Category Archives: PR – What Not To Do!

Vitaminwater’s exaggerated claims backfire: PR lessons learned

Yesterday I read an article in the Vancouver Sun about how Health Canada is questioning Vitaminwater’s  health claims.  Apparently the product is filled with sugar and uses misleading marketing messages in its advertising and packaging like “defence,” “multi-v,” and “restore” and “nutrition enhanced water beverage” that lead consumers to believe the product is a healthier beverage option than it actually is.

Critics say Vitaminwater is basically coloured sugar water with a few cents worth of synthetic vitamins that is marketed as a beneficial alternative to sugary soft drinks. (FYI: Sugar is indeed one of the main ingredients. A  591 ml bottle of vitaminwater has 32 grams of sugar, compared to 42 grams of sugar in a 355 ml can of Coke and 38 grams of sugar in Sprite.) Continue reading



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An insider reveals 7 secrets to PR success

I really enjoyed reading this post on why the media isn’t telling your company’s story.  Here, PROFIT editor Ian Portsmouth reveals seven keys to getting the coverage you crave.  Ian says it’s likely because your company, like the vast majority of businesses, doesn’t know how to get its story told. I concur.

Too often I work with clients that want me to pursue media profile when it is really just a thinly veiled attempt at advertising a product or service. No one wants to read a blatantly self-serving story filled with promotional marketing messages.  That’s what ads are for and you can buy ad space.

To secure a news story, the media pitch has to be newsworthy.  It must be timely, relevant, informative and interesting.  Ian uses the acronym TRII and it’s a formula that he uses to decide (in 10 to 15 seconds) whether or not a press release or media pitch is worth pursuing.  Relevance is key and often the one criterion that many companies and PR folks don’t nail.  By this Ian means that the story has to matter in some aspect of his reader’s life.

The real key is simple: his readers (and ultimately your target audiences) want to know, “what’s in it for me?” Tell them. If you don’t do that, no amount of pitching pizazz and dazzling marketing material matters.  Ian provides several good tips and I encourage you to read his post.

I would also add one more tip:  it’s important to be personable, meaning that you should talk like a real person, rather than blather on in corporate speak.  Who wants to sound like an institution?   You know what I’m talking about.  A press release that includes gobbledygook like, “ABC company, a leading provider of best-in-class widgets, launches a robust, end to end, customer-centric, mission critical software platform for the SMB market”.   Huh?    Maria Loscerbo

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Why media exclusives are a bad idea

Recently I worked on a client project where the executive I was working with wanted to grant an exclusive to the Globe and Mail. He thought it would be a good idea to give the G&M the scoop first to secure a story in a high-circulation national newspaper; the exclusive story would be timed to come out the same morning we issued the news release to the rest of the media across the country. His thinking was that it would compel other media outlets to follow suit with their own stories the next day, and that his company would benefit from this approach because it would receive more news momentum and media coverage.

Should you give exclusives to journalists? My advice on this has always been ‘no’. Exclusives are a risky business – they make one friend at the expense of making a lot of enemies. In the long run, they are a bad deal for your business and make no difference to the audience you’re trying to reach.

Journalists are competitive and they care about who gets information first. They will not be happy campers if they know that you gave the scoop to their competitor first. Continue reading

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7 Stupid Reasons to Hire a PR Agency

I read an article in that I wanted to share with you. Many of us PR folks had a good chuckle when we read this story and have been sharing it online with our fellow colleagues. Sadly it rings far  more true that many people realize!

For me, one of the advantages of working independently is that I have the freedom to work with people I like, and take on only projects that excite and interest me.  I’ve found more often than not that this formula works well and typically results in a successful, happy and symbiotic relationship agency-client relationship.

Occasionally I come across marketing managers and senior executives that want me to wave my magic wand and have them booked on Oprah in the first 30 days of working together. Fortunately I have the option of turning down projects (translation: kooky clients!)…and I do.

Here are 7 stupid reasons to hire a PR agency:

Maria Loscerbo

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PR lessons from Tiger Woods

I have been meaning to blog about the recent Tiger Woods and David Letterman affairs / sex scandals that made headline news recently.  By chance, today I read a guest column in the Globe & Mail written by a fellow PR industry colleague that concisely summed up my thoughts on the two incidents so I wanted to share it with you.  The brief analysis of the two gentlemen are excellent case study examples that compare and contrast what not to do and what TO DO when your personal or corporate reputation is at risk.  Rather than write a similar blog post, I’d like to direct you to her commentary here.

In the event this link dies in the near future (this often happens with newspaper websites), I have cut and pasted the story below for you.  One thing is for certain after the Tiger debacle, I no longer think golf is boring!

Small business lessons from Tiger Woods

Originally published on Thurs Jan. 14, 2010 8:26AM EST

Written by: Mia Wedgbury, president and co-founder of High Road Communications, headquartered in Toronto.

Have you had your fill of the Tiger Woods story yet? If not, you’re in luck. It continues to pop up in the news cycle even after all these weeks. Continue reading

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Stork Craft recalls 2 million baby cribs

Stork Craft, a Vancouver-area manufacturer of baby cribs, recalled more than 2 million drop-side cribs in North America earlier this week – the largest crib recall in history. The recall was issued because the drop-side of the cribs can become detached in one or more corners resulting in babies and toddlers getting pegged underneath.

Numerous accidents have been reported including four babies dying, 15 infants getting trapped, and 20 babies falling from the cribs with injuries ranging from bumps and bruises to concussions.

Health Canada’s website directed parents to the manufacturer’s website and toll-free number, while the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission information line issued a general voice recording of recall information with nothing substantive on the crib recall.

Stork Craft defended its manufacturing, saying its cribs have met or exceeded all Canadian and US standards and issued the following statement:
“In the majority of incidents, the cribs were being used with broken parts, parts with pieces missing, parts that were damaged or with modified or homemade parts…In some incidents, the crib was in a state of significant disrepair. In other cases, the consumer had installed the drop-side rail upside down — contrary to the instructions that are glued to the mattress base of each crib. This causes extraordinary stress on the plastic parts that could result in breakage.”

The company is offering replacement kits and brackets for crib that includes assembly instructions accompanied with a YouTube video.

This is not Stork Craft’s first safety and product recall so it surprises me that the company did a poor job handling the latest issue this week. The company made several PR blunders. Continue reading

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4 techniques to spice up your corporate photos

One way to increase your organization’s chances of getting news coverage is to offer your local newspaper a good photo that helps tell the story you are pitching. A well-taken photo tells a story with action, movement and emotion.  It grabs you. It makes you take notice.  It’s emotive.

Unfortunately, most organizations rely on dull, trite “grip and grin” shots. This is a photo that involves the subjects looking and grinning at the camera while shaking each others’ hands, holding a giant cheque or cutting a big ribbon.  The grip and grin is a classic, boring photo, typically of senior executives who are posing insincerely.  Here’s an example I found on Google.

1194985017383099756digital_camera_nicu_bucu_01.svg.hiWhile this kind of photo might be a shoe-in for your organization’s internal communications or corporate newsletter, it’s not ideal for your local newspaper. Most papers shy away from these bland, self-serving photos.

You don’t have to settle for dull!  If you plan on arranging a photo, why not spice it up a little?

Let’s use the example of a company donating funds to a local food bank or shelter. A bad photo might be a senior executive posing with a giant cheque. A good photo is that same senior executive at the shelter, wearing an apron and ladling soup to homeless people while talking to them.  See the difference?

To learn 4 techniques to better corporate photos, read these great tips I found on a fellow communicator’s blog.

P.S.  Don’t forget to tag your photos and post them on Flickr, Facebook and other social media sites. This will help to increase your Google ranking and you’ll be able to easily share your good deeds online with others.

– Maria LoScerbo

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