Creating a Corporate Social Responsibility strategy that makes sense

Corporate Social Responsibility strategy

These days, most companies small and large recognise the importance of integrating with the communities they work in. This can take the form of corporate social responsibility, advocacy, environmentally-friendly policies and sustainability.

A great way to connect with the people in your community is to choose an organisation they care about to partner with and dedicate time and money to them. But don’t make the same mistake lots of companies do – approaching charity donations and community engagement on an ad hoc basis. Put some thought into it and you’ll get better results.

Here are some thoughts on why and how you should get started with your next CSR campaign:

  • It ingratiates your organisation in the community

    One of the most important reasons for a Corporate Social Responsibility strategy is that it builds goodwill with your customers and with the communities in which you operate. There may be times when your company has to make unpopular decisions or gets pulled into controversy, so it’s important to have that bank of goodwill to draw upon.  If your organisation is seen purely as a corporate entity whose only priority is making as much money as it possibly can, people won’t have any sympathy when a scandal breaks out. On the other hand, if your organisation is generally seen as part of the community, people will make allowances and give the benefit of the doubt.

Read: How to prepare a holding statement in a crisis

  • It earns coverage in the media

Developing a strong Corporate Social Responsibility strategy is a great way to get earned media coverage (that means editorial coverage that you don’t pay for). Generally speaking, news outlets don’t want to do any free advertising for companies, but one notable exception to this is when organisations do something impactful for youth groups, community schemes, vulnerable people or less fortunate groups in society.  Campaigns like this generate much-sought after positive headlines. It’s important to note that your priority should be making an impact for the groups you work with first, and earning friendly media coverage second.

Read: Journalists and Public Relations pros: The great divide 

  • It boosts staff morale and supports recruitment

    Millennials in particular want to work for organisations that have values and stand for something more than generating profit and the bottom line. Giving back feels good. Working with your colleagues to make something happen in your community feels good. Knowing that the company you work for cares about things beyond the bottom line feels good. Coming together, outside of work projects, to work toward a higher purpose feels good. A strong Corporate Social Responsibility strategy can have a positive impact on recruiting top talent and retaining the people you’ve got.


So, how do I create a strong Corporate Social Responsibility strategy?

  • Partner with an organisation that makes sense for your company

    Think about the challenges your organisation faces in the towns and cities that you work in. If a lot of people sleep rough in your area, create a campaign around supporting the homeless, like Amazon did when it shared it’s building with the homeless community in San Francisco.  If parents at your organisation and across the community struggle with childcare, consider supporting local after-school groups and summer camps by sponsoring free places, or lowering the overall cost for all kids. If you struggle to recruit graduates of law, engineering or any other sector, consider sponsoring a scholarship place at a nearby university for a local student.Your employees will buy into your Corporate Social Responsibility strategy if they can see the logic you used when choosing which charities, community groups and local organisations you partner with and they can see and feel the benefits. If you want to really engage your employees in the process, shortlist three worthy organisations and let them vote on which one you choose.

  • Think about the long term

    Changing who you partner with and donate to annually can be a bit of a logistical nightmare, it gets confusing, and it doesn’t really allow the charity or community group to truly benefit from your long-term support. Stick with the group you’ve chosen for three years before you reassess. Your support for them will become common knowledge over time which will really help with the community engagement and media exposure discussed above, and more importantly, they’ll be able to initiate longer-term projects in the knowledge that the funding isn’t going to get cut off unexpectedly.

  • Make it easy for your employees to donate their time and money

    Very few people have €120 in their pockets to give to charity and community groups, but lots of people can afford €10 per month, which over the course of a year amounts to the same thing. Allow your employees to set up a payroll deduction that goes straight to the charity. If 100 employees each agree to donate €10/month, that’s already €1,000/month or €12,000/year, which is a tremendous amount of money for most charities.And that’s just the start. Give your employees one ‘charity day’ per year, that they can use any way they want to raise money for your chosen organisation from running a marathon to organising a table quiz to holding a bake sale. To really encourage your employees’ competitive spirit, sponsor a prize for the department that raises the most money.

So, those are just a few important factors to take into account when you’re developing a Corporate Social Responsibility strategy or a sustainability campaign. What have I missed? What does your organisation do to give back to the communities you work in? Let me know in the comments!

public-relations-katie-harringtonKatie Harrington is a Communications and Content professional based in Dublin, Ireland. Her book, Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launched in November 2016. Katie has worked with global brands including Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as in the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Your PowerPoint is boring me to death: Here are 3 alternatives

Is there anything more tedious than listening to someone talk their way through a long, dull deck? Face it guys, PowerPoint is boring. It’s the default mode of presenting, and I understand why that is;  it’s easy, familiar, cheap, and you can store it on a USB key.

It’s not exactly innovative though.

If you’re presenting on something genuinely important, whether it’s earning a promotion or pitching for new business, it might be time to try something new. If you’re aiming to be memorable, dare to be different.

6 mistakes that murder your PR pitch

Here are three ideas for something new that’s bound to set you apart from your competitors. Try them, combine them and enhance them – and don’t forget to leave me a comment on your best alternatives to a snooze-fest presentation.

1. Try TED-style storytelling

While TED speakers often have slides or some video in the background to add to their talks, the content of the slides is never the primary focus. TED speakers are coached in taking topics that are complicated, breaking them down to a level that almost anyone can understand, and most importantly, wrapping the idea up in a relatable, interesting story.

Check out Derek Silvers three-minute video below talking about how to start a movement:

It’s a story that’s told in the kind of language we use every day, it’s human, and it’s easy to listen to. Strong oral skills are vital for this kind of presentation, because people respond well to confidence and charisma. If you don’t feel those areas are your strong suit, don’t worry, because those are features that to a large extent can be learned.  Make sure to put plenty of practice in.

2. Let’s get visual

Please, oh please, spare me the dated stock photos. You can do so much better. If you’re going to use background imagery, choose pictures that are vibrant and colourful. All you need to create a decent behind-the-scenes video these days is an iPhone, a mic and a tripod. If you’ve got a graphic designer on your team (or even a very modest freelancer budget for the likes of UpWork), you can create all kinds of good stuff – Can you tell your story in the form of a comic strip? Would that eyesore of a table of numbers come across better as an infographic?

powerpoint is boring

For a real wow factor, could you bring a cartoonist into the meeting with you? Or a graffiti artist? With nothing but a marker and a blank sheet of paper, could you create a picture together that shows how you’re going to get from where you are now to where you need to be? Don’t let a culture of “we’ve always done it that way” kill your creativity.

3. Get your audience involved with some gamification

Keep your audience interested by making them participate. Listening to one person speak for any more than a couple of minutes will send anyone into a stupor. Do Dragon’s Den-style demonstrations (I think the US version is called Shark Attack, American friends). Pass around prototypes and props and ask for live feedback.

With larger audiences, you can use polling apps to carry out quizzes and surveys on the spot. Ask interesting questions that will make your audience think twice. Give out a spot prize to someone who gets a tough question right. Pit one half of the room against the other to bring out their competitive spirits. Gamify the experience to increase their interest.

Stop wasting your time and your money on newswires

So there you have it – a bunch of alternatives to the same old, same old. Maybe these ideas won’t work for every single presentation. There are, of course, times when the faithful old PowerPoint may just be the best option. But when you really want to make a splash, taking a chance on one of these ‘crazy’ ideas just might work.

What are your thoughts? Am I being too harsh, or do you think PowerPoint is boring too? I want to hear from you in the comments!

powerpoint is boringKatie Harrington is a Communications and Content professional based in Dublin, Ireland. Her book, Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launched in November 2016. Katie has worked with global brands including Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as in the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.




Stop wasting money: 3 ways to reduce your Communications and Marketing budget

Communications and Marketing budget

There are certain communications and marketing activities that we undertake year in, year out, without really thinking about it. We do them not because they add value to our businesses, but because conventional wisdom says we should, or because our competitors are doing it, or because the guys on the Sales team really enjoyed that event last year.

These “we do that every year” events and activities are often taken as a given, and rarely come in for any genuine attempts at calculating return on investment.

Trimming the fat from your Communications and Marketing budget

  1. Scale back Corporate Hospitality

I’d put money on this – none of your clients or stakeholders are choosing whom to give vital business to based on rugby or F1 tickets. There are a few reasons why expensive corporate hospitality packages are popular; it gives your Sales or Account Management team an easy way to claim they are building a relationship with clients without ever really having to prove that it’s resulting in business decisions going their way. Also, they LOVE going to these high profile events themselves so they will always back them.

If you are sending a team to a big event with a group of clients of potential clients, set goals for what will come out of the event e.g. we’re going to get three meetings set up with Tier 1 clients in the next quarter out of this event.

  1. Ban bullshit award ceremonies

I’ve written extensively about how most corporate award ceremonies are a sham here. If you have to pay a huge amount to enter or to attend, you’re essentially buying an award.

The justifications for this are often that these awards lend credibility in the market and that competitors are doing it so we really don’t have a choice. Stop.

For the first statement, ask yourself if that’s really true – is the award in question an industry-leading award, is it the Oscars of your sector? If so, go right ahead and try and win it.

Usually, though, it’s a make-y up-y award ceremony concocted by a marketing company two years ago. (One telltale sign of this is when a company’s sole business seems to be awards – this week they’ll be having an award ceremony for financial services, next week healthcare, the following week oil and gas)

As for your competitors, who cares what they’re doing. You’re a leader, not a follower, right? If they jumped off a bridge, would you. Ugh, you probably would. Stop being such a sheep.

  1. Axe Exhibitions and Conferences

How many poorly organized, badly attended conferences, exhibitions and trade-shows must we attend before we say enough? We spend tens of thousands on them only to return tired, with maybe a handful of contacts and a general sense of how our competitors are doing, but little else. We convince ourselves that the team got a lot of networking done, when we know in our hearts that most of the people in attendance were too junior to be genuine decision-makers.

And while we’re on the topic, how much exactly did you spend on those tacky branded freebies? Trust me on this one – nobody is deciding where to spend their money based on that USB key with your logo on it. Sure, we’ll take it – everybody loves free stuff – but no, it didn’t do anything significant to raise your brand’s profile.

So, what should you be doing to build relationships with clients and customers?

Hold bespoke events where you won’t be fighting with 25 of your competitors for your clients’ attention. Sell on the quality of your products and services, not the tickets you can get them or the ‘awards’ you’ve won – clients see right through all that anyway.

If you’ve got decent offices, you can even consider the most budget-friendly option of all – having it in-house.

If that’s not an option, try something a bit different; an Afternoon Tea at a nice hotel might cost €25/head and it gives you a chance to actually sit down and speak to people, or find out what charities or causes are important to them and invite them to a Corporate Social Responsibility event that matches the profile so you can connect with them on a human level.

If all else fails and you’ve only got a small amount of money with which to make a big impact, stop over-complicating things and just stick it behind the bar. There’s a long history of rapport being built over beer and pizza; friendships can be formed, relationships can blossom and – yes – business can be won.

So, who’s in favour? Let me know in the comment section if you’re onboard with my no-BS approach to allocating your Communications and Marketing budget. Any other tips for trimming the fat?


About Me

public-relations-katie-harringtonKatie Harrington is a Public Relations professional based in Galway, Ireland. Her book, Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launched in November. Katie has worked with global brands including Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Creating coverage: Generating a buzz on a slow news day


If you’re having a slow news day, and the higher-ups are putting pressure on to deliver some media coverage, this is the article for you. Simply put, if you’ve got no news to talk to journalists about, create some!

Not sure how? Here are some ideas. Be warned – some of these ideas can be implemented cheaply, but some will require a portion of your budget. Nor can they be pulled off overnight – these suggestions are intended as part of a long-term strategy, not quick-fixes.

Carry out some engaging research

Pitch your organization as a genuine thought leader by carrying out some original industry or sector-based research. Where will your industry be in 2030 – do you have access to accurate predictions? What are the biggest challenges you might face, and what is the best way to solve them? What are the most innovative things happening in the industry right now?

Use the resources you have available in-house, like data you can mine through to demonstrate trends, with insights from your senior management team. You could also consider combining this with relevant government data, reports from think tanks, and interviews with other organizations that relate to your industry but are not direct competitors to build a big picture view.

A well-written report with useful and engaging insights will likely win attention with trade journalists, business news, and – depending on the scale – even Tier 1 media.

Do something huge for a charity partner

If you’re mainly interested in getting regional coverage, choose a popular local charity that people feel a genuine emotional attachment to, and make something huge happen for them.

Leverage your team – if you’ve got 50 people working for you and they each raise an average of $50 (totally doable), you’ve got $2,500 in donations already. If possible, promise that the company will match whatever your employees raise. Now you’re up to $5,000! This is starting to be a story worth talking about.

To really make it newsworthy and help raise your company’s profile, your charity fundraising should fit two criteria; firstly, it should also raise awareness about the work of the charity, these things are never just about money, educate your audience on the issue as well.

Secondly, it’s important to choose a charity that makes sense. If the products and services you sell are mostly aimed at teenagers, partner with a charity that matters to them, like young people’s mental health organizations, but if you target older people, partnering with an age-action charity might make more sense.

News-jack a massive trend

The 24-hour news cycle means that trends come and go at an exceptional pace. Journalists are constantly looking for experts to comments on these trends. Yesterday, Theresa May triggered Article 50, beginning the Brexit process. Any company that does business in or with the UK can comment on what this means. How will Brexit impact tourism? Car manufacturing? Access to healthcare? International relations?

And it’s not just massive developments like Brexit, journalists will look for industry reactions to many political developments, so make sure to build relationships.

Many major news story will have an angle your spokespersons can provide useful commentary on; if an attack or a natural disaster takes place where your company is headquartered, what impact does that have on how you do business? Make your organization available to journalists in these scenarios.

If a Twitter war is taking place, can you add a twist to it that casts your company in good light? If something like the Ice Bucket challenge is going viral, how can you take advantage of it? Break free from the conventional, the unexpected is what makes headlines and generates shares.

So there you have it, three strategies for generating news in between product launches and other major news announcements. If you’ve got other ideas for generating media coverage during a dry spell, let me know in the comments!

public-relations-katie-harringtonKatie Harrington is a Public Relations professional based in Galway, Ireland. Her book, Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launched in November. Katie has worked with global brands including Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


Crisis Communications: Dare we take a human approach?

No business like show business…

Price Waterhouse Cooper has prestigious clients all over the world, but the Oscars was the feather in their cap. The event is nowhere near their biggest earner, but boy is it high profile. You all know the story by now; when it came time to announce who won Best Picture, there was a mix-up, and the presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty were given the wrong envelope. Lala Land was announced as Best Picture instead of Moonlight.

Chaos ensued. Men in headsets appeared on the stage. The mistake was corrected within minutes, but not before inflicting unnecessary confusion and disappointment; not to mention tearing strips from PWC’s carefully manicured and pristine reputation.

The typically corporate response

The immediate response from the company was textbook. Using an approach we have covered here on Wilde Words, they issued a statement apologising and promising a full explanation. Here it is in full:

We sincerely apologize to “Moonlight,” “La La Land,” Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture. The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred.

We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.


READ: How to craft powerful key messages

 A follow up statement was issued the following Monday morning, that had most certainly been combed through by highly-paid lawyers:

PwC takes full responsibility for the series of mistakes and breaches of established protocols during last night’s Oscars. PwC partner Brian Cullinan mistakenly handed the back-up envelope for Actress in a Leading Role instead of the envelope for Best Picture to presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. Once the error occurred, protocols for correcting it were not followed through quickly enough by Mr. Cullinan or his partner.

We are deeply sorry for the disappointment suffered by the cast and crew of “La La Land” and “Moonlight.” We sincerely apologize to Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Jimmy Kimmel, ABC, and the Academy, none of whom was at fault for last night’s errors. We wish to extend our deepest gratitude to each of them for the graciousness they displayed during such a difficult moment.

For the past 83 years, the Academy has entrusted PwC with the integrity of the awards process during the ceremony, and last night we failed the Academy. 

It’s the perfect corporate response in theory; appropriately contrite but measured, carefully worded, it assigns blame squarely on the two individuals representing PWC on the night, while subtly reinforcing that their protocols are correct and have always worked in the past. The company distanced themselves from the crisis as much as it was safe to do without being accused of shirking responsibility.

The language and tone are entirely corporate. There is no mention of a review of processes. The statement says “PWC takes full responsibility” rather than “We take full responsibility”. It’s appropriate but essentially bland. It explains what happened on Oscars night, but doesn’t explain why. It lacks a human element.

READ: 5 PR blogs to follow in 2017

A human approach to human error

Let’s imagine – for a moment – a human-led approach to the response.

Instead of issuing a statement, PWC would hold a press conference. Brian Cullinan would be there to speak for himself, and he would tell the truth about why the mistake happened. He would speak in plain English. The statement he would read might go something like this:

On Saturday night, I was trusted with one of the most important jobs in the show business. Surrounded by some of the world’s biggest stars, I couldn’t help but get caught up in the atmosphere. I was a little overwhelmed, and I took some pictures to post on social media. I took my eye off the ball and I gave Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty the wrong envelope. I’m sorry.

Who knows if this imagined statement would have gone down better, but my theory is that it just might have worked, and here’s why:

  • It has an authentic voice – it doesn’t hide behind legal-ese or corporate jargon
  • It’s true, and it  fits with that people already know i.e. that Brian Cullinan had been posting photos on Twitter
  • It’s relatable – can’t we all relate to getting a little flustered when surrounded by celebrity superstars at the Oscars?

What’s your take? Should organisations move toward a more human approach to crisis communications? I want to hear from YOU in the comments.

public-relations-katie-harringtonKatie Harrington is a Public Relations professional based in Galway, Ireland. Her book, Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launched in November. Katie has worked with global brands including Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.




How to measure Public Relations through analytics

measure Public Relations

How do you measure Public Relations campaigns?

The pressure to measure Public Relations campaigns in hard numbers has never been higher. While the true value of a PR campaign will never be captured in a spreadsheet, today we can use analytics to make smarter decisions about Public Relations from defining your target audience to how we measure Public Relations  results.

Defining your target audience

Years ago, when PR pros were their planning Public Relations strategies and tactics, they had to make educated guesses about their audience. One of the most important things you can do when you’re planning a campaign is figure out who your target audience is – and to do that, you should look at who’s engaging with you the most already. All you need to do is link your website to Google Analytics to get a world of information about your visitors.

Under All Website Data, click the Audience tab on the left. Straight away, you’ll see which countries your visitors come from. Under the demographics tab, you can find out what the gender breakdown of your visitors is and their age profiles. How valuable is that information in deciding on your messaging?

And that’s just to get you started, the further you go down through the Audience menu, the more the sophisticated the information gets – you can even find out what your audiences interests are; whether they log on from desktops, tablets or mobile devices; and what proportion of your visitors are new compared with those who have visited before.

By the time you’ve delved through all that data, you should have a really clear idea of who you’re going to target your next campaign at!

Take the course: A masterclass in measuring and evaluating PR

Demonstrating awareness

So, you created a super-targeted campaign and implemented it. Congratulations! Now, how are you going to measure the results? Well, for most campaigns you’ll be looking to see if you generated either awareness or action. Google Analytics to the rescue once again. Head back to the Audience tab to start looking at your results.

You can track how many people visited a specific page on your site – but that’s not enough to really tell how they got there, or if they genuinely engaged with your content. First, check the channels your visits came from – were they organic traffic from search engines, direct hits from someone typing your site’s URL in, referral traffic from another site linking to yours, or social media channels.

You can look at how much time they spent on your site, which is a good indicator of awareness – if the average time spent on site is less than 30 seconds, that’s not good news, but if it’s above two minutes then you’re doing great!

Your bounce rate is also an important thing to keep an eye on – that means how many people left or bounced from your site after looking at just one page. The lower your bounce rate is the better. To keep your bounce rate low, you should make sure your site is rich in content, that it’s easy to navigate, and that you optimize your images and link internally to other relevant posts.

Take the course: A masterclass in measuring and evaluating PR

Driving revenue

So, now you know how to use analytics to demonstrate that your campaigns generated awareness – but what about action; did your audience take any direct action as a result?

Here are some of the ways analytics can help you drive revenue. Has there been an increase in web sales as a result of the campaign? Sometime attribution can be difficult, but try to use the dashboard in your sales software to track any uptick in sales. If you use discount codes or coupons in your PR activity, the sales results tie back directly to your PR goals.

If your website gets a lot of traffic, you can drive extra revenue by hosting Google Adsense ads. Adsense connects directly with Google Analytics, so you can monitor which posts and pages generate the most income for you.

READ: How to create a kick-ass content calendar

Social media and email engagement

If your campaign is connected to a landing page, you can track how many new email subscribers it generated – email subscribers often convert into buyers at a later stage, so getting new subscribers is really important. Monitor your social media analytics too; watch out for an increase in followers, likes, comments, shares, mentions or the use of relevant hashtags.

These are all ways of measuring awareness and engagement quantitatively, and should inform the strategies you use for future campaigns.

So that’s all I’ve got for you today. I hope you found this useful – so I’m asking you to help me out. If you learned something today, hit share OR – even better – copy the link and email it straight to a friend you KNOW will find this interesting.

If you feel like I missed something – PLEASE let me know in the comments!

Katie Harrington is a Public Relations professional based in Galway, Ireland. Her online course, A masterclass in measuring and evaluating PR
 launched in September 2017. Katie has worked with global brands including Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.





Crisis Communication: Effective strategies for defusing a crisis


What is crisis management?

Crises are inevitable. From operational breakdowns to financial scandals, from servers getting hacked to rogue employees choosing to air their grievances in public, no business or organization can consider themselves immune. Crisis management plans are how companies mitigate against these threats. Investopedia defines crisis management as follows:

Crisis management is the identification of threats to an organization and its stakeholders, and the methods used by the organization to deal with these threats. Due to the unpredictability of global events, organizations must be able to cope with the potential for drastic changes to the way they conduct business. Crisis management often requires decisions to be made within a short time frame, and often after an event has already taken place. 

Here, we offer four examples of coherent strategies you can and should use in a crisis scenario, and two that you definitely should not.

Depending on the nature and scale of the crisis, several of the strategies below may be appropriate. Your crisis response team should be totally familiar with each of these approaches, and be able to assess the situation and choose the most appropriate approach on short notice. That ability will determine how your organization fares in media coverage of the incident.


Crisis Management Strategy 1: The Sincere Apology

If it is immediately clear that the crisis has broken due to human error on the part of your employees, or because of a fault in your organisation’s products or services, an apology is appropriate. The most recent high profile example of this is the Oscars, where a mistake by Price Waterhouse Cooper led to the wrong film, La La Land, being announced as winners instead of the Best Picture category, instead of the actual winners Moonlight.

PWC issued an initial statement apologising to all involved, sent their Chairman Tim Ryan out to deliver face-to-face apologies to the press, and then issued a second statement accepting full responsibility for the mistake. They issued an apology that sounded genuine and heartfelt, and  that also invoked some of the other strategies we’ll discuss below.

However, organisation’s should not issue apologies before the details of a crisis have been uncovered, as to do so may imply that they accept responsibility before the facts are available.


Crisis Management Strategy 2: The Promise to do Better (…and the follow through)

Of course, apologies are essentially meaningless unless they are backed up by action. Uber has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons over the last few weeks. First, #deleteuber trended on Twitter after the company’s  deeply ingrained culture of institutional sexism revealed in a blog post by former engineer Susan Fowler. Travis Kalanick, Uber CEO, called an all-hands meeting where he promised change and announced an investigation.

This was a good move, and should have steadied the boat for a time, except that Kalanick almost immediately undermined himself by berating an Uber driver in a video that was then leaked to journalists. A promise to do better is essential, but it must be backed up by real action. Kalanick’s credibility as an agent of change is severely in doubt, and it’s a safe bet that there will be major changes in Uber’s senior management in the near future.


READ: How to write a holding statement

Crisis Management Strategy 3: The Explanation

The old political maxim says “when you’re explaining, you’re losing”, and there is a degree of truth to that, but when something has gone wrong in your organization, explaining what happened is an essential step in re-establishing credibility. Where there is an ongoing problem, like a service outage, give your clients as much information as you feasibly can, including what the problem is, how long it’s likely to be impacting for, what you’re doing about it and where they can find updates.

Your clients, partners and investors will need to understand why the crisis happened, what person or process was to blame, and what steps the senior leadership team have taken to ensure it never happens again. Independent investigations and  internal audits are often important parts of this process.


READ: Identifying your stakeholders in a crisis

Crisis Management Strategy 4: The Reminder

Going back to the Oscars, PWC made sure that their apology referenced a subtle reminder that for more than eight decades, they had gotten it right: “For the past 83 years, the Academy has entrusted PwC with the integrity of the awards process during the ceremony, and last night we failed the Academy.” In the aftermath of a crisis scenario, it may be appropriate to remind your stakeholders that while the organization has come through a difficult time, it is still worthy of trust. This can help position the crisis as a one-off.

For established organizations that invest consistently in their relationships with stakeholders and general enjoy a good reputation, this can be quite a powerful strategy.


READ: How to craft powerful key messages

Crisis Management Strategy 5: The Denial

A controversial approach to managing communications crises, often favoured by the Trump administration, is to simply deny that a crisis has taken place. This strategy – which we don’t endorse – often involves attempting to discredit news organizations covering the crisis, distracting the media by changing the subject, refusing to answer questions asked by the media, and ad hominem attacks. Often, the goal of this strategy is to leave the public confused, so they don’t know who to believe.

READ: Choosing proactive or reactive responses in a crisis

Crisis Management Strategy 6: The Blame Game

Another strategy often used by the Trump Administration and other politicians worldwide is to play the blame game: Instead of taking ownership when things go wrong, Donald Trump has chosen to lay blame for his tumultuous first weeks in office on the media, the judiciary, President Obama, the constitution, other Republicans including John McCain, the military, and the comedians of Saturday Night Live amongst others. Rather than owning up to what seem to have been major strategic errors, including the abandonment of the United States’ One China Policy and the death of a Navy SEAL in a botched operation in Yemen, Trump has lashed out at allies.

The fall out from this remains to be seen over the next four years, but blaming those around you for avoidable mistakes often looks unprofessional and immature – this is rarely a strategy any company should use, unless they can categorically prove they are not to blame.


What crisis management strategies do you have in place? Is your organization protected by an established crisis communications protocol? If not, read this.


public-relations-katie-harringtonKatie Harrington is a Public Relations professional based in Galway, Ireland. Her book, Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launched in November. Katie has worked with global brands including Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.





How to create powerful key messages


What is a key message?

Key messages answer the question: “What do we want the public to know about us?” in a nutshell. Key messages are short, memorable phrases that create an emotional narrative around the unique selling point(s) of your product, service or goals. Organisations that fail to define their key messages can be sure that if they don’t know what their key messages are, nor do consumers. They are clear, concise and consistent sound bites that sum up your value proposition.


Your audience most likely won’t listen to, comprehend and accept the message you are trying to convey immediately upon hearing it. A certain frequency needs to be achieved before a person will hear, understand and buy into it. The key messages your organisation wants to impart will need to be repeated over and over again to become the dominant narrative.


To do so without boring your audience to tears, the PESO model suggests combining traditional media, advertising, social channels and company-owned media to reach them in a variety of different ways. Key messages may be shaped or presented in different ways according to the demands of different channels, but the messages themselves remain the same. Some organisations choose a quarterly or annual theme as a way to group key messages.


5 top PR blogs and Marketing influencers to follow in 2017


Communications expert Jeremy Porter argues in an essay on persuasion that emotion is a critical component of a key message. He said:


Don’t rely on facts and figures to persuade your audience. You need emotion to persuade. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience and understand where they are coming from. If you can make an emotional connection you’re on the path to persuasion. That’s how you get them from where they are to where you want them to be.


Porter invokes Aristotle in arguing convincingly that emotion generally trumps reason. This theory was discussed at length by commentators in the British and world media in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum. Despite stark warnings from economists and politicians from all major parties of the negative repercussions of leaving the EU, slogans like ‘Believe in Britain’ that appealed to people’s sense of sovereignty prevailed. Similarly, Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’, appealed to a powerful sense of nostalgia and emotion.

Fake news: You are responsible for your media consumption

How to create a powerful key message


Porter argues that there are nine elements to bringing emotion into messaging; a human voice, authenticity, framing, storytelling, use of metaphor, visuals, delivery and wording. Creating a key message that combines these elements in a few short sentences is no mean feat.


One method worth considering is the combination of a claim, a fact and an example e.g. “80 people sleep on the streets of Dublin each night. Your donations save lives. John went from sleeping in doorways to working in the post office within six months.” That’s a powerful key message in 29 words, which takes around ten seconds to say. The shorter your key messages are, the less likely they are to be misinterpreted.


Key messages are vital in defining your company’s brand to the public, but no amount of messaging can help your company’s brand if the products or services you provide fail to match up. Iconic branding, clever catch phrases, celebrity endorsements and positive publicity can help turn a good company into a great company, but they cannot turn a bad company into a good company.


public-relations-katie-harringtonKatie Harrington is a Public Relations professional based in Galway, Ireland. Her book, Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launched in November. Katie has worked with global brands including Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.







Solo PR: The triumphs and challenges of independent Public Relations


If you’ve been working in Public Relations for a while now, the chances are you’ve thought about taking the plunge into solo PR and working as a consultant instead of for an agency or in-house team. The idea of working for yourself can be both exciting and terrifying.

This week, we asked freelance Public Relations practitioners from the Facebook group Freelance PRs how and why they did it. Here’s what they told us.

Why did you decide to go into solo PR?

There are a huge number of reasons why talented PR professionals choose to leave established organisations to go solo. These include the opportunity to escape from corporate politics, the desire for a new challenge, greater flexibility, the ability to spend more time at home with family, escaping commuter life and doing less travel.

In short, most solo PR professionals chose to go independent so that they could have greater freedom in terms of who they worked with and how they worked.

Read: 5 top PR blogs to follow in 2017

How did you win your first clients?

Almost invariably, those we interviewed said that their first clients had come through existing contacts and friends. On deciding to become independent consultants, they went through their phone books calling everyone they knew to let them know they were available.

For communications and PR specialists who are planning to go solo, this means it’s extremely important to network, and to establish a strong reputation prior to establishing a consultancy.

Another option is to sign up to all the best PR project websites: TheWorkCrowd, UpWork, and Freelancer to get your first projects.

What are the financial challenges of running your own business and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenges initially include covering costs and cashflow. Figuring out how to ensure costs for travel and other expenses that come up during a project are covered is also important.

One of the major challenges highlighted was keeping track of accounts. How to tackle it? Be ruthless about doing them and get an accountant. Save half of everything you earn and then you’ll be fine when the tax bill comes around and you’ll have some savings.

Setting a daily rate that is both competitive and rewarding was also highlighted as a potential challenge. This post from looks at how you should set your rates.

Read: Fake news – You are responsible for your media consumption

Would you ever go back to working for a company?


It looks like the rewards of solo PR far outweigh the challenges, with our interviewees almost unanimous in that they would never go back go work for a company again.

Just  one respondent said that she would consider it when her children were in school if the role offered the right degree of seniority and flexibility.

What is the best piece of advice you could give for someone starting out?

Save save save. Before starting out, save at least six months worth of finance. Work isn’t always going to be there.

If you’re based in the UK, make sure to sign up to HMRC companies house as an LTD company, as it is the best way to get paid with a 20% tax rate.

Monitor your time, and limit ‘freebie’ activity, but be aware that ‘free’ advice can open a fee-earning opportunity.

Take a deep breath, get stuck in, know your own worth and enjoy. Treat your own decision to go solo like a project, create that strategy, a timeline.

So, that’s the insider’s advice on Solo PR. Are you considering making the jump? Or have you done it already? Leave a comment.

public-relations-katie-harringtonKatie Harrington is a Public Relations professional based in Galway, Ireland. Her book, Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launched in November. Katie has worked with global brands including Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Fake news: You are responsible for your media consumption


It’s been a pretty incredible couple of weeks (scratch that – months) for the world of journalism. In an increasingly polarised world where emotion trumps truth (pun intended), it’s just too easy to silo yourself away in a social media bubble surrounded only by people who share your views, reading only the articles they share, and reading opinion pieces as though they were matters of fact.

Who’s to blame? The “dishonest media”? Trolls? Petty liberals and conservatives more concerned with advancing their own world views than creating a more inclusive and fair society?

Or is it you?

Are you taking responsibility for how you read, share and shape the news? Let’s take a look at how consumers could do a better job of fighting fake news.

Understand the value of journalism

If you are truly concerned about fake news and the decline of the independent media, but you are unwilling to pay a few dollars a month for quality journalism, you’re part of the problem. Since the election of Donald Trump in the US, highly respected news sites like the New York Times have seen a phenomenal increase of more than 100,000 paid subscriptions. Meanwhile, the Washington Post plans to add 60 journalists after seeing a 75% increase in paying subscribers in 2016.

This may represent a turning point in digital journalism. In the last decade, the widespread availability of wifi and the mobile revolution have led to an abundance of websites worldwide claiming to offer free news. In fact, very few of these hire trained and qualified journalists to carry out investigative journalism. Instead, they wait for real journalists to break the news and then use their platforms to disseminate in at a fraction of the cost. The result is a market swamped with websites offering news for free, and very little public desire to pay for true journalism.

But now – finally – people are coming to realise that just like most things in life, you pay for what you get. You want well researched, vetted and edited news articles based on facts? Shell out a few dollars a month. For less than the cost of your Netflix subscription, you could get access to not one but two quality news outlets (one local and one international, maybe?)

READ: Trump, Farage, and post-truth Public Relations

Use common sense to scrutinise the news you read

Social media has democratised communication; once I post this article on Facebook, it will appear in newsfeeds alongside viral videos of animals being hilarious, updates from family and friends, articles from highly respected media institutions and, of course, fake news. The implications of this are both exciting and dangerous.

Most people don’t read the whole article, which can make it difficult to apply the level of scrutiny required, but here are some basic things to think about when making a judgement:

  • Is this a registered media outlet with trained journalists and an established editorial process?
  • Who is the writer, and what are his are her known biases? Does the channel have a liberal or conservative bias?
  • Is this a news article, which has gone through a rigorous fact-checking process, or is it mainly an opinion or comment piece?
  • Who is quoted in the article? Has comment been sought from a variety of different stakeholders?
  • What are the article’s sources? Does it reference government statistics, academic research or independently verified data?
  • Are straw man arguments or ad hominem attacks being presented instead of facts?
  • Do the ‘facts’ being presented contradict video, photographic and witness evidence?

Fake news isn’t going away any time soon, and try as journalists may to get the facts out there, it’s our responsibility as consumers to make sure we’re not blindly consuming ‘alternative facts’.

READ: 11 free PR resources every campaign needs

If you hate click bait, stop clicking on it

Media organisations have difficult choices to make as they walk the line between holding institutions accountable for their actions and giving media consumers what they want.

Much as people outwardly complain about clickbait articles on what one of the Kardashians did next or Brangelina’s divorce, these are the articles that immediately fly to the top of ‘Most read’ lists.

Articles on complicated new government policies may seem boring and difficult to read; reports on the latest drone attacks in Iraq and Syria may prompt empathy-fatigue, but ultimately we must understand that the media choices we make every day will ultimately provoke a change in what is offered to us.

It’s too easy to make lazy attacks on the media without looking at ourselves, and how we’re providing the catalyst for the decline of the first estate.

So let’s make a deal: Let’s pay for news organisations for good journalism because we know good journalism isn’t free to produce; let’s go beyond our Facebook feeds to find out what the real stories are and let’s scrutinise the facts closely. And let’s stop claiming we hate clickbait and behaving in a way that suggest the opposite.

Katie Harrington is a Public Relations professional based in Dublin. Her book, Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launched in November 2016. Katie has worked with global brands including Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


Show Buttons
Hide Buttons