“I Am Press Release” – 107 Years Young

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Today’s guest post was written by Press Release, who recently turned 107 years of age.

It’s not easy being me.  After all, how would you like to wake up nearly every day to wave after wave of news articles and blogs and opinion pieces urging me to “die die die” or to articles claiming that I have actually been dead for several years already.

It hurts.  But it’s hogwash.  Thankfully, I have resolve, staying power and a thick skin.  I keep reminding myself that at 107 years old, I am battle tested and a true survivor.

How do you think Business Wire grew over the last 50-plus years to become a company that employs over 500 people in 32 bureaus around the world?  Well, it happened on my back.  And don’t forget that the Oracle of Omaha acquired Business Wire more than seven years ago and is now enjoying more growth as a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway. So if Warren Buffet sees business value in me and recognizes that I’m able to adapt and morph and even thrive in the constantly changing world of news distribution and communications, well then dismissing me seems like a bad idea.

What about PR Newswire, the other big distributor of press releases? PR Newswire, which is also more than 50 years old, provides service to tens of thousands of corporate clients around the world.  PR Newswire, Business Wire and the entire community of news distribution companies that includes MarketwiredPRWeb and dozens of free services all have one thing in common:  they built their reputation and their business on my back.

There are those in the news community who say no one reads press releases.  Take freelance journalist/author Amy Westervelt for example, who recently wrote in her blog that the press release is dead, please stop trying to revive it. …  No one in the media reads press releases. Not a single person, I promise you. For some reason, companies still ask for them, publicists still write them, the wires still publish them—this whole completely unnecessary and ineffective ecosystem still exists. Stop it. Please. The only time I ever, ever hear a media person mention a press release is to mock it.

Hmm, I beg to differ, Amy.  To no one’s surprise, so does Sarah Skerik, vice president of content marketing for PR Newswire.

“No one reads press releases?” she says. “I’m sorry, I have data otherwise. People read them by the millions.”

Hey look, I’m not saying that I’m the be all and end all.  But if you use me in a thoughtful and strategic way like you do with your blogs and emails and tweets and whitepapers and eBooks — you know, as part of your targeted content plan and not indiscriminately like I see so many companies still doing while giving me a bad name in the process (aka spam), then I am going to deliver results for you.

I promise.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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Happy Birthday Serenade Costly To J-LO’s Reputation

ImageBeing a public figure — leader of a profitable and growing organization, entertainer, politician, professional athlete — can have many rewards.  Financial freedom.  Notoriety.  Red carpet treatment.  The satisfaction that goes along with providing a great product that solves a problem or fulfills a need.

But the public recognition and the associated rewards also come with great responsibility and accountability — whether it be to fans or customers, shareholders, employees, business partners, the media and other key stakeholders.  After all, it’s these stakeholders, and their opinions, that ultimately form the reputation of these entities.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffet once said:  It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.

The problem is, so many public figures do not think about that often enough.  And when lapses happen, the results can be disastrous.  Just ask celebrity chef Paula Deen whose reputation has imploded ever since her recent admission of using the N-word.

Or this week, you can ask pop diva Jennifer Lopez.  Over the weekend, Lopez sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to the leader of Turkmenistan, recently cited by Human Rights Watch as “among the most repressive (countries) in the world”, ranking it alongside Syria, Cuba and Sudan.

The mega-star’s publicist told reporters that Lopez never would have accepted the invitation to serenade Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov if they were aware of his and his country’s reputation. “…had there been any knowledge of human rights issues of any kind, Jennifer would not have attended,” read a statement.  In another statement, her publicist actually said:  “We had no idea he was so evil.”

The publicist tried (but failed) to quiet the uproar by explaining that Lopez was in the former Soviet-bloc country for a paid performance at an event for the China National Petroleum Corporation CNPC), and not there on behalf of Turkmenistan, and that it was that organization who made the request for her to sing to Berdymukhamedov.

Yeah no.  CNPC does business with this highly repressive regime and Lopez tarnished her reputation simply by being there for what was surely a $1M+ appearance fee.  Lopez needs better advisers.

Said Human Rights First President Thor Halvorssen: “…her actions utterly destroy the carefully crafted message she has cultivated with her prior involvement with Amnesty International’s programs in Mexico aimed at curbing violence against women.”

Perhaps it’s the right time for Jennifer Lopez and her organization to go through a reputation assessment.  A simple and straightforward reputation assessment would help the Lopez organization — and most any organization — answer how well her organization manages her reputation, how important reputation is to her key stakeholders and what areas she can improve to advance her reputation.

I have always advised my clients that reputation is their company’s most valuable asset, but it’s an asset that isn’t owned by them.

Dave Logan, a USC faculty member and author of Tribal Leadership, said it best:  “Remember that your reputation is about you, but it isn’t your property.  It’s owned by the tribe around you. So when you ask about your reputation … you’re asking about something that isn’t yours.