The post-Deepwater Horizon oil spill communications strategy will go on record as one of the biggest public relations blunders ever. What does this have to do with you? After all, you’re probably not in the oil drilling business. So, you may think, “we’re no BP – there’s no way we would ever be caught in a PR disaster.”

While your crisis may not capture the attention of media and world leaders everywhere, even small businesses can be negatively impacted by events that attract attention. With the proliferation of social media, this is even more probable.

Let’s imagine a few worst-case scenarios that can be very real for any company in any business:

Lots of emphasis gets placed on press releases announcing new products being introduced at a trade show. That’s well and fine, but there are many other topics that can put your company in the media spotlight long before your show new product releases are ready for distribution.

The real key is to think in far broader terms which can take your company publicity efforts beyond show focused new product announcements. A useful rule of thumb is to commit to creating and distributing one news release each month. This schedule keeps your company on the media radar and keeps the media and their readers current. To sustain this effort create a calendar and begin to schedule some topics that come to mind. As you brainstorm topics, it is important to make certain each one is informational, timely and interesting enough to your audiences to be reported upon.

Company leadership teams might know everything about their organization, but do they know how to talk to the media?

Provide brief answers, never repeat the negative, know the message I want to convey, and make sure I state my core message no matter what question I’m asked. It’s very easy in theory, but not so much in practice. Most leaders, when faced with a camera or probing reporter, know what they want to say, but in the end only answer the questions asked and never really convey their core message. Telephone interviews are typically even worse because there is the time to explain details. Many times the details are misconstrued and the spokesperson is misquoted. Or worse not quoted at all because the reporter has received such a mind dump of information he or she can’t judge what is important.

Very few small and medium size companies have the resources or content to support a full blown public relations campaign. Likewise, few business owners have the time or skills to be promoters too, writing and distributing news releases, scheduling interviews, writing feature articles, case studies and white papers, planning media conferences and handling day-to-day relations with editors. The bright side is that there are options available to businesses of every size. The key to success is being able to communicate your goals and be clear about the budget you intend to invest.

The next step is to find the right agency or independent practitioner that can achieve the goals you have set forth and is comfortable with your budget. Here are some guidelines to help you in making choices.

You bet it is. For a long time I’ve suspected this, but had no empirical data to support my hypothesis.

A study published in Psychological Science went to the mat on this. Researchers Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer asked students to take notes on a 20-minute video lecture using either longhand or a computer that had been disabled for any other use (the idea was to remove the distractions that have given note-taking on computers lower marks for memory and comprehension).

“Even if you are using computers exactly as they’re supposed to be used, might that still be hurting learning?” is the question Mueller posed.

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