- How has the business of public relations changed in the last 10 years?
- Anderson: One of the biggest changes in public relations is the method in which we do PR. Obviously, everything is digital now. When I started over a decade ago, I was always tied to my desk, on the phone, faxing pitch letters, and spending countless dollars making and mailing old fashioned press kits. Nowadays everyone emails, although I prefer the personal touch of a phone call to key media outlets. Building and maintaining personal relationships is more important than ever these days. PR agencies create PDF look books, catalogs, and press kits, and use services like YouSendIt or Dropbox to get press materials into the right hands. We are also sending our clients songs, photographs, videos, books, etc. via email. With this, everything is faster. Add a cell phone on top of it all, and PR never stops. And, I never sleep...
- Has the death of print been greatly exaggerated?
- Anderson: A decade ago, getting a client in a magazine and getting them legitimate print in long-lead magazines (Vogue, GQ, etc.) was the "be all and end all" for an actor, celebrity, public figure, etc. Although print is still highly coveted, with the volume of print publications diminishing, these hits are now few and far between. All of these magazines have an online version that gets more eyeballs and readers than their print editions.
I think one of the biggest things a publicist and the clients need to realize is not to discount the power and strength of online media. It has such a huge impact when it comes to ones rank in the Google chain, as well as word of mouth publicity appeal. And it hits a global audience faster than anything else these days.
- If you're a business (big or small), what's rule #1 of crisis management?
- Anderson: The number 1 rule of crisis management is to have a great relationship with the person or entity in crisis and to have even better media contacts!!! I believe a publicist must have completely open and honest communication in order to properly represent a client, so we know the true facts of any given crisis and can proceed with everyone in the situation from there. In my case, crisis management comes into play with the various actors and celebrities I represent, and the trouble or "breaking news" story surrounding them. Not only do we need to know exactly what is going on in any given situation, we must also have close relationships with key players in the media ... who feed off this crisis as news.
- Where has social media made the biggest impact on public relations?
- Anderson: With the advent of social media, PR has never been quicker or more responsive. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. have allowed an actor/celebrity, brand or product to take PR into their own hands, which can be both good and bad. There was a time when publicists could leave the office at 6PM and truly be done with the day, but that time has long since passed. As a publicist, we're on call 24/7. Press is instant and immediate and goes worldwide with the click of a button. Social media has taken the word "multitasking" to a whole new level. Our job has become a lot more demanding and we need to move faster and think quicker than ever.
- Is it even possible to get ahead of a story as a publicist these days?
- Anderson: I'd like to think it's always possible to get ahead of a story if you're on your game, genuinely care about your clients, and have a personal relationship with both your client and the press. Again, great, honest communication with everyone involved in a story that needs to be "curtailed" or "spun" is KEY.
- What do some Fortune 500 companies still need to learn about social media?
- Anderson: The main thing is that CEOs of Fortune 500 companies need to engage in social media if they want to grow their companies. This personal touch helps them build trust, loyalty, and brand awareness. Through the CEO, a huge company can provide an unparalleled mode of instant and real customer service. Questions can be answered instantaneously and the word travels faster than wildfire. Personal interactions through the CEO or company spokesperson can also help shape a company's PR reputation, brand and/or its product, as well as serving as a tool to monitor a company's product.
However, on the flip side, having a CEO or spokesperson speak on behalf of a larger entity can really backfire. There are lots of examples of outspoken CEO's, but the one that I think of off the top of my head is Kenneth Cole, who's always stood out in the public eye because of his great publicity and innovative advertising. But, with the uprising in Cairo not too long ago, Kenneth Cole sent a tweet saying "Millions are in uproar over #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is available online." Need I say more?
- What about when a company is talking directly to consumers, not through their CEOs?
- Anderson: As far as companies talking as entities and not through their CEO's, what I immediately think of are the airlines. For example, Southwest recently got some bad press about overweight passengers, and they went on their own Twitter and started responding personally to customers, which really helped diminish some of the bad press. On the other hand, American Airlines just doesn't do that ... they update their Facebook with generic, impersonal, matter-of-fact messages, and don't answer the tons of complaints they get. Southwest, on the other hand, knows that just answering a few disgruntled customers is a great way to hold your customer fan base. Again, Southwest has such a great Twitter presence because they have real people behind their social media and the personal touch shows.
- It's relatively easy to get someone press if it's merited. But how do you keep someone OUT of the press?
- Anderson: You hold your breath, bury your head in the sand and wait for the crisis to go away. No, just kidding!!!! Keeping someone out of the press can be a full-time job, especially since pictures on a cell phone, a video walking down a street, a single tweet or a post on Facebook, all constitute press in this day and age, and it can go viral within minutes of hitting the Internet. The best way to keep someone out of the press is to work in conjunction with them to strategically monitor their actions and behavior, but it's really a case-by-case basis.
- To tweet or not to tweet -- is that even still a question?
- Anderson: No ... unless you're Ashton Kutcher or your name is Amanda, then you need to hand over your Twitter account to professionals.
- What's the #1 faux pas people make when it comes to their social media accounts?
- Anderson: Tweeting while you're drunk!! LOL ... People are always making social media mistakes; it's tough to be perfect all the time, that's why public figures do need publicists. People tend to over share, get nasty and rag on others via social media. It's more compelling to be interesting and engaging. I could go on and on about this subject. We all know an inappropriate tweet when we see one.
- Finally, are we all in public relations?
- Anderson: I guess to a certain degree we are all in public relations, branding ourselves to our friends, family or anyone that listens, despite the size of the audience. There's just so much more to the real definition of "public relations" when it comes to publicity for a company, a celebrity, a brand, an expert, or an actor. Social media is just one of the latest essential tools in the toolbox filled with many other aspects of a well rounded PR campaign, such as: television appearances, award shows, events, magazine covers and feature stories, newspapers, radios, etc. Anderson Group Public Relations is a public relations and brand management firm representing talent in television, film, music, as well as fashion, corporate, sports, medical, non-profit, authors, lifestyle, events, product launches, and crisis management. Liza Anderson is the President and Founder of AGPR.
Q & A With Liza Anderson, Hollywood Publicist and PR Expert:
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