Crisis Communications – The NRA

By: Mark Macias

(This story was originally published in 2013 following a school shooting. Here’s a shortened edited version of that article)

I don’t like the sight of guns. I don’t like the smell of guns. I don’t even like talking about guns, but the NRA is delivering a great crisis communications lesson for any business facing an image crisis.

Here’s what the NRA did wrong and right in their crisis following a 2013 school shooting.

The NRA let time pass

The NRA waited for time to pass. Frequently, I advise clients to get in front of the story or else the narrative will be written by your opponent, but this is a perfect crisis communications case study where that does not apply to ALL problems. The NRA would have been foolish to speak while children were being buried.

That is pretty much one of the few things I believe the NRA did right following that horrific school shooting. Here is a more detailed list of what they did wrong, along with why it was a poorly executed communications plan.

Don’t Cast Blame

Wayne LaPierre with the NRA blamed the media, video games and even crazy people for their PR problem. That’s a mistake. The NRA thinks Americans should have the right to carry assault rifles that were designed for war. They need to take responsibility for that position and not blame others. If you are in a crisis situation, don’t blame the victim or even the shooter. Turn the situation into your favor by presenting why your side has a positive view. The media won’t report the good side of your story unless you present it and it is your job to communicate why your service helps others.

Put a face on the problem

Right now the NRA is facing a tough public image problem. It’s guns vs. little children.

That’s challenging because most parents and adults have instincts to protect children from harm. It’s a difficult fight, but the NRA needs to put a new face on this problem. They need to move the conversation away from assault rifles and back to the image of a father and daughter hunting together. As long as the debate surrounds military assault rifles, the NRA loses.

Bring a solution

If you are facing a crisis communications situation, you always want to bring closure to the problem. It lets the public believe (and hopefully it is the truth) that the problem won’t happen again. The NRA tried to bring closure to this problem by saying armed guards in front of our schools would prevent violence. It won’t or as a Facebook friend more eloquently posted, it’s like bringing a “knife to a gun fight.”

It sums up why the NRA needs a better communications strategy if it is ever going to persuade the parents in America.

 “Hey Mr. NRA douchebag…our banks are protected by armed guards and they still get robbed, our president is guarded by armed secret service and still gets shot and even killed. One armed cop on each campus won’t stop crazy folks from going there. Your press conference was a joke, and you are a joke of a man. Blame the video games, movies and music…yet not offer a single solution to try to keep your precious lil gun out of crazy folks hands. You suck!! Oh yeah, said crazy person comes to school with multiple semi automatic guns…lone cop has a pistol…what’s the saying? Bring a knife to a gun fight? Then your answer will be we need cops with semi automatic rifles you douchetard. Way to bring nothing to the table today except more guns, you kind sir are a complete assbag!!”

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC, Senior Producer with WCBS and Special Projects Producer with NBC. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR.

 

 

 

Get my Story on the News

By Mark Macias

It was one of the most popular questions I heard when I was an Executive Producer with NBC.

“How can I get my business on the news?”

There is no magic formula to getting your service or product on the news, but there are guidelines that will increase your chances.

You can increase your chances for coverage by identifying what is different, new or unique about your business. It sounds simple but a lot of people forget that news is based on the root “new.”

If you don’t have that “new” component, your story is at a disadvantage. You might be able to find a new angle by asking pointed questions:

Is your business contributing to the local community in a unique way we might not expect?

Are you about to accomplish a feat where others have failed?

What is different between you and competitors?

Focus and Clarify your Pitch

The more you can clarify and focus your pitch, the better odds you have of getting your business on the news.

Finding a unique angle is not as difficult as it may sound. You just need to open your mind to timely events that impact and influence sales of your product or service. If you own a fashion or jewelry store, try to link your product to high-profile events like the Academy Awards or the Grammy Awards. If your business is geared towards a niche audience, like traveling business executives, scan the headlines for possible tie-ins to current events.

Biggest Mistakes Most Publicists Make

Not properly defining the story is one of the biggest mistakes most publicists make. Your success on pitching depends greatly on how well you define that story because in many cases, you may only get one shot at pitching your story idea. You can focus your story by understanding and applying the five W’s (Who, What, When, Where, Why and How).

Who is this story about?

What is this story about?

Where is this story taking place?

When does your story take place?

Why should anyone care about your story?

How is your story, business, service or product changing lives?

The more you learn and understand the definition of “newsworthy,” the better chance you have of getting your story on the news. And once you successfully make that placement, you are better able to shape the message with the media.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR.

Credibility for my Business

By Mark Macias

Credibility matters in life, but it especially matters if you are trying to get a story on the news.

Whenever a journalist is pitched a story, he will quietly and overtly measure the person’s expertise, integrity and experience in the industry. Journalists  want to see proof on why this person is the best expert to add color to the industry.

This is why your business must establish credibility in the online world if you want to secure credible media placements.

If a reporter doesn’t see a solid online presence, credibility questions will be raised. This doesn’t mean you won’t succeed with a media placement, but it will be a much harder story sell to the media if you can’t show why you are an expert.

Here are a few questions to address and answer before you pursue media placements.

Q) What makes you qualified to speak on this topic?

Q) How many years of experience have you spent in the industry and why does this make you more qualified than your competitors?

Q) How big is your business in comparison to others?

Q) What part of your daily routine is spent reinforcing your expertise?

Q) What do you know as an insider that others would want to know?

Q) Does your business have a direct impact on reshaping the future?

Q) Is your business positioned as a leader in any trends?

Q) Do trade organizations recognize your business as a leader or expert?

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR or MarketYourFund.com

Crisis PR – Lost My Temper

By Mark Macias

A US Congressman made national news headlines after he was caught on camera threatening to throw a reporter over a balcony inside the US Capitol. He thought the camera and microphone were off, but to his later surprise, he learned all of America would soon see that exchange.

There’s a great lesson on crisis communications that you can take from this experience. The politician made a classic mistake that many others have made, including Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama.

If you want to be interviewed on TV – or if you think you might get in trouble later with your temper, there are two big lesson you can take away from these situations.

The Camera is Always Hot

I can’t tell you how many times as a TV producer where a person continued to talk when the camera lights were turned off. The interview is never over when a camera is turned down, the lights are turned off or a microphone is nearby. Most people don’t realize how powerful boom microphones can be even from a distance. They can pick up sound even when the camera is not within sight. If you didn’t say it when the lights were on, you might want to refrain from adding more conjecture to the story when the interview is over.

Be Respectful of Reporters

I’ve worked with many politicians on their media campaigns, including US Senate and Congressional candidates. Many politicians seem to have the same DNA make-up. They are used to being in charge, which doesn’t work well with journalists who take pride in their independence.

When these two sides collide – especially with investigative journalism-  it can lead to major confrontations where the person with the most powerful pen usually wins.

Journalists are human, so kindness matters. You may not like the reporter or his questions, but that doesn’t mean you should be disrespectful to him – regardless of whether you think the camera is running or not. Kindness will take you far with nearly any reporter.

I’ve worked with many CEOs and founders who were interviewed by reporters and showed a lack of respect for the journalist throughout the interview. After the interviews, they told me why they didn’t like the journalist.

I get it. I was one of them.

But what everyone needs to realize is that journalists are trained to question and look for motive. If you give them a reason to not like you, you will succeed. Be kind, be courteous and practice what your kindergarten teacher taught you about others anytime you deal with a reporter.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR or MarketYourFund.com