

If you don’t believe us, consider the big news stories about corporate recalls, celebrity arrests, and politicians’ indiscretions.  Some of these folks tried to skirt the truth until it was so obvious that they couldn’t run from their mistakes. Yet, some owned up to their errors upfront, apologized, and took steps to repair what was wrong. The public always has more respect and the willingness to forgive in the latter cases.

So tell the truth up front, no exceptions.

Please know that we are certainly not advocating being harsh or disrespectful with the truth, or being malicious with your words. There is always a way to graciously address any situation, no matter how uncomfortable. The trick is telling the truth nicely. This means using nice words, nice intentions, a nice tone, and nice body language.

Plain and simple: ignoring the truth or being phony feeds into the discomfort of the most awkward situations and makes them worse. Why should you tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable? Because being real and honest is the foundation for deep, long-term relationships.

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION HAWAI`I STYLE

By Jenny Fujita and Joy Miura Koerte, Fujita & Miura Public Relations

We were recently eating lunch at a Kaua`i eatery with a client and in walked one of our esteemed councilmen. “You from Kaua`i?” he asked the client. She answered that she had lived here years ago but that she was from O`ahu. “What part?” he asked. She answered and then he asked her if she was related to a man of her same last name. “Yes, he’s my cousin,” she said. The councilman then proceeded to tell in full detail all the things he knew about this cousin. “So you know him?” the client asked. “No, never heard of him,” joked the councilman.

It’s a typical conversation in Hawai`i (minus the joke perhaps). If we’re good at something here, it’s making connections with each other. This is invaluable in the business world. Remember that old game called “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon?” The goal was to link any actor to Kevin Bacon through no more than six connections, where two actors were connected if they were in a movie together. The game stemmed from the larger concept of “six degrees of separation. Wikipedia explains the concept this way: person A only needs a maximum of six people in between them to connect them to person B, (supposing person A and B don’t know each other). Just like our client and the councilman.

Most Hawai`i locals are adept at playing our own game of “six degrees of separation.” The key is to maximize this skill for your business. This is very different than networking though. Networking more often weaves a net where none exists. Playing the six degrees game is about establishing real connections, a closeness that makes us care for each other more genuinely, increases our accountability to each other, helps us remember each other’s names, and makes us more willing to act on one another’s behalf. So, once you establish your connections with people, which you surely will, take the next step. Be creative in figuring out how your business can serve your calabash cousin’s cousin and know that your goodwill will come back around.

RULE #1: ASK

By Jenny Fujita and Joy Miura Koerte, Fujita & Miura Public Relations

Do you know what the first rule is of getting what you want? Ask. Yes, that’s it. We have been intrigued over the years at how often nonprofits simply forget to ask for a donation. By the same token, prior to the recent primary election, many candidates whom we know, some very well, never asked directly for our vote. Whether it’s fundraising, political campaigning, or selling a product or service, you must connect with your potential donors, voters, or consumers and ask them to do what you want them to. The PR key is asking the right people in a gracious and effective way, at the right time.

As for the right people, begin with your closest allies, from family members and friends to vendors, colleagues, associates – anyone you rub elbows with on a regular basis. Don’t assume that because you’re close to them, they will act on this relationship without your prompting them. Then, make sure your message is clear, brief and delivered politely in a way that your audience can receive it, whether that’s in-person, by email, by mail, by phone, or a combination thereof. Make your request in time for your audience to act but not too far in advance, lest they forget.

If you were planning a party, you would send invitations, and if no one RSVP’d, you would follow up. Otherwise, you might end up at your event by yourself. Likewise, if you want a vote or a donation, ask and secure the commitment or at the very least find out why your audience is apathetic or not going to help you. Only with that feedback can you tweak your message or your goal and move forward successfully. Ask, and there’s a good chance that you’ll receive.

KNOW WHAT YOU WANT

By Jenny Fujita and Joy K.Miura, Fujita & Miura Public Relations, LLC.

More business. More money. That’s what our clients usually tell us they want as a result of their PR efforts. But what does that mean exactly? How many widgets do you want to sell each month? How much income do you want to make weekly, and can you really sell enough widgets to make that revenue?

Over time, we have noticed that our clients who are more precise about their goals are more likely to achieve PR and business success. That said, in order to know where you want to go, you have to know where you’ve been and where you are now. In other words, know your numbers. We’ve been hearing a lot about “the math” in this primary election season. In fact, winning campaigns have numerous staff members that focus only on math, from delegate counters to statisticians to analysts. But math is just as relevant in business as it is in political campaigns.

How many widgets did you sell last year and what was the average per month and per week? How many are you selling now? Was your price too low, too high, or just right? Who was buying the widgets? Once you establish benchmarks, you can take the next step in detailing what you want in the context of those benchmarks. Knowing what you want means developing goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Once you have identified your goals, you can determine the best PR tactics to assist you in reaching them.

So do your math, know what you want. Only then can you figure out how to get there.

THE KEEPER OF THE MESSAGE

By Jenny Fujita and Joy K.Miura, Fujita & Miura Public Relations, LLC.

In a “New York Times” article last year, writer Ben Wallace-Wills featured Barack Obama’s chief campaign strategist, David Axelrod. The article detailed Axelrod’s political consulting history, philosophies, and his role in Senator Obama’s senatorial and presidential campaigns and recounts how “Axelrod has been intimately involved with the staffing of the campaign…, with its strategy and pacing and with the scrubbing of its message and language. Because of the vastness of the operation, Axelrod has had to hire other media consultants to help him develop commercials; his own role, he says, will be as ‘keeper of the message.’”

Every operation, whether it’s a business or an organization, needs a keeper of the message, someone who checks and approves all of the major public and even internal communications for consistency, appropriateness, effectiveness, tone, spelling, grammar, etc.

For example, when we write website copy for a client, we send the first draft to the head of the organization by email and have them send changes back to us. We make those changes and then send the final document back to the boss for her/his approval. Only then does the document go to the web designer who places it into the website design template. Before the site goes live, we check the copy one more time, just to be sure nothing was inadvertently changed or omitted, and then finally, the site goes live.

This check-approve-recheck process can be lengthy, but it avoids problems that can compromise your business. At a recent event, a sponsor banner for a mainland company that had recently purchased a local business was hung right next to the buffet table. The word “Kaua`i” was incorrectly spelled “Kaui.” Everyone who saw the banner no doubt made comments and internal assessments about the company’s lack of care about the spelling of the place in which they are now doing business. Had this company had a “keeper of the message,” the whole thing could have been prevented. Who is the keeper of the message in your business?

THE PUBLIC RELATIONS POWER OF FOOD

By Jenny Fujita and Joy Miura Koerte, Fujita & Miura Public Relations

Cream-filled malasadas, apple manju, char sui pork manapua, glazed donuts, macadamia nut sticky buns, flying saucers, chili pepper poke, guava cookies, kulolo, cone sushi, haupia, pasteles, lilikoi chiffon pie…mmm. Do we have your attention? Probably, because on Kaua`i, food is where it’s at. And, food in the business arena is no exception.

In our “Kaua`i Insiders Trainings,” which we provide to clients and their employees who are new to the island, one of the first things we do is introduce them to local food and remind them to eat, and bring, local food everywhere they go. Why? Because food exemplifies the melting pot that we are here on Kaua`i. Because food is the solid form of love. Because food is good and everyone likes to eat.

Food can be brought to meetings or the office, given as a gift when you travel or return home (omiyage), presented as prizes or silent auction items, etc. However, being mindful of local-style reciprocation is also important. In other words, if you’ve been sampling someone else’s goodies for a few weeks, be the next one to bring treats to share. Also, match the type of food to the occasion and the recipient. This conveys that you thought about getting something the recipient likes, that is culturally appropriate, and that is in all other ways fitting.

Food communicates appreciation, nurturing, warmth, and friendliness, and around a table with food on it, communion (in the large sense of that word) can happen, which can only be a good thing in any business interaction. Food attracts people to events and to each other (you know the saying about the way to a man’s heart). And though it’s trendy now with the popularity of the Food Network, celebrity chefs, and cookbook sales, food has always been important on Kaua`i and in island business. Just think about how many business deals have been made over pupus after a golf game. Food is powerful PR. (Our next column will be about exercise.)

INVASION OF THE PODCAST

By Rahel Kramer
This month’s column is brought to you by Rahel Kramer, an exchange student from Hamburg, Germany. Rahel is pursuing her master’s degree and interning with Fujita & Miura Public Relations through the first quarter of 2007.

This invasion is one that you’ll want to invite if you’re looking for a new way to communicate with your publics. Due to fast changing internet trends, there are many new communication modes to discover, like podcasting, which simply means creating an audio file in MP3 format and then posting it on the internet. Interested listeners can then download the file. They can also subscribe to your podshow so that every time you make a new one, it will be delivered to subscribers automatically.

Bacon’s, one of the world’s foremost communications companies, has a whitepaper on podcasting, which explains how everything started in late 2004: “The concept was for individuals to produce and distribute an audio version of blogs.” Anyone can be a podcast creator, which means that soon, podcasting might be an inevitable means to communicate with your audiences. Your publics are already swamped with press releases, ads and emails. Podcasting is a revolution in mass communication, a new PR toy so to speak.

So why jump on this train? Rodney Rumford, a podcast expert and developer says, “Podcasting gives any company, business or individual the ability to reach out and communicate to a large worldwide audience.” He continues that podcasting increases online visibility, improves the perception of your product, service, brand or value in customers’ minds, and can help garner media coverage. Press releases, employee meetings, shareholder gatherings, annual reports, etc. can be podcasted. Professional podcast services exist to create the podcast. Rumford suggests that if you don’t want to make your own podshow, you can become an advertiser or sponsor of an existing podcast that reaches your target market.

It’s essential for businesses and PR professionals to be aware of and open to these communications trends because they might offer new and effective ways to reach your customers, staff, and community. Some invasions, like podcasting, are just impossible to ignore.

MAKE EMAIL YOUR PR FRIEND

By Jenny Fujita and Joy Miura Koerte, Fujita & Miura Public Relations

Information is moving at the speed of light these days, and while electronic communications methods, such as email, can be quick and convenient business tools, it’s worth it to take the time and care to use them well.  Below are a few common examples of email best practices that can give you a PR advantage:

Situation: You send information to someone by email and then wonder if they ever received it because you never heard from them since you pressed “send.”  After a week, you forget that you even sent the email because so many things have piled up, until your boss asks you, “What ever happened with that email you sent to so and so?”  Gulp.

Lesson: When someone sends you information by email, respond at least with a “mahalo” within 24 hours if possible, so they know that you got their message.

Situation: You receive an email that has been sent to a large group of recipients whose email addresses all appear in the “To” section.  You are mortified to see that your ex, who is a stalker, is on the list.

Lesson: If you’re sending email to a group of people, include only your email address in the “To” section and all of the recipients’ email addresses in the “Bcc,” or blind carbon copy, area.  That way, everyone’s email address as well as business dealing with you remains private.  Also, send the email to 25 recipients or fewer at one time in order to avoid being perceived as spam.

Situation: You receive an email from someone in all lower case letters, with little or improper punctuation, and half the words missing.  You strain your eyes and your brain but can barely make out the meaning of the message, and you wonder how the person ever survived this long in the business world.

Lesson:  Of course you don’t have to refer to the “Chicago Manual of Style” every time you write an email, but take the same care in writing an email message as you would writing a letter.  The recipient will be glad you did, and your work will be done more effectively and efficiently.

Situation: You meet someone new at a meeting and send them an “it was nice to meet you” email afterwards.  The next day, you receive no less than 17 chain letters and 101 tips on how to use Coca Cola and dryer sheets to clean your house.

Lesson: Sending out an occasional humorous email to business associates is fine (as long as the humor is appropriate and non-offensive) but never add business associates’ email addresses to your personal email lists, and avoid sending “junk mail” altogether.

Practice these lessons consistently and email will quickly become your PR friend.

KNOW YOUR STUFF

By Jenny Fujita and Joy Miura Koerte, Fujita & Miura Public Relations
Recently a popular syndicated radio talk show host was inviting the public to a holiday event she was going to be hosting. Only she couldn’t remember all the details about it, nor could she say exactly where to find the information on her website. This is a good reminder to all of us in business to “know your stuff.”

“Know your stuff” refers to many things, is relative to employees at every level, and is significant to your business’ public relations. If one of your employees on or off the job answers “I don’t know” to someone asking a question about your business, it reflects poorly on the business for having under-trained and under-prepared the employee.

If you are going to be representing your business in any public forum, be sure to know the facts about the company, even down to basic details like the contact information. If you are hiring new employees or casual staff over the holidays, make sure they are well informed about your products, services, and information channels. Asking them to become familiar with your website, brochures, and promotions will help them avoid saying “I don’t know.”

Remember that PR is in the substance. Every solid relationship requires consistently and continually making and keeping promises. It’s good to hype up a product or service, as long as the people you want to support it are told when, where and how to get it, and as long as what was promised is delivered in whole. Consistently making and keeping promises, and truly knowing your stuff will build a strong PR foundation over time.

REFRESH YOUR WEBSITE

By Jenny Fujita and Joy K. Miura, Fujita & Miura Public Relations
Since the dawn of the Internet, websites have evolved from static, flat communications vehicles to vibrant, multimedia resources. Consequently, refurbishing websites has become a worldwide trend. Websites are an excellent way to maintain relationships with your constituents, but to be effective communications tools, their information (primarily) and look (secondarily) have to be ever changing.

Website content has to change frequently. Reporters often collect their information online. The same goes for jobseekers, potential customers, competitors, and others. These folks will head to your website to learn about your company so it needs to include accurate, current facts and good news.

The look of your website has to progress too, but not as often as the content. Just as you might redecorate your office every so often, you need to spiff up your website once in a while. Audiences appreciate this because they know the upgrades were done for them and it makes them feel confident that you’re keeping up with the times. Also, modern web designers recognize that there are many different configurations to present your information, and that no two web surfers navigate exactly the same way. This means that you have to give people some choices about how to get to your key information. Interactive features like shopping, live technical help, games, or business forms also help sites look fresh and provide value. Animation is another way to perk up your online presence and direct attention to areas that may be overlooked (if your site has uploads or fancy animation, remember to provide software downloads, preferably for free).

So at least once a year, resolve to refresh your business’ website. Just be sure that all the improvements you make are consistent with your image, message, and goals, and that you tell your customers about the change.

BUY A PUBLIC RELATIONS STRATEGY

By Jenny Fujita and Joy K. Miura, Fujita & Miura Public Relations

Here’s a scenario: as a business owner, you’ve been meaning to give a donation to a local community service organization. But which one? And how do you do it humbly but visibly?

If you have an issue that needs addressing or an opportunity that should be highlighted, but a limited budget and no internal public relations (PR) staff, consider outsourcing someone to prepare a strategy that you will implement.

Public relations strategies can be created for nearly any purpose. Some common themes include community outreach, grand openings, safety campaigns, introducing a new leader, and hurricane or emergency preparedness. You think of a topic and let a qualified expert prepare a targeted plan for you.

A quality strategy will tell you exactly when and how to communicate with the right target audience to accomplish your desired outcome. A well-timed strategy, i.e., one that precedes an event or situation, will enable you to be prepared and proactive. Before you make the call to outsource a strategy, consider the following questions:

What is the current situation of your organization?

What do you perceive as your problem or opportunity?

Who are your key publics?

How does your PR goal tie into your overall business goals?

What is your timeframe?

What is your budget?

What is your level of in-house PR expertise (public speaking, media etiquette, writing, etc.)?

Answering these questions will help you communicate your goals clearly to your PR consultant and ensure that the resulting strategy is effective, appropriate, and doable. Then, like following a good set of instructions, you can implement the plan and check another item off of your “to do” list.

THE WEB AS A PUBLIC RELATIONS TOOL

By Jenny Fujita and Joy K. Miura, Fujita & Miura Public Relations, LLC.

URL, HTML, FTP…these Internet acronyms make the non-technical among us glaze over, but having a website can be an excellent way to collect and impart information, and sell or promote products or services. What you post online depends on what business you’re in and what you’re trying to accomplish.

For example, to offset the cost of handling customer inquiries via telephone, put the answers on your website. If sales is your thing, show and sell your wares online, then find out who’s buying and use this information to boost future sales. If it’s education you’re after, post facts and figures using an interactive mechanism. Consider too what image your website presents. Specifically:

Does it reflect your business’ style? David Cook and Deborah Sellers, authors of Launching a Business on the Web, agree that “…your real company presence should mimic your virtual presence…”

Does it give your customers what they want and need? Include information your customers will expect to see, but also those lesser-known but noble ditties you’d like them to know.

Can you keep your website current? We’ve all seen sites that haven’t been updated since the last decade. Keep your site fresh to hold Web surfers’ attention.

Can you respond quickly to email inquiries via your site? Ever order something online and received a sales confirmation within minutes? Tell customers when they can expect to hear from you – then keep the promise.

Will your publics find your business on the Web? Only if you’ve told them about it. There’s no sense in having a fabulous website if you keep it a secret.

TAG YOUR BUSINESS IS ‘IT’

By Jenny Fujita and Joy K. Miura, Fujita & Miura Public Relations

When we hear, “We Love To See You Smile,” we immediately think of McDonald`s, and “Just Do It” conjures up images of Nike’s swoosh. Taglines capture a company’s essence, mission, and style in one clever little phrase. They are invaluable public relations (PR) tools for concisely communicating critical business information and developing brand and name recognition.

Originality is crucial when it comes to developing an effective tagline. Today’s consumers are wading through piles of promotional clutter and businesses are fighting to distinguish themselves from one another. To compete, some companies are incorporating their business’ name into their tagline and using semantics to create an entirely new meaning for that name.

Yahoo!, the Internet search engine, and Bank of Hawaii (BOH) have both utilized this method. Yahoo!’s tagline, “How Do You Yahoo!?” evolves the company name from a noun into a verb. Transforming “Yahoo!” into an action word and using it in the form of a question stimulates people to think about the company and its products, as well as the experience of using the service. Although this tagline does not provide any insight about what type of company Yahoo! is – after all, Yahoo! is already well-known — it sets Yahoo! up as the search engine of choice for customers who want to research and buy anything online at any time from any place in the world.

Taglines can also promote special programs. BOH’s new Bankohana program features the tagline “We Bankohana You.” Again, by changing “Bankohana” from a noun into a verb, BOH helps people focus on what Bankohana can offer them. Also, both this tagline and Yahoo!’s use the term “You,” which is a skillful way of speaking directly to customers.

Creating the right tagline can take your business to the next level and motivate current and potential customers to choose you over competitors.

HOW TO WRITE AN ITEM

By Jenny Fujita and Joy K.Miura, Fujita & Miura Public Relations, LLC.

Dilemma#1: You want to get your business name in the public spotlight, but you don’t have anything “groundbreaking” to highlight.

Dilemma #2: You’ve rolled out an extensive advertising and/or publicity campaign and your information is getting dry and repetitive.

What do you do? Never fear. You don’t need a cataclysmic event to get attention. You just need to know how to write an item.

An item is a short story about something clever, eccentric, unique or humorous. Many print publications have sections or columns dedicated to featuring these brief snippets of information. Louella Benson-Garcia, Ed.D. explains that an item is usually used when the information you want to share does not justify a press release, to build interest in an upcoming event, or to sustain public enthusiasm in an ongoing campaign. In the best cases, items can result in expanded media coverage.

When writing an item, Benson-Garcia suggests using the same format as a press release, keep the length to 50 words or less, create a eye-catching headline, and be sure to include the always essential who, what, where, when, why and how so that the reader is not left guessing.

If you’re still unsure about using this PR tool, we all recently witnessed a successful item at work a few weeks ago. When Miss America, Angela Perez Baraquio, was proposed to during the Miss Hawaii Pageant last month, the media placements were numerous, although not lengthy at all. The result? More people knew about the details of Baraquio’s engagement than who actually claimed the Miss Hawaii title. Now, that’s PR.

PUBLIC RELATIONS VS. ADVERTISING

By Jenny Fujita and Joy K. Miura, Fujita & Miura Public Relations, LLC.

Public relations and advertising are often used synonymously, but these techniques are worlds apart. Although both are marketing tools, they have very different purposes and results, and businesses that know the difference will have a competitive edge.

While paid advertising may lead one organization to success, relationship-building via PR may be the answer for another. Or, for some organizations, PR and advertising may work hand-in-hand to create a winning marketing strategy. Companies who advertise pay to have their ideas, goods or services promoted, like Budweiser’s ever-popular “Wassuuup?” ads. The sponsor (Budweiser) controls the message as well as where and when it is communicated. Yet, today’s consumers take advertising with a grain of salt. Is Budweiser as cool as the “Wassup?” ads make it out to be? Depends on which beer you drink.

On the other hand, Public Relations is non-paid communication between an individual or organization and their publics. While advertising focuses on creating sales, PR concentrates on building images and relationships. PR results can take time and may be harder to control and guarantee, but they can pack more marketing punch than a paid ad.

Why? Public Relations messages are real and believable because most times, they’re communicated through a third party, like a newspaper article or interview. Also, where advertising uses mass media, PR is more effective on a small scale. A simple handwritten thank you note to five target people may build an invaluable, long-term relationship that a TV commercial that reaches out to thousands never could. The better the PR professional, the more luck they’ll have delivering a genuine, image-friendly message for your business through that third party.