by MarkLives (@marklives) Every month we ask a handpicked selection of PR execs to each select ONE feature, news article or research report (accessible online) that they believe their peers would benefit from reading. Next up are Glen Bvuma, Samantha Watt, Larry Khumalo, Sam Swaine, and Franco D’Onofrio. Bond, connect, engage, involve, join — welcome to The Interlocker!

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Glen Bvuma’s pick

“Commentary: How Facebook’s Response Ignited the Cambridge Analytica Scandal”

Glen BvumaWhen it comes to the relationship between business and reputation, there’s no doubt that both are inevitably linked. Consider the listeriosis outbreak that made headlines in early February 2018, which was linked to Enterprise Foods. H&M and Heineken have also experienced serious reputation crises that hit social media. Facebook has been dealing with one of the biggest crises in its history after admitting that it had known since 2015 that Cambridge Analytica, a consulting firm that worked on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in the US, improperly accessed data on about 50m of its users.

Reputation can make or break a business today, more so in the age of rapid exchange of information on social media. There’s a simple reason that disclosure is the most-effective strategy in a crisis — the truth always emerges.

Key points to consider when dealing with a crisis:

  1. Speed and impact of a company’s communications response make all the difference
  2. Understand the severity of the problem and the stakeholders’ concerns (particularly the public), as well reassuring them that the crisis is under control.
  3. Companies need to understand that effective crisis communications response requires proper leadership, structure, and technology.

Indeed, your reputation is your brand.

— Glen Bvuma (@GlenBvuma) is a senior consultant at Burson Cohn & Wolfe (BCW)


Samantha Watt’s pick

“Trust: The PR Theme Of 2018”

Samantha Watt2018 has seriously picked up where 2017 left off, making business harder and our lives as PR professionals even tougher. In 27 years, I’ve pretty much seen it all but never before have the issues of trust been more profound. Locally, we’ve had our own major issues, ranging from political instability to some well-known, respected, listed entities experiencing major challenges. All of this has eroded what trust was left and has made for a much-trickier playing field.

In the Forbes piece, it’s made clear the far-reaching impact a lack of trust has had on a business. What was once all about shaping perceptions and educating people has moved to reputation management and relationship development. This asks much more from PR and also the client. Yet, somehow, the penny still hasn’t dropped.

  • Media relations are critical; they are probably your most important audience and not just a necessary evil. Treat them with the respect they deserve; communicate with them; be honest, be humble and be truthful. Connect, don’t convince.
  • Consistency is key. As with building any relationship, it takes time and effort. Commit to building solid, respectful relationships with key journalists. They’re not there to attack you but rather to report fairly and honestly. If you only communicate intermittently or hardly at all, they’re going to speculate and use the limited information they have to base their reports on.
  • Have integrity and do what you say you will. Words matter. Time is critical. The media aren’t not there to serve you, nor to tell your story as you want it told. If you build good media relationships, remain consistent and please ensure you have integrity when doing so. It’s the job of the press to investigate and report as they choose to. If you talk to them, tell the truth and quickly, offer supporting information and, if you say you’re going to do something, then please do! You have so much to lose with the media on the wrong side of your business.

— Samantha Watt (@wattisup) is founder and owner of GinjaNinjaP


Larry Khumalo’s pick

“Your PR Efforts May Be Hurting You”
Harvard Business Review

Larry KhumaloEvery year, some random marketing person steps in to lament the death of PR and offers up some (probably) well-meaning but, honestly, ill-thought idea of what they consider to be the new ‘it’ baby. I used to actively engage them to prove them wrong. I don’t anymore; I simply offer up one of my lecturers’ definition of PR — that it is its name — and her follow-up, that PR will die if media dies. Because one of the pillars of PR is in media engagement and, even as the media landscape continues to evolve, relationships between PR practitioners and media houses remain the holy grail of impactful PR practice.

What I love most about this piece from revenue growth consultant, Alex Goldfayn, is its simplicity. He emphasises an obvious truth that, due to our excitement with new shiny toys, we tend to forget or relegate to junior practitioners. His message is clear and echoes my lecturer’s mantra: PR will die if media dies. Could you imagine existing without the fourth estate?

— Larry Khumalo (@StatelyLarry) is head of Havas PR


Sam Swaine’s pick

“5 SEO Strategies to Immediately Focus On in 2018”

Sam SwaineTraditionally, relationships, connections and strategic messaging were the divide between campaign success and a PR flop; however, there’s a new player on the field — search engine optimisation (SEO). With this heavyweight digital discipline in the mix, PR is now tasked with creating sticky content to generate authentic, high-quality links while SEO uses PR to push the agenda of meaningful mentions.

According to this article, PR is critical to SEO. When you’re featured on influential sites that include your link, it increases your domain authority by sending a message to search engines where your website presence is vital.

The holy grail for agencies are links shared by high-profile influencers and publications; there isn’t much change in basic PR practice here but there’s a fair amount of digital ducking and diving involved. In interest of shedding light on the PR/SEO symbiosis, Google has reworked its algorithm to favour user experience (UX) and websites with compelling rich content, which boosts rankings.

The efficacy of a standout campaign now hinges on sharing PR and SEO editorial calendars for maximum impact, as you’ll need to sing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to identifying high-quality key words. Gone are the days when the onus was on digital departments to deploy cohesive SEO campaigns. As PR experts working in an online era, it’s now our responsibility to roll up our sleeves and get dirty in the engine room.

Sam Swaine (@samswaine) is an independent PR and digital strategist


Franco D’Onofrio’s pick

“3 ways PR pros can defend against consequences of fake news”

Franco D'OnofrioSomething that’s been bothering me to no end of late is the proliferation of fake news, old news, bad news (it has many guises) and how divisive and destructive this can be.

A study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) revealed that false news was 70% more likely to be retweeted than true stories and true stories were rarely shared by more than 1 000 people — yet fake news could be shared up to 100 times that figure! Humans love news that is sensationalised, attention grabbing and/or pulls at the heart strings, and fake news does just that. How do you beat that? Prevent the fallout from that? As PR practitioners. we need to be aware of this.

An action plan against fake news should be part of any good comms strategy, and this particular article neatly unpacks what steps should be followed to be prepared. Any agency that has clients which could be affected by fake news (that’s pretty much everyone) should take heed.

— Franco D’Onofrio (@frankietwigs) is a founding partner at Twiga Communications


MarkLives logoLaunched in 2018, The Interlocker is a monthly newsletter (available as a regular column on MarkLives, too) in which we ask a handpicked selection of PR execs to each select ONE feature, news article or research report (accessible online) that they believe would benefit their peers to read and why. Sign up here!

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