Think Typos Don’t Matter? Think Again.

more than an typo, red pencil circles the typoI overheard a conversation the other day while working out at the gym. A woman I had seen there before- let’s call her Cindy- was telling someone about how she works in PR. Cindy was annoyed that her client called her, upset, because her name was misspelled in an article in the local business journal. “I have to tell people all the time that this is PR, not ER.” Cindy mused. “It’s not my emergency! A typo is not that big of a deal.” Oh, but it is Cindy.

Accuracy is extremely important in our field. Not only do we have to manage our clients’ reputations in the media, we also have to make sure the facts are correct and that we’re telling their story in a meaningful and impactful way. A single error could mean a devastating blow to a corporate reputation, and gives fodder to the rumor mill. And yes, typos matter. Especially when it’s your client’s name! Typos in your media releases indicate sloppy work. You always need to proofread your work before you submit it. Yes, an occasional error can happen – we are only human after all. But I’m talking about the errors that occur from just not caring very much about the ramifications of these seemingly small mistakes. You have to care. Our clients depend on us to care. And they deserve to have the highest quality work at all times.

How can you avoid these kinds of errors? Here are a few simple tips:

  1. Have a team of people who proofread documents before they go out the door. The more sets of eyes you have on that important release for a client, the better.
  2. Always use the spellcheck and grammar tools in your word processing program as another layer of protection.
  3. Sometimes it helps to print your document and read it on paper to catch errors. Computer screens make our eyes tired and less able to find simple errors.
  4. Try reading your document out loud. This can help you find errors in verb tense, especially, and it will help you decide if you are conveying the message you mean to convey.

Accuracy matters. Our clients depend on us to get it right. And when they look good, we know we’ve done the best job we can possibly do for them. It’s kind of a big deal!

The Reality of Crisis Communications

The Reality of Crisis Communications

by Andy Likes, Senior Vice President

In light of the recent events in the media, we wanted to share this piece written last year by our crisis communications and reputation management pro, Andy Likes.

Not “If,” but “When”

Throughout my 20+ years in broadcast journalism and public relations, I’ve seen my share of crisis issues. They happen every single day. I tell my crisis communications training classes that it’s not a matter of “if” a crisis happens, but “when.” Whether you are part of a small non-profit organization or a major multi-national corporation, you are vulnerable. It could be an employee issue, a cyber-attack, lawsuit, natural disaster or any other number of things, but it’s only a matter of time before your reputation is on the line for one reason or another. The biggest issue in a crisis is time!

We have clients come to The Vandiver Group in one of three phases of a crisis; pre-event, mid-event, and post-event. The clients who come to us before a crisis happens are being proactive. They want us to help write a plan, create messages, and draft template press releases before things go bump in the night. They may or may not see a crisis on the horizon, but they know anything can happen. Other clients call us mid-crisis, or after the crisis is over, for reputation management and overall communications to mitigate the damage.

Proactive Crisis Planning

Implementing a crisis plan before a crisis occurs can save you three things: time, money, and frustration.  Planning ahead saves you time. It’s easier to write a plan and use it as your guidebook when bad things happen, rather than “wing it” and address things as they occur. Planning takes preparation and time, but it’s a fraction of the time you could spend on a crisis when you’re in the middle of it. Having a succinct, understandable plan that is easy to find can also be the key to rebuilding your reputation after the crisis is over.

Having the right messages that are timely and well-delivered helps build trust with employees, the media and the public, no matter what the issue may be. Holding information back because you don’t know everything may seem easy, but it’s not the best way to handle a crisis. Give all the information you have at the time and say you’ll be back with more when you have it. It’s like ripping off a bandage – it might hurt initially, but the quicker you respond, the quicker the crisis will be over. Ultimately you want to get from the crisis to the post-event stage, so you can rebuild your reputation as quickly as possible.  That all begins with the crisis plan and having your team ready for anything.

TVG has helped companies in all three stages of a crisis for more than 20 years. Are you ready to tackle a potential crisis? How can TVG help you? Tweet us @VandiverGroup or email info@vandivergroup.com for more information.

The Importance of Media Literacy in the Age of “Fake News”

Donna Vandiver, President & CEO

Laura Vandiver, VP of Research & Strategic Insight

Long before there was “fake news”, there was disinformation, propaganda and censorship. Many Americans are able to evaluate and decide if something they are reading is real or not, but many also have difficulty discerning “fake” news from actual, factual information, especially when false stories can be shared in an instant across the globe via social media channels. Read more

8 Tips for Strategic Pitching

Donna Vandiver, President & CEO

 
What you learned in Scouts is true- it’s best to be prepared. At TVG, when we teach staffers to pitch reporters, we talk about a number of things to make a pitch memorable and get the story picked up. Here are 8 of our best pitching tips:

 

1. Make it personal. If you were sending a note to a friend, you would know something about them. It’s no different with reporters. Know their beat, what they write about, and mention a piece they’ve done if you’ve read it and can say something relevant about it. Connecting to a reporter on a personal level will make your pitch stick out.

 

2. Do your homework. Gather good information and put it together in a compelling way. Think/Act like a reporter. What would you want to know? What would grab you? What’s grabbed you in the past?

 

3. Do your media research! Keep your media contact list up-to-date. People move around. There is nothing worse than getting a bounce back, because the reporter has moved on. Make sure all of your contacts are current and accurate before sending your pitch.

 
4. Proofread! Spell their name correctly. Don’t you automatically delete an email if your name is spelled wrong?

 

5. Get to the point. Don’t send an email asking if you can send them a pitch. This is like asking if you can ask a question. Don’t waste their time and yours with two emails, when one would do.

 

6. Maintain contact. Everyone’s busy. If they don’t respond, follow up within a few days. After that, it’s like starting over.

 

7. Say no to clickbait. Make sure your subject line matches the topic. There’s nothing wrong with being creative, but be sure you stay on message and on point.

 

8. Practice makes perfect! Don’t be easily discouraged, and don’t take it personally if a reporter doesn’t like your idea. Get better at packaging your ideas. Accept the challenge.

 

 

What are your best tips for pitching reporters? Tweet us @VandiverGroup, and let us know!

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Finding Solutions to Violent Crime in St. Louis

Donna Vandiver, President & CEO

 

TVG employees had a day of community service this year on Martin Luther King Day. Over the past several years, TVG has worked closely with the St. Louis Initiative to Reduce Violence (SIRV) to donate our time and services. Read more

Reaching a New Audience

Andy Likes, Vice President

 

How many times have you tried to grow your audience, only to find your reach is a real challenge? Many people turn to paid opportunities like advertising, commercials, billboards and email blasts, only to find the return on investment is less than stellar. Read more

To Say or Not to Say, That is the Question…

Andy Likes, Vice President

 

I facilitate training and executive coaching for clients of The Vandiver Group. One of our own key messages in these sessions is that you must always have something to say. There should be no reason to say, No comment.” Read more

The Creativity Challenge: Going against Convention

Andy Likes, Vice President

 

Creativity can be a challenge for some organizations. Routines are often the norm rather than the exception. But it is creativity and the push for something new that often leads to the best results. Read more

TVG Branding Series, Part 2: Identity

Donna Vandiver, President & CEO

 

In Part 1 of our four-part series on branding, we talked about Discovery—how you discover where you are and where you need to be. After conducting our audit of the brand and completing the discovery Read more

A Follow up on Brian Williams: Ethics, Honesty and Storytelling in Journalism

Donna Vandiver, President & CEO

 

I was reading Chuck Raasch’s column in the Post-Dispatch on February 15 about the fall of Brian Williams from NBC Nightly News. Mr. Williams has been put on a six-month unpaid leave since saying he was on a Read more