by: Gwin Johnston | stored in: business

What Netflix has done is interesting – offering a year of paid leave to new parents. At JohnstonWells we’ve lost more people to their babies than any other way. Some of them came back when their children were older, some didn’t. It’s a grand experiment at Netflix. Will other companies follow suit? Time will tell.

I suspect, though, it will stick in the craw of more parsimonious bosses and human resources professionals. HR people, I’ve always thought, are not the most creative or giving people on the planet. They should be. Retaining employees has been a real problem, and this is a way to keep them. We know that technology companies make lots of money. Microsoft is granting 12 weeks of paid leave for new mothers and fathers, and Facebook is giving couples 4 months of paid time off plus $4000.

Of course fathers need to accept this. Will it get in the way of their careers?

Too bad public relations firms can’t afford to do that.

by: Gwin Johnston | stored in: public relations

Was it really 20 years ago that we handled the opening of Denver International Airport for our client BAE Automated Systems? You know, it was probably the best client experience I’ve had. We were brought in two years too late – they already hadn’t returned calls from reporters throughout the world.

The infamous automated baggage system tape ran on all the television stations, near and far. But it was a great experience. Why? Because they treated us like true partners. They were sensitive to their employee’s needs, they understood what public relations could do for them and they followed our advice.

Sure, there were arguments with them, but we resolved them and went forward with our work. The mayor at the time blamed postponements on opening on them, but truly airport construction was not finished. They didn’t fight with the administration, but proceed with their work by concentrating on their employer base.

Laurie Cant and I had a great relationship – he hired us subsequently when he started another international company. But surely, it wasn’t 20 years ago. Or was it?

by: Gwin Johnston | stored in: public relations

When I spoke to a crowd of professionals in New York City, I said that public relations isn’t just publicity. I said it because all of the presentations before mine were focused on publicity. Even today, I find myself falling in the trap of talking about what we can do in terms of publicity.

Shame on me. Public relations is more about the bottom line. We can show, actually demonstrate, that public relations has an impact on the bottom line – if the client is willing to share the bottom line with us, and if they’re not, they won’t value the work we do.

When we worked for the College for Financial Planning they understood. They often commented that public relations was the most effective thing they did in terms of getting new students.

by: Gwin Johnston | stored in: media

First, he’s the reader of the news on NBC.  They give him assignments to burnish his image and thus the status of the news on NBC.  Second, he lied about his helicopter “ride” in 2003.  He says he misremembered.  Was anyone killed?  Was anyone injured in this helicopter incident?

No, they weren’t.  Brian Williams is a celebrity by virtue of his job.  NBC was probably right when they took him off the air for 6 months.  It’s a big deal in public relations circles, but I think Brian Williams and NBC will recover.  Why?  Because the American public has a very short memory.  Of course, this will be aided by journalists with other networks or newspapers.  I say, who cares?

by: Gwin Johnston | stored in: journalism, media

Don’t you think that this Ebola “scare” has gone far enough? It has been completely generated by the media. The New York Times had several pages devoted to it this Sunday, and you can’t get away from online and broadcast assaults.

30 years ago, it would have been treated as just another disease, but when a friend in Wyoming remarked to me about it, I was convinced. The media can do good things, but this is so blown out of proportion that I question their power.

What good things have you seen them do lately? Sure they present both sides of issues in an election but social media is exempt, and who reads the newspapers or watches TV anymore?

Media is a competitive business, and as I’ve always said, media piles on media. And then they forget about the issue they’re so bent on talking about.

by: Gwin Johnston | stored in: politics

Compromise is a beautiful thing. Thanks to Governor John Hickenlooper for suggesting it and for Congressman Jared Polis for agreeing to it. It makes a world of sense both for fracking and anti-fracking camps. And, it saves them money. The only people not happy about it? The media, who won’t be getting the advertisements and the ad agencies that won’t be getting all that income. Maybe, too, the public relations firms who won’t be getting their fees. But it’s still a beautiful thing.

Why do people, particularly journalists including some of public relations own, insist on calling public relations firms “agencies.”  I don’t get it.

I have always told our staff that we’re a firm.  We’re not an agent of our clients but a counselor to them.  It got started with advertising agencies which are or were truly agents of their clients.  They bought advertising on their behalf, and paid for it, and sometimes got burned in doing so because the clients couldn’t pay them.  And they didn’t charge their clients for their time; instead they took a percentage of the advertising that they did on behalf of a client.  Some still do.

Public relations firm are not agents of their clients.  We charge fees and sometimes charge a percentage of the costs it takes to print a brochure or put on a special event.  But we’re a firm, and so are most groups of people who perform work for a client.

I can take on any arguments about firms vs. agencies.

by: Gwin Johnston | stored in: public relations

There has been talk in the public relations field about marketing and whether to call our trade marketing and public relations.  After checking definitions of marketing from the American Marketing Association and Wikipedia I feel strongly that I’m not sure.

In my mind marketing has always been about developing a product and selling it, but that’s not what these definitions infer.  Rather they indicate that public relations and marketing purposes are intertwined because public relations is about the bottom line and so is marketing.  Though the bottom line in public relations is broader than the bottom line in marketing.  Paul Holmes, who is a pundit in the public relations field, has always maintained that marketing and advertising are part of public relations.   He may be right.

Public relations has always taken the broader view that corporations must worry about their reputations from all aspects – whether it be about their products or services, about their shareholder value, their sales force – everything.  That’s what branding is about – it is all a corporation does and says.

My conclusion is that public relations rules. Do you disagree?

With the fall of MySpace a few years back, many analysts predicted that social media would just be a fad and would eventually disappear… boy, were they wrong! Social media is now one of the most effective forms of communications and has redefined many industries including public relations.

This is good news for those of us in the public relations world, because this means that there will always be a place for us. The more people have and use social media, the more public relations becomes a necessity.  And from this beast is born a new monster: the social media specialist.

The social media specialist is the person responsible for overseeing and managing the social media sites and creating brand awareness. But beware social media specialist: social media is an effective tool if used correctly, but equally so, social media can also be a deadly weapon against yourself if used incorrectly.  So here are my 5 rules to social media

1.    Don’t overuse social media: Nobody likes the guy who is spamming up your feed with random useless posts and tweets. The same can happen if too much is posted daily by your social media specialist. Don’t make too many posts at one time; separate your posts by at least 2 hours.

2.    Don’t underuse social media: You want to create brand awareness, and you’re not effectively doing that if you only make one post or tweet a day. My general rule of thumb is 2 to 4 posts pending on the content that you are posting or tweeting.

3.    Understand when to use social media: Studies show the most effective times to use social media is between 1:00 pm -4:00 pm in your respected time zones. These are the times when Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube get its heaviest traffic. Post or tweet your most important information at those times. Like everything in life, the earlier the better.

4.    Don’t just retweet or repost other people’s posts: I get it, sometimes posting up other people’s stuff is effective. But if done too often, it makes you look lazy. It’s a nice way of telling your social media audience: “hey, I’m too lazy to come up with any new ideas but check out their idea”. Be creative, who know…other people may start reposting and retweeting your stuff.

5.    Interact: Too often is social media in the professional world treated like a robot, only able to speak but not understand. Communicate with people. Notice the word “social” in social media. We’re all really good at communicating with our personal social media platforms, but we do a horrible job at it with our professional sites. Don’t sound like a robot, talk to the people.

Social media is still in its early age and were all still learning how to use it correctly. But follow these rules and you’re bound for an effective and successful social media campaign.

by: Gwin Johnston | stored in: social media

Social media has been called a lot of things:  unnecessary, fleeting, here to stay, influential.  Personally, I use it primarily for what it was intended – keeping up with friends and family.  Businesses generally don’t understand it and think it will deliver more than it can.

I often don’t recommend social media participation for business to business clients for a couple of reasons.

  1. What’s to guarantee that their customers are on social media?
  2. What does a “like” on Facebook mean to them?
  3. Is it the best way to get their message out?
  4. Is it consistent?

Some individuals might think I’m being negative when I ask these questions, but I don’t think social media is the be all and end all.

There is a place for social media among consumer product companies.  It encourages two-way communication among customers and can build consumer loyalty, but there has to be a strategy behind it.  Mostly, I’ve seen it used for consumer contests.  I know what the strategy is, but isn’t it just a different way of delivering a contest?

But then, I’m in public relations and we have to be intimately familiar with all types of communication.  To that end, we’ve hired Serr Her, a 2013 graduate in public relations to make JohnstonWells more visible in social media.  Serr and I will work together to develop a strategy and he will be responsible for maintaining our Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and Instagram reports.  He will make sure that we’re including social media in our recommendations to clients.

Serr is a traveler – having been in 43 of the 50 states and he’s a Colorado man.  He hikes, snowboards, fishes and hunts and is a big Bronco’s fan.  You have to be to live in Denver, don’t you?

Stay tuned!