The Basic Things To Do When You Start Your Own Public Relations Firm (Or Communications Consultancy)

I started EZPR about 8 years ago, with the goal of not having to answer to anyone other than my clients and my own self-loathing, and it’s worked out pretty well. And today it’s even easier than it was back then to start your own firm, especially if you’re slowly going insane working for a person who appears to think CEO means “micromanage and yet somehow take vacations.” What blows me away are the many small yet meaningful mistakes that these people make when they start out – things that I always thought were obvious, perhaps because I’m a genius, or perhaps because they’re extremely obvious but people still don’t do them for reasons I can’t understand.

Let’s begin.

Don’t Just Refer To Yourself As A Communications Consultant – Pick A Proper Name

Whatever your name is, don’t call yourself [your name], PR Consultant. That immediately pigeonholes you as a singular entity, dramatically reducing the respect and business you’ll be able to compete for. Saying you’re an “independent consultant” makes a lot of people think you’re unemployed, or unable to do the job that you would do in exactly the same position in an agency. Come up with a name that isn’t just “Your Name Public Relations.” It’s even fine to just use your second name. Use your middle name. Use the name of your cat. Choose something.

Also, make sure it’s X Y Z Public Relations or Communications. Don’t just say “consulting.” Consulting sounds like, well, a consultancy, which could be for anything.

For example, a good agency name would be, if your name was Robert Derner, Derner PR. Simple, effective, sounds good. What wouldn’t be effective would be Robert Derner Public Relations (too long), or worse still, Robert Derner, Communications Consultant.

Buy A Domain, Don’t Use Your Personal Email, It’s Embarrassing

It costs maybe $10 to buy a domain name, and most hosts – I like Name.com – will even set up a Gmail account to go with it, so you’ll be able to use Gmail and send and receive emails from bert@derner.com, or whatever address you have. It makes you sound like you know what you’re doing, that you’re a real business, and that you actually exist, versus someone emailing from their @gmail, or worse still, @aol or @yahoo.com, email. If you’re trying to convince someone to give you thousands of dollars a month to do work for them, why in the world would they trust you if you’re using @gmail.com? What’s wrong with you? Come on! Seriously!

Get A Real Website

It took me years to actually get a proper website. What “proper” means is “not a WordPress or template website,” which is ironic considering this blog is currently on WordPress. When clients look you up, that’s where they’ll find you. I recommend finding someone who can build you one relatively affordably – I use Studio Corvus, who builds on Webflow. The reason I specifically recommend them is because most WordPress sites do not work very well on mobile, while Webflow sites work well on mobile, and your clients are going to check you out while messing around on their phone.

On said website, have your contact information, such as your email address and phone number (I’d recommend getting a Google Voice number that forwards to your real number), and clearly state what it is you do and why you’re good at it. Have clients. Have example results you’ve got. Make it short, sweet and professional.

Get The Software You Need To Run Your Agency (And Look Professional)

For invoicing, I use Freshbooks – it lets you do monthly billing, track expenses, all the stuff you’ll need. Zoom is an obvious one for comms. Slack is an obvious choice when you start to staff up, and clients may want to have private Slack channels to chat with you. I really like Superhuman for email management, but it’s not necessary. I use Notion to keep track of everything from media hits to new business, and it’s super adaptable (though a bit overwhelming at first.)

The most important thing you realize is that you do not need much software to actually do it.

You may notice I haven’t mentioned Cision, or Meltwater, or Muckrack. The reason is that for the most part you will need to learn the contact emails of people once, and past that point you can work them out on your own, mostly by using Google. Cision costs thousands of dollars, and is useful for finding contacts, and precisely nothing else. Trendkite is bloated, ugly, useless software that costs about $10,000 a year and does not work in a way a human being does. Any service that offers to do “media outreach” for you is a scam of spam – one that will be blasting the same email to lots of people, which sucks.

If you absolutely need a database tool, Cision is okay. It’s not great. I hate paying for it. Media monitoring services only give you metrics to mislead your clients, and they charge through the nose. I cannot tell you what they are worth. All I know is that you definitely don’t need anyone to monitor the media for you. Get Google Alerts. They’re fine.

One day a company will come along and offer what Cision does – an updated database of people’s emails who wish their emails weren’t public – at a cheaper cost. When that day comes along, go with God. They continue to add a bunch of other things like “influencer outreach” (meaningless, it’s just the same thing) and “campaigns” (IE: they wrap their press release product into more mail merging stuff). No way do you need all that.

Get Your First 10 Clients At Any Price, And Go Hog Wild For Them

The best money you can make in PR is based off of referrals. I have very rarely if ever had to do outgoing new business because I started my agency with the spiteful intention of righting the wrongs of the PR industry. What this manifested as was great work for every client, obviously, but a whole-assing from day 1 that meant that my very first client, to this day, refers me incredible business. Why? Because I didn’t do the work of someone making a small retainer, I did the work that I believed an agency should do.

Your earliest clients are not stepping stones, they are the foundation of your agency. These are the people who will never forget you – who will go to bat for you for years (or nearly a decade in one case), who will continue to talk well of you, because you were both early at the same time, and you both fought in the trenches together. I’m not saying that later in the game you get to ease off the gas pedal – just that when you start out, you should try and do the work of a full agency, even if you’re not a full agency.

Seriously, happy clients are the best form of revenue you will ever have. This may mean that you let these clients go sometimes – let them leave before they grow to hate you, and they’ll still refer you business.

The post The Basic Things To Do When You Start Your Own Public Relations Firm (Or Communications Consultancy) appeared first on The Future Buzz.


Posing for selfies

We act differently when we know we’re about to be on display.

Aim a camera at someone and they tense up. I guess we call it “taking” a picture for a reason. We feel defensive.

Social media multiplies this by counting “likes” (which doesn’t mean someone actually likes us) or “friends” (which doesn’t mean that someone is actually our friend.)

The irony is that the people we’re most likely to want to trust and engage with are the ones who don’t pose. They’re consistent, committed and clear, but they’re not faking it.

Figure out what you want to say, the change you seek to make, the story you want to tell–and then tell it. Wholeheartedly and with intent.

Posing is unnecessary.


What Are Google Ads Sitelinks, and Why Should You Use Them?

Updated 8/4/20 to include new information.

Google Ads sitelinks are ad extensions that allow advertisers to promote up to four additional links to their website within one PPC ad. These links typically lead to pages beyond the ad’s main landing page, directing users to specific parts of your site that may be more applicable to their search intent straight from the search engine results page (SERP).

Before we discuss more benefits and best practices, let’s take a look at the features of a sitelink and how they appear when shown as part of an ad.

Sitelinks (shown in the red rectangle below) are composed of three elements: one headline (also known as the link text) and two description lines. The headline has a 25 character limit and appears as blue clickable link text, while description lines have a 35 character limit per description, and show as plain text that is not clickable.

Example of sitelinks shown in their entirety on a desktop browser

Entire sitelinks (one headline + two description lines) are usually displayed when an ad is in the first or second ad position on the SERP, while ads in lower ad positions may only show the headline (blue clickable text) or might not show a sitelink at all. The number of sitelinks eligible to show depends on the device: up to six on desktop, up to eight on mobile.

Up to six sitelinks can show on a desktop ad without descriptions

Why Should Advertisers Use Sitelinks?

Implementing sitelinks as part of your Google Ads strategy can provide a ton of additional value to your advertising efforts. Here are my top four reasons why you need to start using sitelinks now:

  1. Sitelinks increase your presence on the SERP. Along with other ad extensions, sitelinks can help increase the size of your ad, making your ad stand out against your competitors.
  2. Ads with sitelinks can help drive a 10-15% uplift in CTR. By including relevant sitelinks, a user is shown additional information about what content your website has to offer, otherwise unknown to them unless they spend time on your site. In the screenshot above, sitelinks helped the user understand which sneaker brands the store carries. If a user favors any of these brands, they are more likely to interact with the ad.
  3. Increase conversion rates. By providing users with pertinent links and landing pages to fulfill their search intent, you can potentially funnel your customers toward a conversion point faster. When implemented strategically, you may see an increase in conversion rate when sitelinks are present.
  4. No change in cost-per-click. Sitelinks do not increase your cost-per-click! Sitelinks are free to use. If a user clicks on a sitelink, Google will charge you the same amount as you would be if the user clicked on the text ad’s main headline.

How Do You Create Sitelinks?

To create a sitelink, you can be on any campaign view level. In the middle menu drawer, click on the ‘Ads & Extension’ menu item to reveal the ‘Ads, Assets, Extensions, and Automated Extensions’ menu items. Once you click on ‘Extensions,’ you will be shown the default extensions screen for all extension types. You can choose to filter for sitelinks only for easier viewing.


To create a new sitelink, click on the blue plus icon to reveal the ad extension options.


Click on ‘Sitelink extension’ to reveal the sitelink creation screen.


When creating a new sitelink, you can choose to use it on the account level (all search and video campaigns) or select specific campaigns/ad groups. To make this choice, click on the dropdown below ‘Add to’ to reveal your options.


One great feature of the sitelink creation screen is the sitelink preview section. Though the purpose of the preview section is self-explanatory, I’ve got a sitelink extension pro tip! To get entire sitelinks to show in the preview screen for desktop, you will need to fill in all of the available text fields (except Final URL).

In the example below, you’ll see that sitelink descriptions have been filled out, but are not showing in the preview.

These sitelinks look naked and afraid

When you fill out all available fields, you can generate a useful sitelink preview to share with your stakeholders. A screenshot of this can be forwarded to help illustrate what sitelinks can achieve.

Ahhh, sitelinks in their full, beautiful form


Sitelink Best Practices

When it comes to creating and implementing sitelinks, use these best practices as a guide:

  1. Create at least two sitelinks to ensure they are eligible to show on the SERP. We recommend creating four sitelinks to maximize ad presence.
  2. Avoid applying sitelinks on the account level. While general sitelinks can be applied across the account (e.g., Contact Us, About Us, Blog), it is important that sitelinks are relevant to your campaign strategy. By applying on the campaign or ad group level, you can obtain granular performance data for sitelink testing.
  3. Do not use the same link text for multiple sitelinks, which can create a confusing user experience.
  4. For the same reason, do not create multiple sitelinks that lead to the same landing page.
  5. Link text and descriptions should relate directly to the landing page they lead to.
  6. Sitelinks will not serve if the landing page URL differs from the domain of the ad’s final URL.
  7. Link text and landing page content should directly relate to the ad it is paired with.
  8. Sitelinks should be implemented strategically based on your campaign/ad group structure and your advertising goals.
  9. Don’t focus too much on one specific page or message to promote. Use a variety of landing pages to give your users different content options directly from the SERP.
  10. Just like text ads, stay away from symbols, excessive punctuation, and emojis.

To Recap

Sitelinks are a powerful way for advertisers to increase click-through and conversion rates. When executed properly, these extensions can provide a ton of extra value on top of your standard PPC ad. And with no extra cost associated with these ad extensions, all advertisers should be using them when applicable for their Google Ads campaigns.

You know what they say [about sitelinks]: Use it or lose it! ‘It’ being clicks.

Okay, ‘they’ don’t say that…just me.

The post What Are Google Ads Sitelinks, and Why Should You Use Them? appeared first on Portent.


How To Say β€œI’m Sorry.”

Depending on what minute you’re on in a particular day, a celebrity is probably apologizing for something. Maybe it’s Ellen DeGeneres apologizing for having one of the worst places to work in the world. Maybe it’s former NBA player Stephen Jackson apologizing for defending, then somehow continuing to defend NFL player DeSean Jackson’s anti-semitism. There are entire lists of celebrity apologies that made things worse, because people can’t apologize, because people are scared of apologizing. This is why people say insufferable, worthless things such as “I’m sorry you feel that way,” and “I’m sorry for the way I said that,” versus actually trying to make someone feel better. It’s an act of cowardice bred by a western culture that became obsessed with corporate America, pop-lawyering and pop-psychology.

In truth, a real apology – one that truly is sorry, and truly seeks to mend things, is an act of courage. There’s no perfect way to apologize, but I want to try and help you make steps towards doing so.

Why are people so scared of saying I’m sorry?

The simple apology – “I’m sorry” – is something that alludes most people because of a fear of repercussions. It’s the social version of thinking that if you don’t have a signature on a contract there was no agreement. If you don’t say sorry, you’re not admitting guilt, and by abstraction you’re not guilty of whatever it is you might be asked to apologize for. People think that by not admitting to doing something wrong – even if they did something, and it had the affect of what happened after they did it – they are somehow guiltless, and that without an apology, there’s no admission of wrongdoing, just like a court settlement.

This also extends to saying the three little words “but” immediately following an apology. “I”m sorry, but-” removes the apology and replaces it with whatever else you’ve got to say afterwards, and may as well say “I’m not sorry, and it’s because.” If you say “I’m sorry you feel that way,” you’re a worthless ghoul, and know exactly what you’re doing, because “I’m sorry you feel that way,” as well as its cousin “I’m sorry I made you feel that way” are simply abstractions of saying “I don’t think I did anything wrong, and you’re at fault here.”

In essence, not apologizing, or making someone feel like they have to apologize for something you did to them, is a form of abuse. Even if you believe what you did was right and they overreacted, frankly, you should try and understand why your seemingly-harmless actions had a negative effect. And, for the most part, if you’re someone who said “I’m sorry you feel that way,” you already know you messed up.

How to actually apologize.

I had originally had an evaluation of a crisis situation here, but I think something very basic needs to be said here.

  • If you are apologizing, say “I’m sorry.”
  • Whatever your apology is, and your actions are, you should make sure they are declarative, and fully take care of the situation. It may seem like the easiest thing to do would be to do little things to make things better and hope that you can do the bare minimum to get through a situation, but you are most likely wrong, and it will make you look worse.
  • Say you are sorry, why you did it (if there is an explanation), and then what you will be doing to fix things.
  • Once you have done that, stop talking about it. If you are asked about it more, say that you’ve made your statement on the situation. If it’s a legal situation, refer them to your legal counsel.

Though this is very generalized, the core of it is simple – actually apologize, own your mistake, don’t hand-wave, don’t attempt to blame it on someone else, and then π™Žπ™ƒπ™π™ 𝘿𝘼 π™π™π˜Ύπ™† 𝙐𝙋 . If you keep getting asked about it, it’s most likely because you didn’t really apologize or didn’t do enough to fix the problem. In truth, you are never going to satisfy everyone, but you should try and make a satisfactory apology and solution.

Here’s a simple one: Mookie Betts in 2016 said that he would never kneel for the national anthem, as he believed it was insulting to the military. He then chose to kneel during a game in July 2020. He said the following:

β€œI wasn’t educated. That’s my fault,” said Betts, who the day prior inked a 12-year, $365 million contract extension. β€œI need to be educated on the situation. I know my dad served and I’ll never disrespect the flag, but there’s also gotta be change in the world, and kneeling has nothing to do with those who served our country.”

This is good apology for the following reasons:

  • He said he was at fault (“my fault”). He did not attempt to say “there were exterior pressures” or something else.
  • He explained his previous position as uneducated, that he had sought education, and at the end of said education had, in fact, realized that he could both respect the American flag and kneel, because kneeling does not disrespect the flag, the military, or his father, and that it’s an act of defiance against negative forces in the world. That’s called “taking action“.

An Actual Apology Beats Any Explanation

The core of a good apology is that you’re actually sorry. A great deal of people think that an apology has a necessary amount of explanations of intention – why you did what you did, the things going on in your mind, the powerful reasons that endeared you to do the thing that made you do the thing. The problem is that the more you explain, the more likely you are to have to apologize for something else, and the less sorry you actually seem.

Take the United flight where a passenger was brutally beaten for not giving up their seat on an allegedly overbooked flight. The passenger, a 69-year-old man, was pulled from his seat and beaten unconscious by the police. Initially, United CEO Oscar Munoz said that he would have a thorough investigation done, only to then try and justify the act by saying the passenger was “disruptive and belligerent,” in a letter to his staff.

An important detail here is that, clearly, Munoz believed that it was right that the passenger was assaulted by cops, because he would not abide by airline rules (?). Putting aside the sociopathy of seeing that video and thinking “well, he should have left his seat,” Munoz could have literally said nothing, or said “it’s truly abominable that passenger was treated that way,” then settled this quietly. However, because he insisted on explaining what happened as quickly as humanely possible, he I’m-sorry-butted himself into a scandal.

His letter to his people could have been short – he didn’t leave his seat, he was asked to leave, and he was brutally beaten, and we’re disgusted by the cops that did this, who do not work for United, I’m sorry you all had to see this, that’s bad, I as CEO am meeting with X person at the Chicago Aviation Security Authority to do Y. But sadly, he had to explain himself, because deep down – I assume – Munoz believed the cops acted well, a thing he could have hidden inside his horrible brain, and thus explained how much of a ghoul he was.

A whole day later, the Airline referred to the event as horrific, took full responsibility, and Munoz had to appear on Good Morning America to talk about how much shame he felt. It was an unforced error after a series of extremely unforced errors, compounded by more unforced errors, all getting away from doing one thing: saying sorry.

Here’s how this should have gone:

  • United should have found out everything immediately before issuing a statement beyond “we’ve seen the video, and it’s truly horrifying.”
  • Behind the scenes, United should have immediately seen to the full medical treatment of the passenger, paid for every possible form of comfort possible, and made sure, uh, he wasn’t dead. This is not for PR purposes, this is for “being human being” purposes.
  • They should have issued an internal memo saying that an investigation was taking place, and that they were going to find out exactly what happened, but this was not a thing that should happen, ever, and that something would be done, but obviously this was an extremely big deal and thus needed a full evaluation.
  • They should have then put out a statement saying that pending investigation, they were fully taking care of the passenger who had been hurt, and that United passengers, guests, and human beings should not and will not be treated like that.
  • They should have then put out the statement around how sorry they were, and that they were working with the authorities to stop these violent acts ever happening again, and they were sorry to the passenger, anyone who was around him or on the plane, and anyone who ever flew United, as this was extremely traumatic.
  • They should have then publicly apologized to him, given him free first class on United for the rest of his life, very publicly disclosed a settlement with him, because it made it look like they were actually sorry.
  • They also should have put real money into de-escalation training with the Chicago airport authorities who very much seem to be the people who messed up here!

Note: they settled with the passenger anyway. Possibly for $140 million. I do wonder how much cheaper this would have been had Munoz not gone ahead and tried to explain why he was beaten unconscious and dragged off of the plane like a dead animal.

The important part of everything I’ve written above is that very little of it actually explains anything. There was no explanation that United could have given that would warrant what happened to the passenger. What people cared about was whether the guy was alive, healthy, able to breathe, because they imagined themselves in that situation and were horrified.

In whatever situation you find yourself where the end point is everyone being mad at you, nobody wants to know whether you had good intentions, nobody wants to hear the saga that led you to doing a bad thing. It doesn’t matter if you had some sort of justification for the thing you did wrong. People want to hear you’re sorry, they want to hear you’re doing something to fix it, and then they don’t want to hear anything more from you that doesn’t noticeably improve the situation.

Evaluate. Sort the situation out as best you can. Make a statement. Shut up.

A note on “if things are worse than they seem.”

If you’re in a situation where you’ve apologized only for what’s come out, you have two choices – you can either get ahead of what’s happening and make a statement that addresses it, or you can keep it hidden, so that when it comes out you have to do this dance again. This is always a tricky one, depending on the egregiousness of what you did. For the most part, this is one I’d hand off to a lawyer, as it’s so broad it’s unanswerable.

Let’s take a data breach. The media announces that there has been a breach of your information and only disclosed that there were names and addresses revealed. You know social security numbers have been revealed too. You should go ahead and disclose that the moment you can, despite the fact that you know it will damage your reputation. Why? Because hiding it will damage your reputation more. Note, this obviously must play second fiddle to the security of your current data and any potential ways in which you have to protect users, but for the most part, if it’s leaked, and it’s been compromised, you have to go to the media and tell them immediately.

The Beauty of Silence (And Time)

A classic problem with apologies is the silence immediately following them. You’ve said sorry, you’ve said you’re doing something, and everyone’s still mad. Why are they still mad? You said you’re sorry, and what you’re going to do, but everyone’s still mad at you and asking for more explanations! What do you do?

  • Step 1: Nothing
  • Step 2: The things you said you’d do to make the thing better

What you don’t do is continue to answer questions, or worse still continue to answer questions nobody’s asked about the situation. If you get a media inquiry, you point them to your previous statement. You say “nothing further to add at this time.”

This applies everywhere – arguments with your spouse, colleagues, friends, professional events, wherever you’ve chosen to mess up. The classic folly most people make with an apology is expecting it to be an emotional panacea, immediately making the person feel better and totally recovered. You will simply have to weather the storm in silence, or by repeating yourself and saying you’re sorry, and repeating your statement. If you can, the best solution is simply to say nothing more at this time – you cannot fix the problem more than you have done, and you will only make it worse.

You also do not want to get pissed off and keep talking, thus making more stuff for you to have to apologize for.

You may even find said person you’ve wronged, even accidentally, keeps bringing it up – it’s your job to realize that the injured party, the victim, is still hurt, and you have done wrong. You will likely repeat yourself. You will get new questions, and you may have to say “as I have said,” without a drop of venom or frustration. That’s because you did something wrong, and you cannot travel back in time to fix it.

The most important thing here, which applies to all apologies, is to actually mean it. If you don’t mean it, you will break, and your non-apology will make things worse. Depending on the situation, you may have apologized to keep the peace. If you actually want to keep the peace, act as if you are sorry, by which I mean returning to the above repetition of your statement.

It’s so easy to fill air to “fix” things or “give your side of the story.’ But the truth is, if you are actually apologizing, your side of the story no longer matters. The side of the story that matters is the person or party you’ve wronged, and making things better with them.

And finally…”what if I’m not actually wrong?”

You are not reading this because you’re not actually wrong. Give me a break. If you’re reading this and internalizing it, it’s because your apologies keep leading to bigger, stupider arguments, and even bigger, stupider apologies. You keep having arguments with the same person or party despite saying you’re sorry, and you’re not sure why that is. The reason is because you are not actually sorry, or you are not actually apologizing, or some combination therein.

The post How To Say “I’m Sorry.” appeared first on The Future Buzz.


Shipping creative work

If it doesn’t ship, it doesn’t count. If it’s not creatively productive, it’s not helpful. And if we’re lucky, this is the heart of our work. The work of creation in our chosen medium, putting ourselves on the hook, being asked to do something that’s never been done quite this way before.

Call this the work of a Creative, with a capital C. Someone who commits to making things better by leading through their work, and bringing insight and magic and utility to interesting problems.

It requires us to trust ourselves. To find a voice. To understand systems and genre and craft.

After a year of work, we launched the Creative’s Workshop last year. It quickly became the most engaging at-your-own-pace workshop at Akimbo. The people in the workshop gave and received more feedback each day than most people get in six months. And streaks of a hundred days of productive work in a row were the norm.

We only do this twice a year, and the new session is open for registration today. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read the details and check out what previous participants have said about it. The last session was powerful enough that it became the basis for my new book, which comes out in November.

If you look for the purple circle on this page, you’ll find our secret discount, which is at maximum value today, but it eventually disappears.

Our future depends on the ability of each of us to find a way to make things better. To seek connection, to enable possibility and to open doors for others. I hope this workshop can help.


Why Negative Reviews Are Good For Your Brand

I had a long conversation the other day with a friend who used to be an auto journalist about negative reviews. He told a story of when a colleague sent his (negative) review of a vehicle to the PR company behind said vehicle. He also told me a story of how someone’s feelings were hurt when he wrote a negative review of another car, and how a particular colleague told him that he should “go easy on them.” It reminded me distinctly of my days in games journalism when I’d sit down, crack my knuckles as if I was doing something important, and write a negative review of a PC game, only to turn it in and get in a little bit of trouble for being a little too nasty.

This wasn’t uncommon.

There was – at least for the years I was doing games journalism – a genuine sense that you couldn’t be too mean or too critical of a particular big publisher, though this was generally brushed aside when it came to smaller publishers, which wasn’t unique to games but definitely was extremely annoying. The change that happened was that it became necessary to critique big releases, and publishers responded by delaying embargoes on reviews (IE: the agreed-upon time that you can post your review of a game, essentially an outlet’s trade to get a game early enough to have a review up for release date) to the literal day of the game’s release. Outlets responded by not posting reviews on release day, letting games “sit” a bit and having more robust reviews. A big mess, all essentially to trick gamers into buying a game before reading an honest review, or at least to stop the inevitable – that gamers might find out a game, well, sucks.

The same thing happens in tech, in the sense that there are agreed-upon embargo dates to post reviews on, in the event a reporter receives something in advance, and if the thing is already released and they’re simply reviewing it, the rules of engagement are oftentimes as simple as “please send it back to us when you’re done.” What some PR people interpret reviews as – and no, I’m not going to be kind and say “oh they’re just doing what the CEO says,” because PR people apparently have working brains – is a lubed tube of positive press, a chance for a person to write something nice and get free shit because they were nice.

Nuh-uh. A review is something that exists to give a critical third party statement on your product. It may be positive. It may be negative. If it’s negative, they’re most likely finding stuff in the thing you sent them. It’s meant to be their own subjective evaluation, because a review is an abstraction of word-of-mouth, which is inarguably the most powerful force a PR person can hope to harness.

Now, if you’re a PR person, you may think negative reviews are bad. The truth is that they are only bad if your product is bad, which if it is…well, your product is bad, fix your product, don’t release bad products. I’ll get to that in a little bit.

What happens far more often than I’d like is that PR people take negative reviews as people “being haters.” This is not true, you are a huge baby if you consider someone a “hater” because of a bad review, and I wish you’d stop saying it because it’s unproductive to the world at large. In your general life, if you bought something and it was bad, you’d say you hated it and why you hated it. If someone does that in a review, they are doing so because they feel that the thing was bad at the thing the thing was meant to do. They are also doing so so that their readers know whether something is bad, so that they spend their money or don’t spend their money on it, or something else.

How To Deal With Bad Reviews (And How They’re Actually Good For You)

One particular stinker of a PR firm working for MSI recently attempted to bribe, then threaten a reporter for giving their laptop a bad review.

Now, the smart money here would be to say to the reviewer “yeah, your findings are correct, the trackpad is off,” or put him on the phone with an engineer, or, if you know your laptop sucks, just kind of say that the things he’s found are consistent with the final product. Brace yourself for impact. The review’s gonna be bad. Threatening someone with no more review samples or sponsorships because they said your bad thing is bad is childish and moronic – the act of a coward and a charlatan.

I can guarantee the internal conversation here branded this reporter some kind of hater, an outlier in an otherwise perfect crop. Whenever you do this, you are hurting yourself. This is stupid. You are stupid. If they have found a legitimate problem with your device, fix that, then go back to the reviewer.

Why? Because if you go back to a “hater” and say “hey, we heard you, we fixed it, what do you think?” you may turn them into a convert, who will absolutely lose their shit at a company that legitimized their feelings and respected their opinion. You know who also loves this the fucking consumer. Consumers are used to being told their opinions and dislikes are stupid, and that they don’t know what they want.

Sidenote: yes, there are occasionally haters. They are very rare. If you are a PR person reading this and using this as an excuse to call someone a hater, I'm going to come to your house and break every toilet, I am going to leave you with no way to go to the bathroom. Next time you need to go to the toilet, you are going to have to do so in the trash.

Negative reviews are good for you because they show consumers that everything positive about you isn’t paid advertising. Negative reviews show that you are fallible, like regular human beings, and your ability to take criticism like an adult and use it to be better will allow you to be a stronger, better company. A good company will have bad reviews. A good product will have them too. Nothing is perfect, just like the human experience, and you should be realistic about that.

To conclude, I know reading negative stuff sucks. It hurts. I’m not emotionless, and I recognize criticism is painful, especially when there’s nothing you can immediately do about it. Maybe if you know something is a little flawed you’ll take it only to certain reporters who won’t, well, be so harsh on it. Maybe you don’t do a big press campaign around it. Maybe you put it back in development. Depending on the product it may not be possible. But if you’re working on something categorically bad, perhaps it’s worth not putting it out there at all.

The post Why Negative Reviews Are Good For Your Brand appeared first on The Future Buzz.


Two kinds of decisions worth focusing on

HARD ONES because you know that whatever you choose is possibly the wrong path. Hard decisions are hard because you have competing priorities. Hard decisions that happen often are probably a sign that the system you’re relying on isn’t stable, which means that the thing you did last time might not be the thing you want to do this time.

EASY ONES because it probably means that you’ve got a habit going. And an unexamined habit can easily become a rut, a trap that leads to digging yourself deeper over time.


PS The Early decision deadline for the October session of the altMBA is tomorrow, August 4th. If you apply by then, you’re still at the front of the line for admission… Apply here.


Steal the time from comfort

Everyone gets the same 24 hours. Reset every day, a fresh start.

Some of us are privileged enough to have the choice on how to spend some of that time. We can feel busy, but the busy-ness is largely a choice, a series of decisions we’ve made over the years about the things we choose to do, but have come to believe we have to do.

These habits are now comfortable. Walking away from spending that time will cost us comfort. In the short run. But if we don’t walk away from how we spent time yesterday, it’s hard to imagine that tomorrow will be much better than today.

HT: This riff from Derek Sivers is still resonating with me.


A too-simple answer to a complicated problem

The problem: how can we get people what they want and need?

It turns out that the simple short-term answer is the market.

The marketplace makes it possible to buy a nail clipper made of hardened steel for just four dollars, but only when you’re ready. The marketplace offers some people a solid brass set of the cups and balls magic trick and other people a hand-blown glass vase.

The marketplace is hyper-alert and never tires of finding overlooked corners of desire.

But the marketplace is not wise.

It’s blind, short-term and fairly stupid. Because it has no overarching goal. The market is nothing but billions of selfish people, trading this for that, without regard for what’s next.

Left alone, capitalism will devolve into corruption, bribery and predatory pricing leading to monopoly. Left alone, capitalism will pollute rivers, damage our health and create ever greater divides.

Capitalism gets us an opioid epidemic, the dark patterns of social media and doom scrolling.

Because the market isn’t wise. It has no sense of time or proportion.

The only way for the simple answer to solve our complicated problems is for it to have guardrails, boundaries that enable it to function for the long haul.

That’s something we need leadership to get done. And it’s more likely to get done if we acknowledge that we need to do it.