We are very excited to continue our public relations and crisis communications expert interview series with Naomi Grandison, a publicist at AMW Group, a marketing and entertainment group with headquarters in Houston, Los Angeles, and New York City. While at AMW Group, Naomi has worked with a variety of clients, from tech companies to entrepreneurs to musicians/bands. Her clients have appeared in various publications such as Entrepreneur.com, Thrive Global, and Bass Musician Magazine. Naomi is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, although currently, she is based in Los Angeles, California. She has a special passion for music and for helping artists and entertainers share their talents with the world.
What is reputation management? How does it relate to public relations?
Reputation management is about keeping your brand in public favor. Creating a positive presence that people feel comfortable working with or buying from. This is a large part of public relations because when doing PR work, it’s all about connecting with people through the story of your brand and business. A reputation for professionalism, quality, purpose, flexibility, and humanity is essential in multiple areas — with your customers, within your industry, with the media, with your local community, with your employees, etc.
What are the biggest PR mistakes you see companies make online? How could these mistakes have been avoided?
Many companies neglect to actively commit to PR campaigns in the first place. You can have a beautiful website, great SEO, but your long-term credibility and reputation will come from positive relationships with the media. Media features, product reviews, expert interviews, etc. are going to help you build a long-lasting brand that’s endorsed by media outlets that people trust and recognize.
A lot of companies also give up early after they start a PR campaign, which is a huge mistake because PR is about playing the long game and getting better and better results over time. Many of the larger media outlets that you’re aiming to be featured in are only going to be willing to pick up your story if they see that you’ve already been active and successful in media exposure by smaller outlets.
How does social media factor into your reputation management strategy?
Social media is how you can easily access your audiences. It’s a window for people to see how your business operates. Do you respond promptly and kindly to questions in the comments? Do you provide consistent value beyond the product/service you’re selling? Are you involved in multiple facets of your industry? Do you care about the people in your community and what’s going on in the world? If you’re intentional about your social media and if you really are passionate about connecting with people, you’ll be able to build a healthy online community of loyal followers and supportive industry professionals.
What is the first thing a company should do when there is a crisis online?
PR crises are usually time-sensitive, so your first thought needs to be about the statement you’re going to make to the public. Even if you haven’t figured out the full strategy to remedy the situation, the statement should express your full dedication to getting to the bottom of the issue and detail the next steps you’re taking next to make things improve. That’s better than remaining quiet for too long. So, the first thing you’re going to want to do is call a meeting with relevant employees, partners, etc. who you need to help you put together a strategic message. From there, your next move will be to reach out to the media and prepare for a public statement.
What can employees do to help their company during and after a PR crisis?
Employees should think about stepping up and taking action beyond what their job description may be. Offer new ideas. Volunteer to take the lead. You become invaluable as an employee when you are flexible and eager to help the company grow.
What can senior executives and companies do to better prepare for a PR crisis?
Companies often overlook the responsibility of putting together a crisis plan. A crisis plan contains multiple resources — a list of local media contacts you can reach out to, potential crises and suggested strategies on how to respond to them, press announcements and email copy that you can edit and tweak (rather than having to write up the whole thing during a time-sensitive crisis). You won’t be able to plan for everything, but having a professionally crafted crisis plan will help you to have a set format to work off of and to make sure that you don’t forget or overlook important details in a time crunch.
Is reputation management getting easier or harder? Why?
Personally, I believe it’s getting easier, because we have so much direct access to our audiences, so our intended messages can be relayed loud and clear to the exact people we want to send them to. A lot of people are afraid nowadays to say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing, so I know there are many who believe it’s getting much harder, due to the added social pressure of everything you say and do being online and easily accessible. But it shouldn’t be hard to manage your reputation if you are committed to being educated and to doing the right thing in the first place. People often get caught when they lack education on a subject, lack empathy, are unwilling to admit wrongdoing, or are unwilling to make changes.
This is where you need to take a good look at yourself. Your brand is an extension of you. It’s your baby, it reflects what you know. If you want your brand to appeal to people of all different backgrounds, you need to be aware of your own personal shortcomings. You need to know that as an individual, you have a limited perspective and you see the world in a very specific way, no matter who you are or where you come from. From there, you will truly be able to commit to being open-minded, having empathy, and becoming more and more educated. Reputation management should never come from a place of fear — it should come from a place of humility.
What has been your biggest PR or crisis communications challenge? How did you handle it?
I haven’t been directly involved in a major crisis during my time as a publicist. But I know the horror stories all too well. The COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests have been a reality check for a lot of businesses, a chance for brands to really show their true colors in who they care about and how much they are willing to sacrifice for the community and greater good. In certain cases, the manner in which you respond to a crisis will absolutely make or break you.
My advice is to consider every stakeholder you are connected with. Many companies’ first reaction is to take care of their customers and figure out how to mend that relationship. But all brands deal with multiple publics, main ones being consumers, employees, partners, local media, local community, and fellow industry members. Yes, take care of your customers, but the work to manage your reputation through a crisis never stops there.
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