Univeral Amplifier

Universal Amplifier

Amplifying the topics that power today's PR professional

Transparency: Are you out there?

Gina Svendsen serves as Media Analysis Director for Universal Information Services.

This blog entry is my rant—my opinion. In writing this post, I am putting myself “out there” for a discussion –because without discussion, it’s just me on my soap-box. As the Director of Media Analysis for Universal Information Services, it’s also a great diversion from analytics.

I have a slew of nieces and nephews from college-age all the way down to elementary school age, so I’m always wondering, “What can I learn from these great kids and apply that to my life?” As I was brainstorming over this blog post, it donned on me. Transparency. I learned about transparency in a media relations class in college. This old rule has changed over time and, I believe, is MORE important today and will begin to change even more over the next five years.

Today’s younger generation knows way more about this than we do because of Facebook and mobile devices. I just read that the web is older than today’s incoming college freshmen—their posts on Facebook are transparent, with the person behind the post showing their authentic self. They post the good, the bad and the ugly. (I am amused by the number of people on Facebook who air their own dirty laundry! But this is another blog subject for the future.) But seriously, I think we can learn something about transparency from the younger generation and apply it to our industry. I’m talking about being MORE authentic and transparent, more than you are right now.

When I think about transparency in PR, I instantly think of the Toyota gas pedal problem. Toyota didn’t own up to the problem right away and the end result was they lost customers. Toyota forgot the second part of the old rule. If you own up right away, we will be incredibly forgiving. The younger generation has a real problem with this because their transparent, digital lives are chronicled on Facebook. Their meaning of transparency is much different—much more stripped away. More transparent than the transparency we learned about. To them, even privacy is different. It is also stripped away, and private is not ‘as private’ as it once was. The younger generations are consumers and soon to be our peers and they have different ideas on being transparent and private.

Now, I’m not suggesting you go overboard with this idea and post the bad and the ugly, but sit with this a few minutes and think about it: how can you, your brand, your company be more genuine and transparent? More than you already are? Research has shown that by doing so, you will show your friends, your consumers, your employees a true self, and this will gain trust. Trust gains more followers, fans and customers. Trust gains the word of mouth advocate, the most desired customer out there.

Stop hiding your personality, the younger generation doesn’t! You have one, don’t you? Put some personality into your announcements, press releases, or blog. Do you “put on” a corporate façade –if this is you, pull up! The younger generation can already see through your front and they don’t appreciate the legalese. And of course, this will all come full circle when there’s a big screw up and you have to quickly admit your fault (and what you plan to do to fix it) because then everyone will forgive you. If you don’t the opposite will happen.

VMS in the rear view mirror

For those in public relations, corporate communications, or investor relations, you most likely have heard the news that Video Monitoring Services, VMS, closed last Friday with Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Since the story first broke on commpro.biz, many industry newsletters have posted their view of what caused the fall of the largest broadcast monitoring service. Looking in the rear view mirror is always far easier than projecting where one needs to be. Unfortunately it is too late for VMS, but here are some comments that have been said publicly, and my opinion on those speculative thoughts.

1. Said: VMS could not keep up with the competitive platforms built solely on a computerized infrastructure. Opinion: Probably not true. VMS had a very good system in the Quickview reports and were first to market with such a product. VMS had many integrated products that helped correlate efforts to results. Technology, when comparable, is rarely the reason a company fails.
2. Said: VMS couldn’t pay their vendors and this led to a death spiral. Opinion: I’m not sure about all vendors, but since VMS purchased some of their broadcast content from Universal Information Services I know they stayed current with us.
3. Said: VMS management didn’t know what they were doing. Opinion: I can’t speak to the most recent management hires, but many of the people I knew and worked with at VMS were extremely bright and had a great intuition for the industry. In the end, a loss of mission or direction is probably the most likely culprit for this failure, but to say VMS had a history of poor management would dismiss the many years they were the market leader.
4. Said: Better services passed VMS by. Opinion: Consider the source of these statements. If you are a competitor who has much to gain from the failure of VMS, then you may be tempted to yell, “We scared VMS out of the water because we are awesome”. Competition rarely forces a company to liquidate. Restructure, reconfigure, retool, these are the hallmarks of a competitive company that has been a market leader in any industry.

Looking back over the past week I see a couple lessons to be learned. First, the VMS employees caught in the bankruptcy are great people. I’m glad to see quality services like cision hiring some of these employees. Soon we hope to also be working with former VMS staff. Second, don’t believe all that you read…especially in advertising. Whether a blog or an ad, some lofty claims are being made. Phrases like “biggest”, “best”, and “only” are hollow terms that don’t tell you a thing about the level of service and support you can expect from vendor. Finally, if you are a former VMS client the best thing you can do is interview prospective monitors. If you are a local or regional organization, there is undoubtedly a monitoring service better located to serve your needs. Local and regional monitors know the news that is important to you. They know your city, state, issues, problems, etc.

Use the wonderful search of Google to locate news monitoring services that may be better positioned to provide what you need. Yes, I think Universal Information Services is the best company in the world. I would not be able to fake passion for what I do if I did not truly believe in the team I work with and the client missions we serve. I also own Utah News Clips, a news monitoring company located on the west coast so we can better serve the Western time zones. The team at Utah News Clips shares the same core values as Universal, we make your news our business.

Please comment where you think I’ve missed the boat on what has been said, or leave additional comments on what you think happened to VMS.