The Oprah Effect: What Others Say Matters Most | eNews for OWC

It’s not a secret that having a solid reputation instills trust or that a bad reputation travels faster than a good one. How do you get the word out about your credibility? The answer is third-party endorsements. They include customer and user testimonials, expert and celebrity endorsements and all news articles.

Before the internet, small businesses relied on word of mouth to gain trust with the public. While that may have evolved to fit our world today with online reviews, it certainly hasn’t died. The first thing overwhelmed consumers do before purchasing is read customer reviews and recommendations on company websites, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter and more. Surveys rank legitimate customer reviews as more persuasive to buyers than advertising or paid celebrity endorsements.

Reviews Validate and Legitimize Your Brand

Ninety-three percent of online review readers seek to determine the quality of a business, and 85 percent say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. People naturally distrust what they aren’t familiar with, and positive reviews—and even positive company responses to negative reviews—instill confidence. Third-party endorsements are the lifeblood of a political campaign with candidates seeking backing from school boards, law enforcement and civil rights groups as well as their own parties.

People today are alert to advertising in all its forms. Third-party endorsements come from sources with nothing to gain and attain the highest level of public relations effectiveness. In fact, almost all such high-credibility endorsements can be solicited without detracting from their value. For example, an Oprah book endorsement often means the best-sellers list and is seen as a powerful third-party authentication.

Building relationships with reporters who cover your market earns street cred too. Being quoted as an expert in a news article is interpreted as an endorsement by the publication and positions you as a credible source.

Highlighting Third-party Endorsements

Adding a tab to your company website with testimonials, reviews and endorsements makes your site active and useful. Testimonials are made even more impactful by interviewing your clients and posting a short video of their success stories.

Professional execution is important. Vagueness, paraphrase and gush are less effective than direct communication. Verifiable information is the currency.

Ineffective testimonials lack names, dates, locations and identities of the reviewers. Fake reviews are destructive to reputation and should be avoided at all cost. Most clients are comfortable being named if given a chance to confirm and approve. The more specific the citation, the more powerful the credibility.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a review.

Your competition probably already has reviews, considering that 74 percent of businesses ask customers to share their experience online. Surprisingly, 68 percent of consumers have left a review after a business asked them to, so make it a policy to ask for these testimonials each time you develop a relationship with a client or have a big win. They help marketing, build reputation and tell you what you’re doing right.

Third-party endorsements are critical to B2B buyers. In fact, 97 percent say that “user-generated content such as peer reviews is more credible than other types of content.” Other third-party endorsements include industry awards, speaking at industry events, being included in research analyst reports, earning news coverage, getting ranked on “best of” lists and customer reviews online through sites such as Google and Yelp as well as active social media platforms. Get employees to tell the world what a great place to work the company is at Glassdoor.com. These sites also further enhance your SEO scores on search engines.

Take some time this summer to make third-party endorsements a part of your marketing efforts.

June 5th, 2018|Categories: eNewsletter|Tags: , , , , , |

5 Crisis Management Tips We Can Learn from Zuckerberg | eNews from OWC

There’s no question that over the last decade Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has grown from a flip-flop wearing startup bro into a full-blown tech tycoon and astute businessman to be reckoned with. There is, however, a debate on how well he’s handled the recent Facebook-Cambridge Analytica debacle. While Zuckerberg’s initial absence and radio-silence approach is ill-advised during a crisis, it’s clear he spent his time out of the spotlight when the fiasco first broke getting some much-needed media training. There were several ways he handled the congressional hearing surprisingly well, and a few where he faltered. Here’s what we can learn from the latest PR disaster taking the world by storm:

Be transparent … quickly and of your own volition.
Before attending the congressional hearing, Zuckerberg was relatively absent from the conversation, allowing a news vacuum to open and anyone with a theory to fill the void. Don’t let others create fake news to explain your story. Get in front of controversy by being as transparent as possible, disclosing all the facts as quickly as possible and making yourself available for questions from the media. Answering “no comment” is an unacceptable response. Get the facts out and get them out fast.

Control the narrative, not the reporters.
Don’t threaten to sue The New York Times and the Guardian for publishing the facts. This is a sure-fire way to turn your most important potential allies against you. Covering the news is a reporter’s job, but the way they frame a story is a choice – and your interactions with them influence that choice. Are you making their job easier or more difficult? Are you dodging their questions or creating an open line of communication?

Guide the interview and stick to your messages.
One thing Zuckerberg did particularly well during the hearing was control the interview. He stuck to his talking points and stayed on message employing a few strategic tactics, like:

  • Building a bridge. If a reporter starts to wander into areas you don’t want to talk about, answer the reporter’s inquiry briefly, then build a bridge back to your key points. When Zuckerberg was pushed on certain sensitive topics, such as defining what Facebook is, he took control of the conversation by bridging to a topic he felt was relevant and supported his messaging.
  • Rephrasing tricky questions. It’s important not to let anyone put words in your mouth, but don’t argue. To avoid getting stuck in a semantics war, restructure loaded questions to guide back to your talking points and where you feel comfortable with phrases like “I think what you’re asking is …” A great example of this is when Zuckerberg addressed regulation questions with a question of his own: “I think the real question, as the internet becomes more important in people’s lives, is what is the right regulation? Not whether there should be or not.”
  • Flagging key points. Emphasize that the statement you are about to make is one the reporter should remember. Zuckerberg did a great job of illustrating this tactic when responding to Sen. Leahy’s question on Facebook’s role in violence in Myanmar saying “Yes, we’re working on this and there are three specific things we are doing…” He then proceeded to list the three actionable tactics, along with the reasons behind them, succinctly in only 36 seconds.

Be prepared.
This is another area where Zuckerberg shined. He arrived calm and collected with soundbite messages prepared and his key objectives defined. He even brought a now-notorious binder of notes to help him answer tough questions about hot-button issues should he get stuck. Preparation goes a long way to helping you feel more in control and at ease.

Say ‘sorry.’
It’s important to humanize your brand by being sincere and apologetic. Apologizing doesn’t have to be synonymous with admitting fault; it’s about expressing concern that the crisis occurred. Express concern for any victims and their families. If a mistake was made, apologize. There’s a common saying: “People buy people, not products.” It means that people choose to do business with people they feel connected to, like and, above all, trust. Zuckerberg has spent 14 years as the face of Facebook, yet when the news broke, he was missing from the conversation and so was his public apology.

While crises are inevitable, we can choose how we respond when they do happen. Let Zuckerberg’s reaction to the recent troubles Facebook is facing be a lesson to you. Remember: don’t delay, apologize, be transparent and be accountable.

April 20th, 2018|Categories: eNewsletter|Tags: , , , , , , |

The Single Biggest Mistake a Business Can Make Today | eNews from OWC

The days when CEOs only had to focus on running their businesses are over. Today’s leaders need to be “woke” as they stand for something greater than their own products or services. Those who don’t must be prepared to suffer the wrath of the hashtag. Our business climate is calling for companies to proactively take on issues important to their key stakeholders – regardless of how that may impact their bottom line in the short term.

The single biggest mistake a business can make is not knowing its core values. The core values are the set of principles, morals and policies on which the company is based. These values drive how the business operates and treats people. People want to invest in and buy from companies and leaders they trust and respect. Conversely, many consumers will go out of their way to avoid doing business with companies tainted by negative news about how they treat employees, women, customer complaints, environmental issues and illegal practices.

Here are five common mistakes that tarnish a brand:

  1. Delayed Action. One of the outcomes we see as a result of #MeToo, #TimesUp and even #deleteFacebook movements is that big businesses are now acting fast to correct issues. Executives are fired first and investigated later. There is no time to hide behind legal delays and “no comment” statements. The public is playing judge, jury and executioner, and companies with core values can better distance themselves from controversies or even take an active role in championing movements they support.
  2. Lack of Transparency. Now more than ever, leadership is held accountable for its actions, so it’s crucial that there is transparency from the top down. One of our CEO clients holds regular all-employee town hall meetings where he answers ANY question posed, even about his own compensation. Core values help because well-managed companies do not fear scrutiny.
  3. Not Planning Ahead. When a crisis hits, you need to act fast – but this can only be done when you are prepared. Just look at the “unfriendly skies” and the crises airlines have faced with passengers being forcibly removed from planes and dogs dying. In contrast, look at a company that is committed to its core values and communicates them. You may be surprised to find Delta Airlines on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list, especially since no other airline has made the cut in over a decade. Delta is also found on Forbes‘ Best Workplaces list and has a 4.3-star rating on Glassdoor. Delta’s mission statement is to “form a force for positive local and global change, dedicated to bettering standards of living and the environment where we and our customers live and work.” Its value is actualized, its employees are happy, and thus they provide a better customer experience.
  4. Lack of Alignment. Each company needs to come to a point where all the stakeholders agree on core values. This will direct operations, budget allocations and prioritization of time and resources. Think of Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan that empowers everyone to accomplish more and overcome obstacles to succeed. This one core value has impacted all business decisions for the company for the last three decades. The cohesion in mission and messaging are central to its success.
  5. No Focus. Businesses can’t address every issue in the world, but they can support causes and issues that directly impact their customers, employees and communities. A perfect example of how focus can drive initiatives that further build the brand can be seen in CVS’s decision to stop selling cigarettes. Another example can be seen in Dick’s Sporting Goods’ proactive decision to raise the age for firearm purchase following the shootings in Parkland, Fla. Both of these brands are authentic to their core values of health and family, while seeking the social good above bottom line.

At OWC, we work with companies to help identify and amplify their core values. It supports our own mission to build and sustain business reputations. Let us know your business core values @OWCPR.

Calling all entrepreneurs | eNews from OWC

Awards season is here and we’re pumped to medal up. EY Entrepreneur Of The Year, now in its 32nd year, is the big prize to honor entrepreneurs in more than 145 cities in 60 countries who demonstrate extraordinary success in areas such as innovation, financial performance and personal commitment. The benefits that past participants have experienced? Accreditation, exposure, recognition, mentoring and public relations.

Here’s some of the coverage from last year’s events across California:

The program is focused on diversity and inclusiveness: Anyone can nominate anyone. Many of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year participants are nominated by proud colleagues, their vendors or admirers, who think recognition is due, and self-nominations are encouraged. Learn more or submit a nomination today. The deadline for applications is Friday, March 9, 2018.

Olmstead Williams Communications is a proud sponsor for Entrepreneur Of The Year, but that’s not the only reason we love the program. We’re cheerleaders for award programs that offer a spotlight to our clients. Awards are one more way to raise your company’s profile and generate news. Here is a sampling of the honors/achievements we are submitting for our clients:

There is an awards program that will help drive your business forward. We’re here to discuss these and other programs.

EY Entrepreneur Of The Year award recipients in Greater Los Angeles as revealed last year. The deadline for applications this year is Friday, March 9, 2018. Learn more or submit a nomination today.

February 26th, 2018|Categories: eNewsletter|Tags: , , , , |