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Pipeline public relations

February 29, 2016

pipeline-stockWhen it comes to the energy industry, government task forces make predictable recommendations – environmental mitigation, land use, noise pollution, workforce development and more.

So, we took note last month when Pennsylvania’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force offered a unique, but essential recommendation:  better public relations. You can read their full report here. Below is an excerpt:

“Public participation is a critical component for pipeline project design, construction and operation. Pennsylvania believes that early and continuous involvement of all stakeholders can help develop better overall pipeline project solutions.” – Pennsylvania Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force

The shale revolution has unleashed an historic industry demand for better pipeline infrastructure across the United States.  In response, citizens in small towns across America are organizing in opposition to new pipelines in their communities. Not surprisingly, media has taken note.

Proactive communication is often the Achilles Heel of large scale industrial projects, including pipeline projects. Failure to engage the press and the public in a proactive way leaves companies scrambling to undo the damage when public perception turns against them.

Having worked with clients in the energy sector, we abide by a few key principles:

  1. “No comment” doesn’t cut it. The press does not need your blessing to write about you. Decline comment at your own peril.  If they have a good story about how your project impacts their readers, they will publish it.  Your job is to get to the press first and try to frame their coverage in a way that accentuates your project’s benefits for their community.
  2. Know your audience.  Understand who you most need to influence, be it policymakers, civic leaders, media or all of the above. Take the time to understand their concerns and tailor your message to alleviate those concerns.
  3. Be a good neighbor. There is no substitute for the “good neighbor” approach.  Treat impacted communities as you would your own neighbor: with respect, empathy and recognition of the need for a cordial, longterm relationship.







How political campaigns use Facebook

July 22, 2014
U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS)

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS)

It’s no secret that Facebook can help win elections and public affairs campaigns, but a lot of commentary on the subject is heavy on hype and light on specific examples.

That’s what makes this National Journal article such a useful read. Reporter Jerry Hagstrom outlines how supporters of U.S. Senator Thad Cochran used Facebook to help their candidate win a June primary that many prognosticators were convinced he would lose.

Here are two lessons communications pros can take from the article:

First, you need a coalition. The article isn’t about how the Cochran campaign used Facebook. It’s about how they deployed supporters to use Facebook, farmers in particular. It’s a huge difference. Decades of research shows that consumers are far more likely to trust friends and family than they are advertisers or politicians.  By galvanizing the local farming community – as well as its national trade association – to connect on Facebook, the Cochran campaign ensured that farmers were persuading farmers instead of candidates and campaign staff.

Second, it’s still about the message. Communicating anywhere – Facebook, a town hall, a company press release – without a predetermined message is wasted opportunity.  The Cochran campaign wisely matched message to audience by focusing farmers on the federal farm bill, ag subsidies, and the evasive comments made by Cochran’s opponent on agriculture policy.  The lesson: don’t ruminate. Take the time to understand what motivates your audience and match your message accordingly.

Be your own newsroom

July 17, 2014

A new study from USC Annenberg reinforces a new reality facing companies trying to build public awareness in a fragmenting media environment: Media outreach alone is no longer a sustainable communications strategy.  Companies now must become their own news agency.  Here’s an excerpt:

The popularity of creating spreadable content, especially video, reinforces the belief that organizations are now their own media channels. With an increase over the last two years from an average of 4.33 to 5.11 (on a 1-7 scale), the use of Twitter as a corporate communication platform has grown dramatically. In contrast, the use of Facebook over the same period has remained flat. Emerging tools and techniques that may bear watching include editorial websites (4.09); multimedia content for mobile devices (3.72); Instagram (2.37); Crowd sourcing (2.19); Pinterest (2.01); and Vine (1.87).

The point is this: traditional news outlets continue to lose audience share. Newsrooms are increasingly overworked, underpaid, and low on morale as media company revenues decline and employee buy-outs ramp up.

To strengthen their voice, companies must create content in-house that is compelling and relevant to their audience.  Next, they must develop a concrete plan to market this content in creative, consistent ways to achieve audience awareness. Lastly, this new content strategy must mesh with a company’s traditional media relations/advertising program.  Traditional media’s audience may be shrinking, but it’s still a substantial audience and should not be discarded entirely.

It’s a tough balance, but the manner which audiences consume content is evolving. Any company determined to stay in front of their most important audience has got to evolve with it.

Morning embers: General Motors crisis communication, Warren Buffett, and email marketing

March 19, 2014

1) How General Motors can steer through this ignition switch recall (Ad Age) — One of the first rules of reputation management is to be proactive, not reactive. In this Ad Age article, reputation experts say GM’s response seems to have been a day late and a dollar short since the first field reports started trickling in about the faulty ignition switches that have been linked to at least 12 deaths.

2) Three communication lessons from Warren Buffett’s annual letters ( — Warren Buffett’s letters to stockholders offer important executive-communication lessons for leaders of public and private firms alike.These three rules are pertinent not only to CEOs of publicly traded firms, but to all executives tasked with stakeholder communication. Which is all of us all of the time, isn’t it?

3) How to use social media to build your organization’s email marketing list (e.politics) — Three quarters of adults are connected to one or more social media platforms. Yet with all social media websites the flow of new content is so steady that your information may be quickly washed away. This is why it is critical to use social media to capture more email addresses so you can better control the flow of communication to your supporters and customers. 

4) Seven traits of an effective marketing leader ( — Whether you work for a small business or a Fortune 500 enterprise, marketing is a critical part of the business. How you organize your marketing team and your work says a lot about whether or not your team will succeed. The most effective marketing leaders tend to have these seven traits in common.

Not your father’s newspaper: How the press hunts for revenue in the 21st century

August 2, 2013

We’ve written several times about the tough economic straits facing today’s media organizations. Revenue is dwindling and newsrooms are shrinking, meaning the content your favorite newspaper or TV station produces simply isn’t what it use to be.

It’s an adapt-or-die world, and several media companies are quickly building new, revenue-generating models. For PR and marketing professionals, that means adapting with the media organizations that best connect your clients with their desired audiences.  If they’re offering new channels to your clients, it’s your responsibility to learn more about them. Here are a few of the most intriguing models:

Fortune – The Fortune news brand is quickly merging its editorial division with its advertising division to create content for advertisers at a price. Think of it this way: imagine if your local newspaper approached you and offered to write blog posts for your company for a fee. Not exactly common, is it? Media organizations have long prided themselves on editorial objectivity that, in theory, was immune from the influence of its advertisers. Fortune is blurring those lines by essentially licensing its brand out to clients willing to pay to place Fortune-branded content on their own sites.

The Washington Post – Fresh of major revenue losses, The Washington Post is now letting advertisers write content and place it across The Washington Post’s website. This model was unthinkable just 15 years ago. Again, media organizations prided themselves on having a clear separation between independent news coverage and advertisements from clients. Today, the line between independent news and sponsored news is getting smaller as The Post’s advertisers start generating their own news for a price.  Click here to see how the Wireless Association is using the new model.

Politico – Politico is the “It Girl” for political junkies following Washington’s ebb and flow on a minute-to-minute basis. Part of what makes Politico successful is its use of event management as a revenue stream. Rather than go follow the newsmakers around, Politico actually hosts the newsmakers at Politico forums and charges a fee for attendance in addition to healthy event sponsorship rates. The result: Washington’s top policy and political pros make news under the Politico banner while the news organization counts its sponsorship and ticket revenues. Under this model, the act of journalism is only a small part of Politico’s work.

Your father’s newspaper is rapidly transforming.  As PR and marketing professionals, our job is to find out which media organizations are adapting to this new landscape and to consider all PR and marketing options – even the ones that were unthinkable a generation ago – in order to advance our client’s message.

Morning embers: Men’s Wearhouse, general counsel and getting hyperlocal press

June 21, 2013

1.)  When a founder is the face of a brand (New York Times) — Companies can fire a founder.  But they can’t fire his brand. That’s the dilemma Men’s Wearhouse is left with after dumping its founder and spokesman, George Zimmer.  Mr. Zimmer had starred in the suit retailer’s commercials for almost 30 years, guaranteeing men that “you’re going to like the way you look.”

2) Getting press: 8 tips for getting hyperlocal press ( — National advertising campaigns might sound amazing in theory, but an entrepreneur’s secret marketing weapon could be waiting right outside the front door.

3) 5 things advocacy organizations can learn from small business (K Street Cafe) — In honor of small business week, the authors of K Street Cafe turned the usual “tips for small businesses” post on its head and instead offered what advocacy groups can learn about grassroots and advocacy from small businesses.

4) General counsel’s evolving role in the digital age (Forbes) — Richard Levick writes that Digital Age has provided GCs with tools that, if effectively leveraged, take crisis preparedness and risk management to new and unprecedented levels.

Morning embers: The Raiders, word-of-mouth marketing and CEO reputations

June 6, 2013

1) Word of mouth marketing: control is futile (Church of the Customer) — With the help of a hilarious cartoon, Jack Huba explores what happens when organizations try too hard to control what online communities say about their brand.

2) Oakland Raiders fire PR Director, inviting new PR disaster (PR Daily) — As a result of some unwanted attention from an April Sports Illustrated article, the Oakland Raiders fired their PR Director. Now the team’s leadership is getting even more unwanted attention.

3) Why B2B marketers still don’t get social media (Fast Company) — A recent CMO Survey reported that while B2B social media spending increased 9.6% last year, the majority of B2B companies failed to integrate social media into their business practices. Fast Company offers seven ideas to break down the silos. 

4) CEO sociability enhances reputation (ReputationXchange) — A new survey reveals that three-quarters of global executives believe it is a good idea for CEOs to actively participate in social media.