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!

by: Gwin Johnston | stored in: women

Today is Women’s Equality Day. What? You say? Why do we need a day for Women’s Equality. Shouldn’t that be every day?

I’ve been reading “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. In the book she says women are basically screwed because they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Have kids that is. I guess those of us who entered the professional life years ago were lucky. We HAD to work. There are still women today who have no choice in the matter, but if a woman is married and her husband has a good job, today they can contemplate having a job or having children.

Someone told me today, that if a man had the babies, abortion would not be a question. It would be accepted.

But we’ll have a Women’s Equality Day and then see what happens. Nothing.


I’ve had experience on both sides of this question, and I can say definitively, I don’t know.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.  In the public relations business telecommuting often doesn’t work for the very reasons Marissa Mayer, the new head of Yahoo, states.

Public relations is a very collaborative business.  Have you ever done a brainstorming session over the phone?  It doesn’t work because although people are connected by voice, there is a huge thing missing.  You’re not in a room together throwing spit wads or acting up or using body language.  We had a woman working for us who had a baby and then moved to San Diego.  We didn’t want her to leave, so we hired her on a telecommuting basis.  She was the exception to the rule.  She worked hard, hired a babysitter, showed great results and came into the office for a few days each month when she met with clients as well as her teams.  She was great, but she was an exception.

When most people work from home, though they’re connected by all sorts of technology, they fail to generate new ideas because no one is there to challenge them.  It’s a boon to mothers, but I don’t know if these mothers are free from their children enough to get much done.

Working at it makes it work.  Team and client meetings generate collaboration essential to our business.  Perhaps Mayer will make it work after she has more time in the job.


CareerCast, an online site for job seekers, says that public relations jobs are among the most stressful.  Why is that?

I have had my own public relations firm for 41 years and I know the reason we’re stressed.  Our bosses.

It isn’t that we have bad bosses, they just expect a lot and they don’t understand public relations.  Even if your boss has been in public relations or is in public relations s/he seems to forget that what they are asking you to do is nearly impossible.

And if, like me, your bosses are your clients, they don’t understand public relations, they don’t know what they’re asking and they don’t understand why you can’t deliver exactly what they want.  Plus the fact that they don’t communicate with you on a regular basis, but they expect you to know what you need to know to get the job done.  There are exceptions.

We pass our stress on to the workers below us.  A client yells at us, we yell at the team that services that client.  And we’re put in the uncomfortable and often no-win spot of telling the client s/he is wrong, is mistreating the team or resigning the business.  That is stressful.

I keep thinking that bosses will understand that what they’re asking A) doesn’t solve the problem, B) won’t work or C) can’t be accomplished.  That is endemic in corporation because the big boss doesn’t get public relations either.

How do we solve the problem?  Perhaps teaching public relations in business schools is a beginning, but that takes time.  Educating clients?  Easier said than done.  Oh well, maybe nothing can be done – we’ll just continue to be stressed.

by: Gwin Johnston | stored in: public relations

They’re all the rage in marketing, but I’ve never figured out how to use them.  I have an iPhone and have installed a QR reader but can’t be bothered to figure out how to use it.  If there is more information someone wants me to know, why don’t they just tell me?

Before my iPhone, I had a Blackberry.  No QR code readers worked on it, so advocates of QR codes are dismissing a lot of potential customers.

I’ve just been looking around for a QR code (where are they when you need them) and can’t find one to see if my iPhone scanner works.  Maybe these are for technologically skilled younger people, but 40 and over?  Forget it.

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by: Gwin Johnston | stored in: Crisis

What would you tell the executives of Freddie Mac to do if you were a consultant to them?

Now that they don’t have Newt Gingrich, they need help.

Here’s the story:  It’s being reported that the taxpayer-owned mortgage giant has placed large financial bets that pay off if homeowners stay trapped in expensive mortgages with interest rates well above current rates.  This runs against its charter which calls for the company to make home loans more accessible.

According to research we’ve done, the chief executive at Freddie Mac has not been available for interviews but he did post a blog on Jan. 31 to discuss the matter in which he said:

“Refinancing is Freddie Mac’s bread and butter in today’s marketplace. Mortgage refinances represented an estimated 78 percent of our single-family purchase volume in 2011 and 80 percent in 2009 and 2010. In the last three years, we refinanced about $930 billion in mortgages – helping nearly 4.3 million American families lower their payments or shorten their mortgage terms….”

The explanation goes on, but not once does Ed Haldeman, CEO of Freddie Mac ever acknowledge the ProPublica investigation or the media criticism his organization is getting.  Talk about ignoring a problem.

So the CEO probably isn’t listening to his public relations consultant or his public relations staff which is often the case when the CEO doesn’t address an obvious problem.  Maybe he’d listen to Newt.

Handling multiple crises at once is something we in public relations don’t talk about, because it rarely occurs. But it is occurring now with the Carnival Line and the wreck of the Costa Concordia. Here are the crises within the crisis:

  • Many passengers lost their lives and several are still missing.
  • There didn’t seem to be a set protocol for abandoning the ship.
  • The captain gathered his belongings and left the ship long before the 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members were safely off.
  • With a large amount of oil on board the ship, there is a great risk of an oil leak and subsequent environmental damage.
  • Costa Concordia did not make an announcement on social media until the day after the accident. Communication on social media from Carnival stopped following the disaster “out of respect for the passengers.”
  • The company announced reimbursement for the passengers and refund policies for future cruises. Then, released a slightly different statement on their company website, denying previous statements from a spokesperson.
  • It’s a visual story because the ship is right there. Passengers have been interviewed. YouTube is alive with video of the ship.
  • Be a resource for the media. Give social and traditional media additional images they can use. In this case, something other than the wrecked ship. Provide photos of search teams and environmental response teams removing oil.

The huge crisis, of course, is that the ship sank. Carnival’s reaction to this tragic accident has spiraled this crisis into a company downfall. What should a company do when they have several large crises within a huge crisis? Here are my recommendations for handling a multi-level crisis:

  1. Separate each crisis and determine who the best spokesperson is for each. The person who is right for environmental discussions is not necessarily the person who should be talking about search operations.
  2. Determine whether the crisis is severe enough to have the CEO as the senior spokesperson.
  3. Develop key messages to be used in specific situations and overall messages for the overall crisis. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
  4. Communicate regularly with the community through both social and traditional media.
  5. Build trust by disclosing any new information right away.
  6. Hold a daily briefing as long as necessary to avoid media speculation.
  7. Create a daily blog to update all who are involved and interested.
  8. Give social and traditional media additional images they can use. In this case, something other than the wrecked ship. Provide photos of search teams and environmental response teams removing oil.

JohnstonWells spotlight on real estate

We follow the latest news in your industry, so you don’t have to. On Tuesdays we shine the spotlight on the latest trends in the real estate industry.

Us Coloradoans consider ourselves lucky.  We have the beautiful Rocky Mountains serving as a backdrop to our landscape, 300 plus days a year of sunshine and now news that foreclosures are down 28 percent, while our state is expected to create more jobs than the rest of the nation, according to economic analysts the 2012 Business Economic Outlook from the University of Colorado at Boulder Leeds School of Business.

According to the State Division of Housing, foreclosures are down 28 percent, year-to-date in November.  The county with the largest decrease in foreclosures is Mesa (35 percent), while Denver foreclosure filings are down 32 percent.

Coupled with news that service providers in Colorado are expected to outpace other states in job creation, two of the biggest components of our state’s economy will addressed.  While we’re not out of the clear yet in this crummy economy, we’re clearly lucky.  At least luckier than most states.  Having the sunshine and mountains doesn’t hurt.

by: Gwin Johnston | stored in: Spotlight on Seniors

JohnstonWells Spotlight on seniors

We follow the latest news in your industry, so you don’t have to. On Thursdays we shine the spotlight on the latest trends in senior PR, social media and marketing.

Baked or broiled fish retain Omega 3 and can help prevent Alzheimer’s, so says a study presented at the annual meeting of The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). Frying is out.

It’s hard to believe, but eating fish that’s prepared correctly can help prevent the loss of gray matter in individuals who ate fish at least twice a week. Gray matter volume is crucial to brain health. When it remains higher, brain health is being maintained. Decreases in gray matter volume indicate that brain cells are shrinking. The results showed an increase in cognition among people who ate baked or broiled fish.

The study says nothing of raw or canned fish, but I’m guessing they qualify as well. If we can help fight Alzheimer’s with diet, we need to do it.  Many people are afraid of cooking fish because they don’t know how to do it.  Baking is easy and delicious.  Get with it.