Posts Tagged ‘reputation management’

Branding and Marketing Lessons From Car Sales Trailblazer Laura Toyota

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014
PR Marketing Laura Toyota Brand Reputation Management Ellis Friedman BurrellesLuce Media Monitoring Media Relations

flickr user Mike Mozart under CC BY license

A 25-year-old car saleswoman in Bozeman, Montana, has caused a bit of a marketing disruption at Ressler Motors, the Toyota dealership where she works. As Ad Age reports, Laura Madison won’t take walk-in customers, she won’t help remove snow from the cars on the lot, and she gives out her personal number, not the dealership’s.

She has her own site,, which she pays to host, and her personal car is wrapped to advertise that site. (The cost? $3,000, which she paid out of her own pocket.) Her strategy is working big time. While not every marketing and public relations professional has the freedom or the ability to do what Madison does, and her model would not work in every circumstance, there are a number of valuable marketing and public relations takeaways to give your efforts a big boost and greater return.

Forge real relationships

Ad Age reports that Madison sends regular (paper) notes to her customers for their car’s “birthday” or for the holidays. Old-school snail mailed cards carry a lot more personal connection than personalized emails, and since they’re a fast-vanishing, time-intensive tradition, are more meaningful.

Your customers get emails every day. But how often do they get addressed cards in the mail? Investing the time and funds into connecting with people in more personal ways can keep your relationship with customers fresh and positive for a much longer time than a monthly email.

Build your model on referrals

Madison builds her marketing model on referrals and direct content, a savvy strategy given that most Millennials seek out opinions and reviews from their personal networks before making a purchase decision. While there’s no demographic breakdown on her sales, it’s probably safe to say that she sells to people in other generations, not just Millennials.

Word of mouth marketing and referrals have always been vital for the best salespeople, a tactic that marketing and public relations pros shouldn’t ignore. Making it easier for clients and prospects to seek you out based on recommendations from friends will pay off. Consider implementing monthly seminars hosted by a company rep and promote the rep’s bio and expertise more than your brand. Or consider monthly articles from reps accompanied by their bios or getting reps engaged in social media; there are plenty of ways to market the people, not just the brand.

Be a trailblazer

The “we’ve always done things this way” mindset is an easy rut to stay in, but usually doesn’t have a great payoff. Instead of trying to put Madison back in the corporate box, her boss, Jeff Kayser, has encouraged her methods and helped her start educating sales staff to integrate her approach into the dealership’s overall strategy.

Being open to new strategies and ideas is important for any business, not only to harness new talent, but also to keep said talent at your organization.

Be transparent

Car buying is a notoriously opaque and frustrating ordeal, but Madison’s up-front, approachable strategy makes the process easier, which in turn makes more people want to buy from her. On her blog she has an abundance of car-buying advice, including questions to ask your car salesperson and the answers you should expect, an informative blog, information about how she sells, and information specific to hybrids.

This not only positions her as an expert, but also as a resource. Putting good information out in the open helps lessen potential frustration and confusion for buyers and puts her on their side.

Institute a results-based commission

On her site, Madison notes that the dealership doesn’t pay her or other sales reps based on the traditional commission structure, but rather on a pay plan based on volume and customer satisfaction. That in turn makes sales reps more responsive to customer needs, not upselling.

While a revamp – or abolishment – of commission structures isn’t something every organization can or is willing to do in full, it’s something worth considering if it could improve the process for both sales reps and customers.

Demonstrate trustworthiness

Madison’s personal marketing strategy has another benefit – it makes her accountable to her customers. They know exactly where to find her should they have a question or a problem. Most customers find accountability and trustworthiness appealing, and having that sense of security can only be beneficial to business overall.

Kayser reports that since Madison’s arrival at the dealership three years ago, the dealership’s monthly sales have increased from an average of 213 cars to 330 cars. There’s no information to indicate whether this is due solely to Madison’s efforts, or due to increased dealership advertising. Madison’s personal monthly sales almost nearly doubled over three years, from 12 to 20 cars, but it’s hard to measure whether that’s due to the dealership’s overall improvement in reputation and awareness, her natural learning progression, her reputation management acumen, or all of the above. But either way, there are plenty of branding, reputation management, and marketing takeaways from Madison’s drive and skill.

14 Tips for Building Your Social Media Crisis Communications Plan

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
photo courtesy PRNews

photo courtesy PRNews

How long would it take you to get your CEO on the phone at 4pm on a Friday or during a holiday? That was one of the questions Dallas Lawrence (@dallaslawrence) posed during his session, “Crisis and Reputation Management in the Social Age” at the PRNews Media Relations Next Practices Conference last week in Washington, D.C.

One key takeaway from Lawrence included this quote: “From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg, good PR efforts have not changed. We are just so tied up in the new platforms that are out there, we forget the basic media relations practices.”

No matter how good your communication department is, it matters how you handle situations as they arise. You could do nothing wrong in today’s social environment and still have a crisis develop; you must be ready for that.

One example that Lawrence mentioned was when someone hacked the AP Twitter account to say there had been a bombing at the White House. Within seconds of that Tweet, the stock market declined for almost 30 minutes until people realized it wasn’t true.  When a crisis such as this occurs, Lawrence suggests looking at three roles social and digital media play during a crisis.

First, social media is an instigator. Were there not a social platform that allows us to send out our every thought, or record every stupid thing that happens, the crisis wouldn’t have occurred.

The next role is that of accelerant. A similar crisis may have happened 20 years ago, but it would not have metastasized so quickly without social media. So Lawrence stresses we must be prepared to act immediately instead of waiting and seeing.

The third and most important role social media plays is extinguisher. We can use social media effectively before, during, and after a crisis to mitigate the damage, and in some cases actually eliminate the crisis.

Social media continues to evolve and grow. There are more than 500 million users on Twitter, more than one billion users on Facebook, and four billion videos viewed on YouTube per day. Everyone knows a social media presence is necessary, so everyone is bombarded with content, and just because you posted a video or press release on Twitter or Facebook doesn’t mean that anyone cares or that anyone sees it.  Your message must be spot on.

Lawrence stated that 79 percent of companies believe they are only 12 months from a crisis, and 50 percent of those companies believe it will happen in the digital space. The biggest issue facing companies today is the inability to respond effectively to new media (including social media). And yet, only a third of businesses have a digital crisis plan.

If you need to develop a digital crisis plan from scratch, or if you just want to refine your existing plan, here are 14 lessons from Lawrence on how to handle that social media crisis.

1. Once a crisis breaks out on social media, identify your influencers, as they are most likely to impact the conversation. All people in social and digital are not the same, so make sure you know which people have the ability to shape decisions about your company.

2. Actively monitor your reputation and the activities of your protagonist(s) or advocate(s).

3. Avoid the information vacuum. Information spreads as soon as it’s available, regardless of its veracity. You can’t have a press conference every other hour; you have to release news in real time.

4. Develop a clear, effective and platform-appropriate message. Be where your crisis is happening. Craft an appropriate message for the platform on which you respond. If something is happening on Twitter, respond via Twitter first before sending out a press release.

5. Own your brand in social media before someone else does. People are actively stalking and brand jacking.  You should know not only your corporate entity’s brand, but all of your subsidiary brands.

6. A majority of journalists use Twitter for sources. Journalists are getting their news from Twitter in real-time before verifying the source of the story.

7. Make sure to include people, not logos, on your social media accounts. No one wants to engage with a logo, especially in a crisis. We want to talk and hear from someone.

8. Integration is key. It is critical to integrate your crisis communication plan across all channels.

9. Know what you are talking about. Once you lose the credibility it is really tough to get it back.

10. When you blow it, own up to it quickly.

11. When all else fails, don’t forget humor. When you have really gotten in too deep, the best way to recover is humor.

12. Integrate paid and earned media.

13. Have clear employee rules and training for social media engagement.

14. Don’t forget your secret weapon: your employees. They can be your most powerful allies online if you engage and arm them in time.

Do you have a crisis communications plan and would you be prepared to handle a crisis situation at 4 pm on a Friday? How do you manage the speed at which news spreads on social media?

Snooki’s Appearance at Rutgers University: Good PR or Poor Reputation Management?

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Lauren Shapiro*

The New York Daily News: Walker/WireImage; Polich/Getty

The New York Daily News: Walker/WireImage; Polich/Getty

Rutgers University’s decision to distribute a press release, on April 1st, regarding Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi’s speaking engagement was either ironic or genius. Speculation about the April Fool’s Day release had the Internet a chatter about the validity of the story. But as days passed no one from Rutgers came out to take responsibility for the prank.

Rutgers University reportedly paid the Jersey Shore star, Snooki, $32,000 to educate its students on the benefits of tanning, self esteem, and always having a work hard, play harder mentality or in Snooki’s terms, “study hard, but play harder.” The University comes under a fire storm of controversy, not just for inviting the reality TV star (best known for being punched in the face at a bar and being arrested for disorderly conduct) to the campus, but for paying her $2,000 more than Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison, who will speak at the university’s graduation ceremony in May.

Although a controversial decision, one wrought with repercussion from both parents and students, Hollywood Reporter announced that 2,000 people came to Rutgers to hear Snooki’s pearls of wisdom. Jersey Shore fan or not, there must be an underlying reason for choosing such a mainstream star to rock the boat. As we have all noticed, the economy has taken a toll on every institution, with no exception to the institution of higher education. Tuition has gone up, expenses are higher than ever and students are looking for a good education at a good price. Is it true that any publicity (positive or negative) is better than no publicity at all?

Rutgers paid $32,000 to Snooki and in return received nationwide coverage for the school, coverage that would have cost them a pretty penny and publicity Rutgers’ budget may not have been able to afford. Is Rutgers trying to ride the wave of Snooki’s fame? Was the Snooki gig a genius PR move or a detriment to the school’s reputation?

Please share your thoughts with me and the readers of BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas.


*Bio: Soon after graduating from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, in 2006 with a B.A. in communication and a B.S. in business/marketing, I joined the BurrellesLuce client services team. In 2008, I completed my master’s degree in corporate and organizational communications and now serve as Director of Client Services. I am passionate about researching and understanding the role of email in shaping relationships from a client relation/service standpoint as well as how miscommunication occurs within email, which was the topic of my thesis. Through my posts on Fresh Ideas, I hope to educate and stimulate thoughtful discussions about corporate communications and client relations, further my own knowledge on this subject area, as well as continue to hone my skills as a communicator. Twitter: @_LaurenShapiro_ LinkedIn: laurenrshapiro Facebook: BurrellesLuce

PRSA 2010 Counselors Academy: JR Hipple, Hipple & Co., Interviewed by Johna Burke, BurrellesLuce

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Transcript –

JOHNA BURKE: Hello, everyone, this is Johna Burke with BurrellesLuce, and I’m here at the PRSA Counselors Academy with J.R..

J.R., will you please introduce yourself?

J.R. HIPPLE: Hi, I’m J.R. Hipple with Hipple and Company Reputation Management in Atlanta, Georgia. 

BURKE: And, J.R., you’re also the chair of the programming in the event here this year. Think it’s very safe to say you’ve done a fantastic job based on the response and feedback that I’ve heard at all of my sessions and end tables.

But, you know, what goes into planning a session, especially when you’re looking for your peers to be able to plan something that’s going to be meaningful and effective for them? How did you determine what the agenda would be and how you were going to drive that agenda?

HIPPLE: Well, there’s three things that we really try to focus on at the Counselors Academy conference, and that is profit, performance and people. And it’s basically around the management of the business of public relations, particularly public relations, independent public relations consulting firms. It’s the professional development and the skills that we need as practitioners, and then it’s the interaction that we have with our–with our members and the networking that’s really one of the things that distinguishes Counselors Academy from, I think, any public relations group in the country.

BURKE: I would absolutely agree with you, and you choose fantastic locations. J.R., where can people find you online and in social media?

HIPPLE: Social media is @jrhipple, and online is

BURKE: Great. Thank you so much, J.R..

HIPPLE: Thanks, Johna.

Highlights From PRSA Travel & Tourism 2010: Bill Murray, PRSA President & COO, & Johna Burke, BurrellesLuce

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Transcript –

JOHNA BURKE:  Hello, this is Johna Burke with BurrellesLuce, and I’m here at the PRSA Travel and Tourism Conference with Bill.

Bill, will you please introduce yourself?

BILL MURRAY:  Hi, Johna. I’m Bill Murray. I’m the president and chief operating officer of PRSA.

BURKE:  So it’s great to have you here.  And you just did some remarks talking about the focus groups that you all have been conducting across the country. And I’d love to hear that, because that’s a very valuable form of research. So what are some of the findings that you’ve been able to take away at this point?

MURRAY:  Well, a great question, Johna.  We’re doing a couple of things. Every three years we engage in a really deep, strategic planning exercise at PRSA.  So this year we’re going across the country; we’re stopping in a number of cities and we’re talking to our members face-to-face about what’s affecting them as professionals out there on a day-to-day basis.

A couple things we’re hearing.  First of all, folks want to know about ROI. Whether you’re client is your–us, whether it’s someone in your organization, whether you’re an agency, the questions increasingly are, `What sort of return am I going to get from my investment in public relations?’

Another thing we’re hearing pretty regularly from everyone out there is how do I connect the public relations function to the strategic mission of my organization?  Folks know what their PR people do on a day-to-day basis, but what’s less apparent, especially in the upper reaches of management, is how they can connect that back to their financial objectives, their objectives for the reputation of the company, the organization, their objectives with respect to public policy goals.  And so definitely this is something that public relations professionals need to be aware of as they advance their careers and as they better serve the organizations they work for.

BURKE:  Bill, as a long-time practitioner, as a long-time member of PRSA, I’m delighted to see PRSA practicing what we preach.  And where can people find you online and in social media?

MURRAY:  My social media platform of choice is LinkedIn. I’ve been on LinkedIn for four or five years now.  I love it.  I check it every day.  I’m there with little updates about what I’m doing.  PRSA, of course, we’re all over the place.  We’re on Facebook, we’re on Twitter, and we’ve got lots of folks in the organization looking at all our different Twitter names and Facebook pages.  So, if you’re out there in the social media-sphere, we are too, and we look forward to meeting you out there.

BURKE:  Thank you so much.

MURRAY:  Thanks, Johna.