Why More PR Efforts Should be Coordinated Around Veterans Day

Why More PR Efforts Should be Coordinated Around Veterans Day

My PR team is always looking for opportunities to draw some media attention to our clients for doing something positive.  As part of this effort, we often coordinate media efforts around various holidays and shared cultural events. Out of all the dates on the calendar, I never expected Veterans Day to become my favorite. Both because of what it represents, and the media opportunities it has provided our clients.

Veterans Day has long been one of those specialty holidays recognized mostly by those who have a personal connection to the military.  It’s not part of a three-day weekend, and people often mix it up with Memorial Day which honors the fallen vs Veterans Day which recognizes the living who have served.

My team took Veterans Day efforts to an entirely new gear this year, and I want to share what we did. Not to brag, but in hopes of sparking your imagination or participation for Veterans Day next year.

The Veterans Day Giveaway Idea

We have several HVAC and plumbing clients. One of those companies was founded by a Veteran after WWII, and the company is now lead by his granddaughter (3rd generation).  Five years ago, we launched a now annual Veterans AC Giveaway Contest where the public could nominate a Veteran or their family member in need of a new AC unit or furnace. After verifying nominations and choosing finalists, the public was given the opportunity to vote for the recipient, with the prize awarded on (or around) Veterans Day.

That single contest has expanded.  In 2020 we held the contest in five different cities spanning the U.S. from Miami, Florida to Spokane, Washington. Yes, the contest is a nice thing to do and it’s generated publicity and stories in each City we’ve done it. But it’s much more than a contest.

Our goal is to share personal stories of local Veterans and active duty members that most people never hear about. These are the men and women who left their homes, their families, and their friends to dutifully serve our country across the nation and around the world. Their stories are incredible. Like an Arizona man who joined the Army after the attack on 9/11 to protect our nation and came back with a life-changing injury from a rocket propelled grenade. Or the Florida man who joined the Navy at age 17 and got to take a newly commissioned ship through the Panama Canal. Or the woman who was the first female in her family to join, and now copes with the debilitating effects of PTSD.

In our eyes, they are all heroes. They all deserve notoriety.  So we share their stories using videos, blogs, social media, and often the news media will help us reach a wider audience. These stories have helped old friends reconnect providing them with a sense of hope and some comfort during an increasingly stressful time.

It amazes me how grateful these Veterans are to be recognized. I am also impressed by their shared bond. They understand what it’s like to be too far from home, and why it’s so hard to talk about what they experienced. We are saddened by how many suffer from mental trauma and inspired by how many of them volunteer to help other Veterans heal.

The other major effort we launched was the #VetDayPledge.

The idea started in 2018, when one of our large construction related clients was looking for ways to recognize their employees that were Veterans. We suggested that the company gather employees on Veterans Day a job site or in their warehouse and simply invite all the Veterans to the front of the group to lead their co-workers in the Pledge of Allegiance.  We used smartphone video to then share it with media and post it on social media.  The response from employees who participated was so positive that the construction company expanded it to multiple cities and job sites the following year.

This year, with permission from the client we decided to expand the idea to include any company willing to participate.  Our only request was that anyone who participated include the hashtag #VetDayPledge to unify the message and make it easier for others to see and hopefully participate on their own. In addition to sharing the idea with other companies (clients and non-clients), we invited other PR firms to share the idea and created a website www.VetDayPledge.com with free resources and tips for companies to do it on their own.

I’m so proud that during this campaign’s first year going national and mainstream that we had participants from 10 states!  While some videos came from our clients, the majority of the participants were not!  In addition to several businesses, an elementary school participated, as did a senior living community!

A Wisconsin TV station even did a news story about one of the participants. You can watch the story by clicking here!

We’re excited to grow the #VetDayPledge further next year and believe that without the election (and COVID) related distractions, even more businesses and organizations will participate.  This idea has become a passion project.  We love that it’s a simple, no cost idea that anyone can do to thank our Veterans and their families.

Ultimately, the most important thing for companies to remember when doing a PR campaign around Veterans Day or Memorial Day is to do it for the right reason. We believe that the VetDayPledge and the Veteran AC Giveaway Contest fit that purpose.  Sure, it might generate some positive publicity for our clients, but most importantly, it generates recognition for those who’ve served and sacrificed- the individual veteran, and their families alongside them.

There are lots of great ideas that companies are doing to recognize Veterans. Share them below and help us inspire others!

Video Series: Public Relations Tips To Get Through COVID-19

As the novel coronavirus has spread across the globe, business as we have known it has been upended. While we work together to stop the spread of COVID-19, there are things companies can be doing to position themselves to withstand the pandemic, help the community, and ultimately come out of this crisis stronger.

Public relations can play a role in delivering on these goals. 10 to 1 President Josh Weiss has created a video series of brief videos to give you ideas on how you can best position your company utilizing basic public relations and crisis communications tactics.

You can check out our video series below or on our YouTube page.


PR & COVID-19: Share Your Expertise

https://youtube.com/watch?v=4rCj5Sf89oY%3Ffeature%3Doembed

PR & COVID-19: Find Opportunity for Every Story

https://youtube.com/watch?v=atS6Rv0KRDs%3Ffeature%3Doembed

PR & COVID-19: Walk Through Your Warehouse

https://youtube.com/watch?v=emdFN9dWdA0%3Ffeature%3Doembed

PR & COVID-19: Pivoting The Right Way

https://youtube.com/watch?v=pnpAuAJ82Dg%3Ffeature%3Doembed

PR & COVID-19: Follow The Leader

https://youtube.com/watch?v=3eroAMKpMNM%3Ffeature%3Doembed

PR & COVID-19: Be Honest With Your Customers

https://youtube.com/watch?v=E0drKp1XgoM%3Ffeature%3Doembed

More videos will be added on a regular basis – stay tuned!

The First 24 Hours of a Crisis: Offer Questions, NOT Answers

Boom.  Out of nowhere, a crisis hits your company or community. As the leader, everyone’s turning to you.  In part to see how you react, but mostly for instruction confirming how they’re supposed to respond. 

Everyone’s turning to you for answers- but that’s the last thing you should be doing during the first 24 hours of a crisis.  Your job the first 24 hours is to ask questions, and to avoid giving answers.

The first questions you ask should be directed to your employees.  What do they need to deal with the immediate problem? How can you help get them the help they need, quickly? These questions not only demonstrate your support to your team but instructs them to take action.

The next set of questions are to gather information.  How many people were initially, directly affected by the crisis issue?  Follow that with questions about how to prevent new victims from being negatively affected by the same crisis in the coming hours.

These questions upfront are necessary to gather the information you need to make strategic decisions and ultimately later, proclamations for the future.

Even when talking to reporters, customers or the public, you should still focus on asking questions during the first 24 hours, not giving answers.

During the first 24 hours avoid making declarative statements or accusations against others that commit you or your company to certain actions. Avoid giving definitive answers or suggesting long-term solutions that could be considered controversial as your statement will come across as opportunistic instead of as a genuine solution.

The only initial statements you should make are holding statements (see our earlier blog entitled Part 1 of what to do in a PR crisis). Otherwise, you essentially should be rephrasing and sharing the questions you asked your staff and the answers you were given.  Basically you’re going to say that your team is still investigating details of the incident to make sure it never happens again, but your immediate priority is to better understand the full impact to those effected and how best, and most quickly to help them.

It’s only on day two, after more facts are known and cooler heads prevail, that you can start delivering answers and rallying support for specific actions. 

If there’s a general uproar over the crisis, you can also ask rhetorical questions.  For example, if the crisis is a criminal act made against your company, ask aloud who would do such a heinous thing effecting so many. Share in the public outcry and frustration, but be careful in pointing blame outwards if you suspect a member of your team might be involved.

As the leader, your job when a crisis hits is to ask questions and support your teams in resolving the immediate threat.  After the immediate pressure of the crisis subsides, your job refocuses into identifying what caused the problem and initiating a long-term fix to avoid a repeat of the crisis and regain the confidence of your customers and the public.

A fantastic example and story of how to deploy the 24 hours of questions before providing answers strategy can be heard in a podcast called Without Fail where in an episode featuring Dayton, Ohio Mayor Nan Whaley talks about the immediate aftermath of the mass shooting outside a Dayton entertainment area called the Oregon District. Here’s a link to the episode https://gimletmedia.com/shows/without-fail/v4h8ow including a transcript of the discussion.

Why PR Campaigns Should Be Run Like Political Election Campaigns

A lot of people are rejoicing that the elections have ended.  Their elation isn’t necessarily about who won, but simply that they’re thrilled that the campaign ads are finally over!  For me, campaign season never ends, because I believe that the best public relations campaigns should be run like a political campaign- and that’s how we set our strategies for our clients. Let me explain.

Some of you may know that in the late 90s I used to work in politics— hardcore Illinois “machine” politics at that– before moving to Arizona and formally starting my career in public relations.   Working on multiple campaigns across the State, I learned several lessons which I still use today.

Plan backwards. What does a politician want when they start running for office? To win!  In order to do that, the candidate needs 50 percent of the votes plus 1 on election day.  Not today, but on election day.  So if election day is 15 months from now, circle election day on the calendar and start planning backwards to reach your goal.  For example, if the vote were held today and you were only at 35% and the vote was 15 months away, if you increase your percentage 1% each month you’ll be at 50% on election day.

When we first engage with a client, we want to know their end goal, and when they want to achieve that goal. We then plan backwards to get them there on time. It won’t happen the first month, but if we do our job right, we’ll get closer to their end goal every month and ultimately achieve our client’s desired result.

Make your negative your positive. Every candidate has a flaw that will be attacked or something which might turn off some voters.  The best politicians can acknowledge the negative and the best campaign managers will prepare a response to an attack in advance and will even work to turn that perceived negative in to a positive.   We view our role as a PR pro as the company’s campaign manager- identifying flaws and dealing with them head-on before they become fatal.  Sharing with media and the public how a flaw was fixed is often a great way to build confidence, gain support and grow a company.

Know what you want people to remember before you start talking. A good politician walks in to any speech knowing what they want to tell their audience before they say a single word.  A company needs to know what take-away they want their customers, prospects and employees to remember and feel before any action they take.  The public relations strategy and wording used needs to mirror the intended take-away.

Be consistent. It’s hard to trust a flip-flopper, so repeat the same message as often as possible.  Only then will people hear it and remember it.

Own it. In the rare cases where you must do a flip-flop, own it.  Explain why the change was the right thing to do.  People are more than willing to forgive a mistake, but only if you own it and don’t hide it.

There’s a lot more I learned working in politics which I credit to how we create strong, effective PR campaigns for our clients.  But, for the rest of this month, let’s all take a deep breath and just enjoy the end of the non-stop political attack ads.  Please?!?!?

Written by Josh Weiss, President, 10 to 1 Public Relations, josh@10to1pr.com

Are Reporters a Pain in the Ass?

This recent exchange between a reporter and Senator Lindsey Graham applies to business too, not just politics.

Reporter: Do you believe the news media is the enemy of the people?

Sen. Lindsey Graham: “No, I think the press in America is a check and balance on power. … Sometimes you can be a pain in the ass, but you’re not the enemy of the people.”

I often am asked by clients if they can have a reporter’s questions in advance or if they can review a story before it runs.  I do understand this from their perspective. They want their story told in a certain way and want to look as good as possible.

But reporters aren’t writing advertisements for your company.  If you want an ad, go pay for it.

Reporters are supposed to give their readers information that they believe is timely and important for them to know. It’s not their job to care if you like the final story or not.  Their job is facts and accuracy, and making sure the reader sees value in what they learned from the story.

The truth is, not every story is worth telling. I hate being a buzz kill, but pretty often I have to pop a client’s balloon and tell them their story idea won’t get the coverage they desire.  Yes, a good PR strategy can put “lipstick on the pig” to make an otherwise tired story more interesting, timely and worthy of a reporter’s consideration. We do that all the time with excellent results- but that’s a different blog for a different time.

The point is, reporters are the main gatekeeper to what’s ultimately a story and what’s not. Respect that and use it to your advantage, don’t fight it, because you’ll lose.

And yes, I can agree, sometimes reporters ARE as Lindsey Graham put it, a pain in the ass. Why?  Because it’s their job to dig in and find the real story, to share new information that hasn’t already been told that they can give to their readers.  After all, it’s called NEWS not OLDS.

  • If your business wants a story about a major purchase or contract win, the first thing the reporter is going to ask is for detailed numbers. It’s a legitimate, important detail of their story.  Don’t be surprised if they push you for an answer.
  • If you make a claim in an announcement that something is new, you better be able to easily explain how it really is new and not the same story you tried to share six months earlier.
  • If you want coverage on your company doing a food drive or participating in a 5k during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Figure out what makes your effort unique and different from all the other companies doing similar things. Why should a reporter choose you for the story over someone else, or even worse, why should they do the story at all when it’s already been told several times?

The reporter isn’t being an pain for asking hard questions or questions you don’t want to answer.  They’re doing their job. If you want good stories, give good answers. When we are pitching stories, we always look for a unique visual way to describe the story. We offer stats and details. We give them different story angles to choose from.  The easier you make it for them (and us) to tell the story you want—the full story—the more likely you’ll get the story you want.

The vast majority of reporters are good, honest reporters.  They genuinely try to tell the story minus any personal or political bias. When you read a normal news story, you don’t read it thinking about who wrote it or that their personal opinion was included in the story.

That’s not to say that a reporter’s past personal experiences or implicit bias doesn’t influence what they write, but there’s a big difference of a reporter trying to be anonymous and simply provide facts within a story and a Columnist or reviewer writing in the first person whose job it is to try and “be” the story or create conversation and disagreement.

Let me leave one last thought. Sometimes, even when you get the story, you might find it’s not as robust or glowing as we expected.  The story might leave out information we consider important, but the reporter didn’t include. Complaining doesn’t help.  At worse, it could even result in the client becoming the pain in the butt not the reporter (at least in the eyes of a PR firm!!).

The truth is, we just need to accept it and be happy we got the story at all.  I still rather get an okay story than no story for a client.  Every collected drip of coverage combines to create a pool of long-term goodwill (if you’re unfamiliar with this concept, watch the video at www.10to1pr.com).

by Josh Weiss