Our Own Messaging Crisis

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For more than seven years, we have helped clients across the country determine their key messages and get news coverage for their businesses, brands and expertise. Yes, we are experts at this and still, we have been dealing with our own ongoing messaging crisis, an identity crisis of sorts.

You see, what we do is not traditional public relations. In fact, we think the traditional approach to earned media is fundamentally flawed. As a former TV reporter, our founder’s goal has always been to change the way the PR industry handles earned media (the kind of media you don’t pay for). She saw an opportunity to service clients more effectively than traditional firms. How could a PR pro, with no media experience, understand what a reporter or news decision-maker needs? How could they properly coach a client to maximize the opportunity if they didn’t fully understand the demands of a journalist?

If Media Minefield isn’t public relations, what are we? It is a question our founder has spent days and nights pondering. Then, it hit her. When you don’t fit into a category, you create your own. The process, which we invented, is totally unique so the name must be too. Introducing NewsabilitySM.  

At Media Minefield, we are mining stories, positioning experts and providing real news, guaranteed. We move beyond traditional public relations with our innovative NewsabilitySM process. The magic of our NewsabilitySM process means our clients consistently receive positive press in media outlets to help them reach their target audiences.

Our team is comprised of former journalists who know the rules of the game. It is evident by our 100% placement record, meaning all of the clients we have ever worked with have received media coverage. Our focus has always been on innovating the earned media portion of public relations. For most PR firms, that is only a small part of what they do. Here, it is all we do.

As we look to 2018, we could not be more excited – for our future and for our clients across the country. Here’s to securing valuable earned media with NewsabilitySM.     

Dos & Don’ts of Crisis Communication

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We have said it before, and we will say it again, no matter what industry you are in or the size of your business, you will likely find yourself in need of crisis communication at one time or another. During our time as journalists and in the public relations industry, we have seen these situations handled well and poorly. They can forever impact your business’ reputation, so make sure you know the dos and don’ts of crisis communication.

DON’T:

  • Rush a Response – When it comes to crisis communication, you have one chance to get it right. Your first response might as well be your only response, so it is important that the messaging is appropriate. A crisis communication situation is a lot of pressure and stress, and when it comes to the media, it is important to respond promptly. But hear us when we say it is more important to get that response right.   
  • Wait Too Long – On the other hand, don’t think you have all the time in the world in a crisis situation. As we tell all our clients, no response is a response, and it doesn’t look good. Many times in these situations we see businesses opting to wait, hoping it blows over. In our experience, that business usually ends up trying to respond 24 – 48 hours later, when the story has already spread. By that point, the damage is often already done, and you certainly don’t look like you are on top of things.  
  • Respond on Social Media – A crisis communication inquiry may come in on social media. That doesn’t mean that is how you should reply. You can always ask for an email address to send a formal response. A response on social media, especially on a public account, will be there forever. Another media outlet can easily screengrab that response and use it, and you never want a character limit to dictate your response.

DO:

  • Have a Plan – Like it or not, every business should be prepared for a crisis situation. That means knowing who to notify, how to get in touch with them after hours and who will make the final decisions on how to respond. Having a PR partner with experience handling crisis communication to help guide you through these situations is a good idea.
  • Ensure Messaging is Consistent – This is something we cannot say enough. Internal and external messaging needs to be consistent. We can’t tell you how many times an internal memo regarding a crisis incident ends up in the hands of the media. It can and will become your messaging, especially if it is the only messaging out there. Make sure your messaging starts and stays consistent and that it is in line with your business’ core values.
  • Take Crisis Communication Seriously – A crisis communication situation is serious, and it should be treated that way. It deserves a formal statement, and it does matter who is issuing that statement. If you want the media and the public to believe you understand the severity of the situation, the response should come from the CEO (or equivalent) of your company. A statement should always have attribution.

As P. T. Barnum said, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” Remember that even a crisis situation can be an opportunity for you to message who you are and what is important to you. When handled well, it will be nothing more than yesterday’s news.

The Face Of Your Brand

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Here at Media Minefield, it seems we are always talking about brand. Our brand, our clients’ brands, the brand that guy on TV is reinforcing right now. Then, we stopped to think; does everyone know what we mean by brand? And who should really be paying attention to their own brand?

The answer, simply, is everyone. We all have a brand. The dictionary defines it as, “a particular identity or image.” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos refers to brand as, “what people say about you when you are not in the room.” You may not be thinking about cultivating your own brand, but you should be, no matter what your age or stage in the business world, whether you are at the office or on social media.

Fresh-faced

Your personal brand starts to form on day one of your first job. Your actions and reactions determine how you are viewed as an employee and coworker. Young business professionals these days are saddled with the “millennial” title, which often comes with negative connotations. By focusing on building a reliable, accountable, professional brand, you are building your future.

The line between our work and personal life is fading thanks to social media. That’s why we encourage you to keep your overall brand in mind, even when posting outside of work. If your bosses were following you on Twitter, would you be embarrassed by what they read? Worse, could it put your job in jeopardy?      

The Face of the Company

Like it or not, the CEO and high-level executives often become the face of a company and that means your personal brand is always on display. In many cases, the company’s brand and the CEO’s brand become interchangeable. For this reason, we tell our executive clients they need to always be brand-aware, making decisions based on who they are and how they want to be seen. They need to realize their brand can directly impact their company’s bottom line.  

For executives, one wrong move can be career ending. Take the CBS executive who was quickly fired for disparaging comments she made about the victims of the Las Vegas shooting rampage on her personal Facebook page. Her page was personal, but her comment is a reflection of her brand and her company’s brand. We advise our clients to check their privacy settings and to keep business and personal posts separate. We also warn them when it comes to the internet, nothing is really private. Before you post anything, think about your business and your audience. One post can, and has, destroyed a business or career.  

A Famous Face

Perhaps no one should think of themselves as a brand more than a celebrity or professional athlete. Their brand is often directly linked to their livelihood. Actors get parts based on their brand – are they difficult to work with or unreliable? Athletes get deals based on their brand. This isn’t to say your brand has to be “soft.” Take Josh Norman and Dez Bryant. The controversial NFL stars had a war of words off the field. Their competitiveness and trash talking is part of their brands – and it actually landed them both commercials with Samsung where they poke fun at their rivalry. As a famous face, a consistent and authentic brand leads to fans and deals.

Just like a CEO, the social media accounts of a celebrity should support their brand. As we have told the professional athletes we have worked with, make your mom proud!

Love it or hate it, none of us can afford to turn our backs on our personal brand. We recommend you embrace it, and put your best (brand) face forward.  

 

When Doing Good Builds Your Brand

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Courtesy MyPillow

American businesses are generous. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, corporate donations quickly surpassed $157 million. With the even more powerful Hurricane Irma bearing down on Florida, there could be much more generosity to come.

For many businesses, doing good can be an opportunity to build your brand. But in our experience, that only works if you follow a couple important steps.

Be Authentic

When a tragedy like Hurricane Harvey strikes, many people and businesses feel the desire to help. Jim McIngvale, known as Mattress Mack in the Houston area, immediately opened his showrooms to those displaced by the flooding in his hometown. He put a message out on social media inviting them to come enjoy a safe, dry place. He provided food and water for the hundreds of evacuees that showed up.

Before deciding how to help, look at what is authentic to your business and your brand. Mattress Mack certainly went above and beyond, but his decision to help was right in line with what he does and his reputation in the community.

Houston Texans football star JJ Watt was once focused on endorsements. He starred in commercials and movies and hosted awards shows. But in the past year, that has stopped. JJ, admittedly, has different priorities now: his family, friends, football and his charitable foundation. So sitting in a hotel room watching the coverage of Hurricane Harvey, JJ decided to act. He set up a charitable account and used his reach on social media to ask for donations. Within a week, JJ had raised $18.5 million and reinforced his new brand.       

Don’t Do It For Fame

A decision to help, whether by donating money, product or time, should never be made with the intention of getting positive press. MyPillow inventor Mike Lindell built his business on his desire to help people. So it made perfect sense when he decided to donate 80,000 MyPillows to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. He didn’t make the decision to generate media attention, but it did end up getting coverage in his local market of Minneapolis and led to a national Fox Business News interview.

Mattress Mack received praise on social media and was featured on local and national television shows from CNN to ABC News to CBS This Morning. However, media coverage wasn’t his motivation for helping. This isn’t the first time Mattress Mack has opened his showrooms to evacuees. He did the same thing following Hurricane Katrina, proving his desire to help comes from the right place.

The great thing about generosity is all involved, from the giver to the recipient, tend to benefit. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”

A New Type Of Media Crisis Every Brand Should Plan For

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With the 24-hour news cycle, smart phones and livestreaming, anyone with a phone and wifi can become a “journalist” and unintentionally instigate a new kind of media crisis for businesses.

The most recent incident, the deadly protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, thrust a backyard brand, sports team and military heroes into the spotlight. Some of the alt-right protesters at the University of Virginia were carrying Tiki Torches; a division of white supremacists who call themselves the Detroit Right Wings use an altered Detroit Red Wings logo; an 82nd Airborne Division hat was photographed on one of the protesters throwing a Ku Klux Klan sign.

These three brands didn’t do anything themselves to become a part of this story, but they did make some smart and swift decisions other businesses can learn from.  

Understand The Impact

As photos and videos spread like wildfire on social media and news sites, all three of these brands understood this headline wasn’t going away. People on social media were tweeting to the brands questioning their political points of view. It’s likely Tiki Torches hadn’t ever expected to be in this type of controversy, but they knew their own message and values and realized any association with this story was not consistent with their brand.

Respond Quickly

The Detroit Red Wings issued a statement hours after photos of their altered logo began circulating on social media. Within two days, both the 82nd Airborne Division and the maker of Tiki Torches released statements. The 82nd Airborne Division even took to Twitter to respond directly to Tweets about the hat-wearing protester. If you don’t tell your side of the story, the media and the public may fill in the blanks for you. We tell all our crisis media clients, no comment is a comment.

There Is No Such Thing As Bad Press

When faced with a potential crisis, the brands used it as an opportunity to communicate their message and gain positive public sentiment.

The Red Wings came out with this, “The Red Wings believe that hockey is for everyone, and we celebrate the great diversity of our fan base and our nation.”

Tiki Torch said, “Our products are designed to enhance backyard gatherings and to help family and friends connect with each other at home in their yard.”

The 82nd Airborne wrote, “Anyone can purchase that hat. Valor is earned….Anyone who thinks this man represents our culture and values has never worn the maroon beret.” And, when asked by a Twitter user who the man in the photo was, they responded with a photo of a “real All American Paratrooper.”

From a national news crisis to a mishandling of an online complaint to a viral customer video, there is new style of media crisis and the best way to prepare is to have an identified clear message and a plan.

 

Don’t Race (I Mean, Jump) The Shark With Staged Events

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Put down the oversized scissors and gold shovel. It is officially time to retire the groundbreaking, ribbon-cutting, podium-producing staged events.

Spend any amount of time in a newsroom and you will undoubtedly find yourself at one of these events. They are rife with pomp and circumstance and awkwardness. Did you know there are multiple websites dedicated to selling giant ceremonial scissors?!

Before you send out your next round of invitations, let’s look at how staged events can go wrong:

Mislead the public

Michael Phelps versus the Great White: it was the must-see event of Shark Week. But after all the build-up, viewers were let down to learn the shark was a fake. Social media blew up, forcing the Discovery Channel to issue a statement claiming it never said Phelps would be racing a real shark. Discovery Channel certainly got the hype and buzz it was looking for, but it is also dealing with the fall out. For a business, misleading the public can be a brand crusher. Most people do not want to do business with or support a business that they cannot trust and believe in.   

Don’t highlight the best story

We recently had a client ask us about doing an event, perhaps a ribbon cutting, to celebrate their collaboration with another business. The problem: they wanted to stage an event for the sake of holding an event rather than thinking about what would tell the best story. Since the facility had been up and running for a year, the media and public would see right through a ribbon cutting event. There was a fantastic story lurking behind the scenes of this collaboration. That is the story that we recommended be told.

Done for the wrong reasons

We often see this with charity events. A business will decide to do something with a charity or a celebrity in an effort to get media coverage. Charity events do work for media coverage when they are authentic. They should be done because they align with your brand or support something your business is passionate about. At the end of the day, the best event for building your brand is one you would have done with or without cameras.

Why should you have a media event?

Sometimes there are a lot of players, and it is easier to get them all in one spot.

Sometimes it is best to ensure you give everyone the very same message at the same time.

Sometimes there is an actual event happening that the media should be aware of.

We are not saying a media event is never a good idea. We do recommend you think through the purpose for your event and your message, and then, please leave the gold shovels, branded hard hats and giant scissors at home.

Xtreme Messaging

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It wasn’t a record crowd for the first X Games in Minneapolis. But from our perspective, it was extremely successful.

Over four days, athletes from around the world took over downtown Minneapolis and U.S. Bank Stadium to wow us with their tricks and flips. While the competition was impressive, we give props to the X Games for its winning messaging. As an event coming into a new city, with sports looking to grow their fan bases, the X Games and its athletes nailed a double backflip.

Your tricks may not be as extreme, but the ABCs of the X Games are easily translated to business and branding.

Accessible

Well before the first race began, X Games organizers and athletes were giving interviews. A gold medalist skate boarder took the time to try and teach a local reporter how to skate. You heard athletes and organizers on the radio and TV and saw them quoted in newspapers and online. The athletes were accessible.

Translation to business: Put your brand out there! Take opportunities to reach new customers or clients. You can’t be promoting a brand if you are not taking advantage of every chance to reach your audience.

Believable

The message, from athletes and organizers alike, was consistent and positive. They were excited to be coming to Minneapolis for the first time, excited to hold the majority of events in one location at the brand new U.S. Bank Stadium and excited to have the plaza outside for parties and concerts. Because the message was consistent, it was also believable.

Translation to business: Whether you have a multimillion dollar business or are an entrepreneur just starting out, you need to know your message and consistently communicate it. That consistency ensures your clients and employees know what to expect. It makes your brand believable and trustworthy.  

Charismatic

The people representing the X Games were clearly having fun. These are elite athletes performing dangerous sports, but they demonstrated passion and excitement. It appeared they respected each other and enjoyed what they were doing. The charisma they displayed made us like them, their sport and the X Games. The fun was contagious!

Translation to business: Business should be fun. What is your business or brand passionate about? Make sure you are communicating that to your clients and employees. We all want to do business with companies we believe in and people we like.

The X Games will be returning to Minneapolis next year, and one thing is for sure: like their sports, they take messaging to the extreme, and it has certainly made us fans!

The Standard Book of PR Spells

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“Words are in my not-so-humble opinion, the most inexhaustible form of magic we have, capable both of inflicting injury and remedying it.” ― Albus Dumbledore, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”

At Media Minefield, we are in the business of magic. Our Core Focus is to redefine public relations with a little magic. Words are our wands.

In honor of the 20th anniversary of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, we thought we would give you Muggles a peek at our spellbooks to let you in on some of our secrets, the spells we use every day.

Lumos Your Message (Lumos = The Lighting Charm)

It always starts with your message. As a company and as a brand, you need to know your key messages. Once they are identified and you have some consistent language, then you can illuminate them through earned media.

Accio Earned Media (Accio = The Summoning Charm)

There are many opportunities to generate earned media for yourself and/or your business. The most effective way is to provide expert advice. The benefits of earned media coverage are an increase in visibility, awareness, name recognition and business.

Reparo Your Image (Reparo = The Mending Charm)

Unfortunately, in this day of social media reviews and 24-hour news cycles, some sort of media crisis is nearly unavoidable. It is how you handle the crisis that really matters. We recommend taking ownership, apologizing when necessary and outlining action steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again. The public is forgiving and images can certainly be repaired.

We work with media contacts across the country, and we have yet to work with a Rita Skeeter using a Quick-Quotes quill to make up inaccurate quotes for The Daily Prophet, but we certainly have helped clients dodge some media dangers reminiscent of the Dark Arts. It’s important to have a PR Witch or Wizard on your side so that earned media opportunities can work their magic for you and your business.

“What were you doing under our windows, boy?

‘Listening to the news,’ said Harry in a resigned voice.

His aunt and uncle exchanged looks of outrage.

‘Listening to the news! Again?’

‘Well, it changes every day, you see,’ said Harry.”

― “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”

What To Do When Earned Media Is Off-Message

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Talk to anyone who has been interviewed by the media multiple times and they probably have an example of an earned media story that wasn’t everything they hoped it would be. We are experts in the area, and even we found ourselves in this situation recently. With earned media, you aren’t paying for coverage, so you don’t always know how your message will be featured or the angle of the story.

Sometimes the media makes mistakes. Sometimes, they paraphrase. Sometimes, they pull out a portion of your quote. Sometimes, you wish you would have said something different. No matter what the reason, you have a few options when dealing with earned media that is off-message.

Grin & Bear It

In our case, our Core Values were edited and paraphrased for length in an online article about work perks. We certainly wouldn’t have used that language ourselves, but it is still on-message with our brand. However, we strive for consistent messaging, so we decided not to promote it on our social media channels. In our experience, writers will remove a word or two from a quote to make it fit with their paragraph. Again, in these cases, our client’s message is still delivered, and they are still being featured as the expert. It is still a win and isn’t worth seeking any action.

Ask For a Retraction

This is extremely rare, but we have had to do it for a couple of our clients. If facts are wrong or a quote is twisted and it is bad for your brand, it is worth it to go this route. Getting a retraction is typically an involved process, and it helps to have someone on your side who speaks the language and understands what can and should be corrected. This usually requires involving the higher-ups in a news organization. Any changes to a story after it becomes public will have to be noted.

Go On The Offense

Don’t wait for the media to come to you. You should be putting yourself out there to talk about stories and situations that highlight your expertise and your brand. Right now, we are working with a company that just came off a media experience they felt was off-message. We are showing them how you can control your message and generate positive press.

You may be asking yourself, why should you take the risk of pursuing earned media? The answer lies in the power of editorial endorsements. You are seen as an expert in your field. It increases credibility with potential clients/customers and your competition. Several of our clients have received calls to their office after a live interview while they were still on air!    

Earned media is so powerful, advertising is now posing as editorial endorsements. Radio hosts are paid to push a product or company. Ads today often sound like they are interviews. Print or online advertising is written to look like an article. But consumers are savvy. They know the difference between advertising and earned media, making earned media a great asset for your business.

 

An Open Letter To Journalists

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As former journalists, we remember what that life was like: always on a deadline, frantically making calls to get the interview or statement you need, under pressure to be the first to break the story. It is a stressful world.

Since Media Minefield’s inception, we have been focused on making life easier for our media contacts across the country. The needs of journalists are as important to us as the goals of our clients. But like any good partnership, there are things we need from you, our media contacts.

Reach Out
There is nothing we dislike more than seeing a story involving one of our clients without a comment from our client. If you know anything about us, you know we don’t believe in a “no comment.” We preach this to our clients, so if you give us the opportunity to respond- we will! We know you have been conditioned to believe that companies will give you nothing more than a “no comment” and that PR people will take days to get back to you. Your frustrations with the industry are the same as ours. It is why we are intentionally different, and it leads us right into our next point.

Don’t Pre-Judge Us
As former journalists, we have been in your shoes. We have received emails from PR firms that didn’t know how to spell our names. We have mass deleted an in-box full of outdated, wordy press releases. We hope to never be one of “those PR people” for you. We promise we will do our homework, only pitch you stories we believe you would actually be interested in and never send you press releases. We only ask one thing in return: don’t assume you know us, our background, our goals or our game. Unless you are assuming we are working to give you an interesting, informative, entertaining interview or story.

Remember Our Name
When we do give you that interesting, informative or entertaining interview, we hope you will remember our name. Media Minefield came from being in your world, from seeing business after business and publicist after publicist handle PR all wrong. It was birthed by a journalist who was fed up with receiving “no comment”, missing deadlines due to a PR fail and getting phone calls during breaking news. It came because we believe businesses and the media can and should help each other. We are looking to build a relationship with our media contacts, to be someone they can turn to when they need an expert or a hometown story or a response from a national company in a crisis or need an interview who understands how to talk in sound bites! And you can count on us to move at the speed of news.

Around here, we often joke our new media contact is our new best friend because we value him or her so much. We might not be able to grab coffee with each and every one of our contacts, but we feel your pain. We understand and want to give you, your audience and your editors excellent content that meets your deadline.

Redefining Public Relations with a Little Magic

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When it comes to earned media (the kind of media you don’t pay for), Public Relations is an often misunderstood, sometimes misliked and occasionally despised industry.

We are trying to change the perception of the industry. We believe in the power of the press, especially when leveraged via social media, because it offers businesses and brands a unique ability to receive legitimate recognition. 

However, after hearing so many horror stories from our news contacts and our clients, who have had bad experiences with firms, we wanted to offer some tips to help you hire the right firm and approach your current PR relationship with realistic expectations.

No hidden agenda here. We love earned media and want you to see its value as well!

Expectations

If your goal for using a PR firm is to secure media in credible outlets that target your audience, they should do it. It sounds simple, but it isn’t. PR and kids’ sports (don’t get us started) seem to be the only places where effort is accepted and even rewarded. A seven-page report outlining all of the outlets your firm reached out to, is of no benefit if they did not secure actual media interviews.

Fees

There are many different pricing models in the market. We’ve heard of firms that encourage writers to spend hours writing a press release to increase the invoice. We’ve heard of firms who significantly increase the cost of posting press releases on a news wire. We’ve heard of firms who charge thousands on media kits. Some firms ask for a long-term commitment, some charge per media interview and some charge hourly. Our advice is to find a firm that aligns with your goals. Do you want to pay for time? Do you want to pay for materials to give to the press? Do you want to pay for someone to secure you interviews? 

Experience

To ensure your firm can secure earned media, they need to think like news reporters, writers and decision-makers. The PR professional handling your account needs to understand the difference between a package and vo/sot, an MMJ and a photog. In fact, they need to have written them so they know how to write copy that could actually be printed, published or broadcast. Only a media-centered mindset can be successful in securing regular and consistent media. For example, we rarely use press releases because we know, based on our experience as journalists, they are not reliable for securing regular media coverage. We believe in securing media based on the relationships we’ve built with media contacts across the country. Ask your firm what their placement rate is? How many of their clients have they secured media interviews for? (Shameless plug: We have a 100% placement rate, which means all the clients we’ve ever worked with have received media interviews.)

Practice

You are a (fill in the blank) expert. You are not a news anchor, reporter or host. You should not be expected to know how to do a good TV, radio or phone interview. You should not know which camera to look at or how much makeup to wear or how to talk in sound bites. Request training and practice from your firm prior to each interview. Make sure they teach you how to handle a tough question during a live interview. Oh boy, do we have stories….

Provide ROI    

PR is often referred to as a marathon, not a sprint, and it can be difficult to show ROI. However, it is totally reasonable to request viewership and valuation reports so you know how many people are seeing and listening to your appearances. Whether it is client retention, new clients, new employees or increased brand recognition, you should expect to receive value from your relationship with a public relations firm.

At Media Minefield, we are redefining public relations with a little magic. We are disrupting the industry because accountability, honesty and results should be part of any PR relationship.

Masters of Sportsmanship

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In the final day of the Masters tournament at Augusta, all eyes were on two players – Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose. The two golf greats battled back and forth all day. The entire time, they were congratulating each other, high-fiving and showing the world what it is like to be Masters of Sportsmanship.

The day ended in a playoff with (spoiler alert) Sergio winning his first ever green jacket. But the classy behavior from these two continued. They hugged after the match and Sergio said Justin told him no one deserved it more than he did. In interviews, they both praised each other. On Twitter, Justin said, “Incredible battle out there. Sport in the moment is tough. But it’s just sport. Hope you guys enjoyed it.” Sergio said, “I think at the end of the day, we are all trying to win, but we’re all people and we have to represent our game… We wanted to beat the other guy, not the other one to lose it.”

Sergio is right on. He and Justin were representing their game. They have a personal brand, one that is on full display at the Masters. But as we remind our clients, athletes aren’t the only people who need to think about their personal brand. The CEO of a Fortune 500 and an entrepreneur both have personal brands they need to be aware of. Like it or not, they represent their company just like athletes represent their game or their team. Decisions, statements and actions should be filtered with that in mind.   

When it comes to public image, we have one piece of advice- make your mom proud. It is safe to say both Justin and Sergio made their moms proud. In our Media Training seminars with the Minnesota Timberwolves players, we encourage them to utilize “the mom test.” Would my mom be proud of this comment or decision or reaction? We will do our public images a great deal of good if we can avoid any situation where we answer “no.”

You may not have made all the best decisions about your public image in the past, but the public loves a good comeback story. Just ask Sergio. The Spaniard has not always made his mom proud. He has been accused of making excuses for poor play, blaming officials and even golf gods. He had a public feud with Tiger Woods that lasted for over a decade and found himself in the middle of a PR crisis after making a comment about Tiger many considered racist. Yet during this Masters, that Sergio was nowhere to be found. This was the Sergio concerned with representing his sport. This was the Sergio that would finally break an 18-year tour victory slump. This was the Sergio we were all cheering for. And this is the Sergio we are now calling a Master of Sportsmanship.

 

Death of the Press Release

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STRICT EMBARGO: Until April 1, 2017 (Who sends stuff that can’t be reported now??)

Contact: Media Minefield
Media-minefield.com
twitter.com/MediaMinefield

Death of the Press Release
~This press release is to announce the end of the press release era~

Minnetonka, MN (April 1, 2017) – On this day, the first of April, 2017, we officially declare the death of the press release. No longer will these .pdf-attached emails fill newsroom inboxes and clog fax machines. The practice of writing press releases has outlived its usefulness. Let’s be honest, how many people actually read press releases?

The press release is preceded in death by the typewriter, telegraph and rotary phone, which became obsolete when new technology and practices came along. It is the way of the world. Some like to call it “survival of the fittest.” And the press release is not fit.

“If you still rely solely on a press release, I’d suggest ditching your cell phone and mounting a CB in your car,” says Media Minefield CEO, Kristi Piehl. Mark Edwards says “It’s a waste of time.” “One time I got a press release delivered in a shoe. Fancy does not equal coverage,” says Andrea McMaster. “Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. In my world, receiving a press release was quickly followed by hitting delete,” declares Michelle Lawless. “Not to sound callous, but I’m surprised press releases have survived for so long,” says Allison Ortiz. “My favorite press releases came with food. I liked to read the headline. And anything in bold,” exclaims Conny Bergerson. “I only opened press releases half the time, and I was not thrilled I had to do it,” confesses Christina Vandre. “Oh good! Another press release in my inbox. I’m so excited to read this,” says no reporter ever! Recycling bins everywhere say, “thank you.”

Blah, blah, blah… Wait? You’re still reading? We only put this here to make the press release seem longer and more important. We don’t have anything left to say. In fact, we know you didn’t really need anything beyond the first paragraph. So, please, go about your day.

About Media Minefield:
Media Minefield is redefining public relations with a little magic. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota and with an office in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, our growing Media Team is comprised of former journalists who know what it takes to get a story in the headlines. There is a good chance you know our clients; from coast to coast they receive positive press in media outlets most valuable to help them share their individual messages. Our clients have been featured in national news outlets like Bloomberg Businessweek and USA Today and on The Today Show. In the past 12 months, we secured features in more than 700 distinct media outlets in cities across the United States. Media Minefield was founded in 2010 by a former TV reporter and prides itself on its 100% placement record, meaning we have secured media coverage for every client we have ever worked with. For more information, visit media-minefield.com.
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What We Can Learn From United’s Legging-Gate

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It seems social media, celebrities and the news media can’t get enough of United’s Legging-Gate (as we have dubbed it!)

In case you (somehow) missed it, United Airlines found itself in the middle of a PR crisis on Sunday after refusing to let two teenaged girls board a flight because they were wearing leggings. The scene played out in a series of tweets from another passenger and sparked massive social media debate. Days later, United Airlines and its social media team are still trying to get a handle on the situation. So, what can be learned from this PR nightmare?

One Shot To Respond
When faced with a PR crisis, we tell our clients: you have one chance to respond and get it right. In this case, United’s initial social media response did nothing but fan the flames of an increasingly upset Twitterverse. United said repeatedly via Twitter in those crucial first few minutes, “UA shall have the right to refuse passengers who are not properly clothed via our Contract of Carriage.

It wasn’t until hours later that we learned the girls were “pass travelers” who were subject to different standards than paying travelers. We would argue this was the most important information for the irate public to know; paying customers will not be denied passage on United for wearing leggings. While this information did come out, it was not in the initial response. United said it tries to always respond quickly to its customers. That is a great policy, but we tell our clients that, especially in a potential crisis situation, getting the facts straight is more important than the speed of your response. As Warren Buffet said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you will do things differently.”

Empathy Goes A Long Way
Not only was United’s initial response lacking the most important information to help curb disgust with the company, it also lacked emotion. A little bit of empathy would likely have gone a long way. We encourage our clients to take responsibility and apologize when they have made a misstep, as United did with its first tweet. The public is forgiving. However, if you dig in your heels, you can expect the public will do the same. United isn’t budging on its handling of the situation or its stance. All of the responses we have seen from the company have been matter of fact and defending the decision to bar the girls from boarding the plane. We aren’t suggesting United change its policy because of social media pressure; however, showing some understanding for why the public is so upset could have helped the situation. Again, it is important to note, in order for an empathetic response to elicit empathy, it needs to be your first response.   

Be Warned When Entering The Fray
Who said flying is friendly? Delta Airlines couldn’t help itself. It entered the fray with a tweet of its own that read, “Flying Delta means comfort. (That means you can wear your leggings.)” The obvious dig at United certainly had the impact Delta wanted. It has been retweeted more than 28,000 times. But, as some have pointed out, Delta has its own travel pass program with dress standards. A Delta spokesperson said it doesn’t have item-specific clothing restrictions but encourages no swimwear, sleepwear or underwear as outerwear.

To Delta and any other company that decides to try and take advantage of a competitor’s PR crisis, we say: be careful. You are putting yourself in the crosshairs. You can bet social media will be watching if Delta refuses any of its customers, travel pass or not, to board based on attire (or lack thereof). Because Delta put it out there that comfort is its standard, the backlash would certainly be twice as bad.

What should companies do to avoid their own Legging-Gate? The same thing we would tell United. Don’t wing it. Fly the straight and narrow. If you follow our tips, your brand should really take flight!

When Spin Becomes a Tornado

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Spin is defined as a usually ingenious twist; a special point of view, emphasis or interpretation presented for the purpose of influencing opinion. It is something we are quite familiar with in our business. However, spin is not something to be taken lightly. Too much spin and you could find yourself in the midst of a tornado; one that could level your personal brand and your business.

Know Your Spin
First and foremost, spin is not bad. Whether you are concerned about a corporate or personal brand, spin is understanding who you are. At Media Minefield, your message is our mission. Businesses and individuals need to know their message and take every opportunity to reiterate and reinforce it. Dippin’ Dots recently did this well, leveraging old tweets from the new White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, into earned media gold. Instead of being upset Spicer called Dippin’ Dots the “ice cream of the past”, the company CEO wrote a letter that said they “understand ice cream is a serious matter” and offered to throw the White House press corps an ice cream social. The exchange went viral and was covered by media outlets across the country.  

Understandable Spin
Spin can only be effective if it can be understood. At Media Minefield, our Founder and CEO, Kristi Piehl, uses this Albert Einstein quote when giving speeches about messaging, “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Consumers or clients must be able to easily understand your message. Take this statement from the J.C. Penney CEO after announcing the company was closing 140 stores across the country, “We believe the relevance of our brick-and-mortar portfolio will be driven by the implementation of these initiatives consistently to a larger percent of our stores. Therefore, our decision to close stores will allow us to raise the overall brand standard of the company and allocate capital more efficiently.” What?!? Did you understand the message?

Spin, Don’t Lie
Spin is not lying. It is an ingenious twist. Lying is never the right move in life or in PR. Blue Buffalo Dog Food found that out the hard way. The company claimed it never used poultry by-product in its dog food. Purina filed a lawsuit claiming false advertising after its testing determined otherwise. The CEO of Blue Buffalo came out immediately calling the testing “voodoo science.” Only when the company was faced with undeniable proof in court did it admit any wrongdoing.   

Control Your Spin
Spin can quickly get out of control. If you don’t do something immediately, it will endanger your business and your reputation. #DeleteUber was trending on social media after the company was accused by a former female engineer of rampant sexism and sexual harassment. The company’s CEO came out calling the accusations “abhorrent” and promising a full investigation, for which they hired former Attorney General Eric Holder. Good move, until users who were deleting their accounts starting posting the email they received from the company explaining they were “deeply hurting” and referencing the former employee who made the accusations by name more than once. The move to name the former employee was called intimidating and ignorant. Uber claimed it only sent a handful of emails and has stopped sending them.

When it comes to spin, it is best to keep in mind what Edward R. Murrow said, “To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful.”

Spin carefully.

New Dictionary Words, Media Minefield-style

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Yowza! Merriam-Webster added more than 1,000 words to the dictionary. At Margarita Friday, you will often hear Miners geeking out about what we are binge-watching, so we are thrilled these terms are now official. However, because this is a safe space, we must say we thought it was weak sauce that these Media Minefield favorites didn’t make the cut.

Miners
noun | mine-ers
: one who works at Media Minefield exceeding clients’ expectations, engaging in the culture and living out the core values each day

Miners at Heart
noun | mine-ers-at-heart
: a core value at Media Minefield, one with a deep commitment to Media Minefield and fellow Miners, who is all in and not afraid to wear a cape

News Ninjas
noun | news-nin-jas
: one who understands what it is like to work at the pace of news, who works well on deadlines and is constantly learning

Octopus
verb | oc-to-pus
: to share information through our internal system which has several arms to distribute information < similar to “google it” >

Drunk Octopus
noun | drunk-oc-to-pus
: when there is a hiccup in the internal system

Unicorn
noun | u-ni-corn
: official mascot of Media Minefield, a symbol to remind ourselves and others that anything is possible

Since we are on a mission to change the PR industry, we are quite sure these terms will end up in a Merriam-Webster Dictionary someday. Don’t throw shade or give us side-eye. We are aware that is a humblebrag, but what can we say? When your mascot is a unicorn, you know big things can happen!

*In case you didn’t catch on, all of the words in bold are from the list of new words added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

The Culture of Winning

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Who would have guessed that the 2017 Super Bowl would find the New England Patriots facing off against the Atlanta Falcons? The Falcons are looking for their first Super Bowl win, under the guidance of first-time head coach Dan Quinn. Quinn, it seems, has found the secret to winning – culture.

Focus on Team
You would be hard pressed to find an interview with Coach Quinn where he doesn’t talk about his team’s “brotherhood.” “Q,” as his players call him, stole it from Navy Seals when he invited them to run drills with the team and teach them teamwork, stress management, leadership and communication. That brotherhood extends beyond the players. The Falcons owner is flying all of the organization’s employees to Houston for the Super Bowl.

Team is central to our success at Media Minefield as well. We refer to it as being “Miners at Heart.” It is one of our Core Values and means we are committed to each other, all in and never afraid to wear capes!

Speak the Same Language
Ask anyone from Quarterback Matt Ryan to the last guy on the practice squad, they all understand Coach Quinn’s philosophy, and most importantly, they have all bought in. Quinn, his staff and his players are all speaking the same language.

At Media Minefield, we have The State of the Minefield to ensure we are all rowing in the same direction.  At this bi-annual, all-company meeting, our head coach (CEO Kristi Piehl) casts the vision and gives us details about where we are and where we are going. As EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) has taught us, it is difficult to get traction and achieve goals if you aren’t all on the same page.

Have Fun
For the Falcons, fun centers around ping pong. Last spring, the team redesigned the locker room and put in a ping pong table. It was such a hit, they added two more tables. Coach Quinn has been quoted as as saying, “Usually, when you’re really good on the field, it starts in the locker room.”

At Media Minefield, we love a good dress-up day, everything from Superhero Day to our upcoming Punny Day. We have been locked in more escape rooms than we can count. We even had a personalized puzzle room designed for our last Christmas party. Weekly, our Margarita Fridays are a time for us to come together for lunch, laugh and drink amazing frozen margaritas. Team building is a key part of our culture and our success.

The Falcons may not be favored to win Super Bowl 51, but we wouldn’t count them out yet. As we have seen at Media Minefield, when you embrace the culture of winning, it is hard to stop.

Standing Out on Social Media | The Risk & The Reward

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It started with your everyday tweet from a fast food joint:
@Wendy’s: Our beef is way too cool to ever be frozen.

Then came a Twitter troll:
@Thuggy-D: Your beef is frozen and we all know it. Y’all know we laugh at your slogan “fresh, never frozen” right? Like you’re really a joke.
@Thuggy-D: so you deliver it raw on a hot truck?

The response was polite:
@Wendy’s: Where do you store cold things that aren’t frozen?

And more trolling:
@ThuggyD: y’all should give up. McDonalds got you guys beat with the dope (expletive) breakfast.

Next came the tweet read ‘round the world:
@Wendy’s: You don’t have to bring them into this just because you forgot refrigerators existed for a second there.

Wendy’s ignited a social media firestorm by “roasting” a Twitter user who questioned the fast food chain’s slogan. But social media couldn’t contain the frenzy; Wendy’s snarky tweet made headlines in some of the most widely read and watched news outlets: Forbes, Huffington Post and Fox News, just to name a few.

Wendy’s certainly reaped the reward for its sarcastic humor, but the company also took a few risks…

Risk | Going Off-Brand
Wendy’s is known for its square burgers, Frostys and founder Dave Thomas’ mission to find homes for adopted children. Now that Twitter users are asking the company to roast them, Wendy’s has a fine line to walk. Their roasts can be playful and teasing, but not disrespectful. When your company mascot is a red-headed girl with pigtails, you don’t want to turn your brand into a bully.

Risk | Going Too Far
Cheerios did it when Prince died. Cinnabon did it after Carrie Fisher’s passing. The internet is full of stories on well-intentioned social media posts that were deemed offensive. Wendy’s isn’t immune. The company had to apologize and delete a meme it posted with a hate symbol. (Wendy’s said it didn’t know the image was associated with hate.) Every social media post is an opportunity to connect with your followers, but you also run the risk of offending them.

Reward | A Captive Audience
Social media offers something traditional media can’t: an interactive experience with customers and potential customers. Building an engaging social media presence allows brands to capitalize on a captive audience. Take the TSA, for example. Believe it or not, but the government agency’s Instagram feed is being called one of the top accounts to follow in 2017. The TSA posts pictures of items people try to take on board and amusing stories from airport security. But it’s not all fun and games. The TSA’s Social Media Manager is quick to point out the posts have helped them gather 600,000 followers who they may need to reach with an urgent message someday.

Reward | Earned Media Wildfire
Wendy’s Twitter account has 1.24 million followers. However, if we added up the number of people who watched, read or listened to stories about Wendy’s Twitter battle on news stations and websites, it would dwarf that number. We call that earned media, and for Wendy’s, its social media roast spread on earned media like wildfire.

What We Hope Goes Away in 2017

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New fashion, new technology, a new President… there  is a lot to talk about in 2017. At Media Minefield, we are hoping “in with the new” also means “out with the old.” Here is what we hope to not be talking about again in the coming year…

Businesses That Don’t Know Their Message
From the CEO to the newest employee, everyone needs to know your company’s message, who you are and what is important to you. We create Message Maps for our clients to outline these Key Messages. If everyone is using the same language consistently, it will build a foundation and your reputation.

Companies Not Prepared for Crisis
In this day and age, it is difficult for a company to have longevity without some sort of PR crisis. An unhappy customer or a social media post is all it takes to set one off. That’s why we tell our clients to have a plan, know who your spokesperson is and always avoid a “no comment.” Take our word for it – “no comment” is definitely a comment. Recently, we helped a client navigate a media crisis and the national media spotlight. We encouraged the CEO to give interviews to the press and share the company’s side of the story; sales for the company’s product soared. A reporter even told us that she was shocked the CEO did interviews since the reporter (in a large metropolitan city) is used to only getting a statement or a “no comment” from the CEO of a company under fire. We agree with Warren Buffett who said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

The Press Release
If you read our press release announcing the death of the press release in 2015, you’d already know this one. If you didn’t, that sums up the biggest issue with press releases: no one reads them! One by one, we are proving to our clients there is a better way to get journalists’ attention. Perhaps this will be the year the rest of our industry and other businesses catch on.

“The PR Industry”
Speaking of our industry, we cannot wait for the perception of the PR industry to change. We are all too used to talking to potential clients who have been disappointed by PR firms who make promises but deliver reports rather than actual positive press. With a 100% placement rate (which means all the clients we’ve ever worked with have received press), we now consider ourselves experts in winning over media contacts. It usually takes time because most journalists have horror stories of PR reps who failed to deliver interviews, didn’t respond to media requests and who simply didn’t understand the speed of news.

Workplace Martyrs
Work can’t be fun. If we want to get ahead, we can’t afford to take a vacation. Being cranky is just a part of the job. If you ask us, all of the mantras of the workplace martyrs can go! At Media Minefield, we are committed to our culture, a culture that encourages fun: Margarita Fridays, dress-up days and capes. Miners have unlimited vacation for a reason. We understand that taking time away is good for us, our coworkers and our clients.

Here’s to the new in our New Year!

Media Minefield Christmas Wars

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img_5002

Metropolis

img_4994

Gotham

It started with a two-foot-tall tree with lights and little ornaments. Soon a string of lights appeared on a laptop. But, when a four-foot-tall tree showed up on the other side of the office, it was clear, Christmas Wars were on.

In true Media Minefield fashion, even decorating for the holidays turned into a friendly competition. With our office separated into two connected sides known as Gotham and Metropolis (yes, we believe we are superheroes), the decorations started flooding in. A pink Hello Kitty tree in Gotham… wrapping paper covered cubicles in Metropolis… a holiday themed desk display… cookies… Christmas lights… more desk trees… Santa mugs… snowflakes hanging from the ceiling… festive window stickers and then, the Yule log!

What does our founder and CEO, Kristi Piehl, think when she walks through our super-decorated, blinged-out work stations? She sees culture on full display and in bright, shiny color. Her dream for Media Minefield was to have a vibrant, quirky culture that empowered Miners so they could give their best selves to each other, their families and their clients. She does enough reading to know that culture can’t be forced, and it can’t be a policy. It must be created from within. Christmas Wars, just like dress-up days, came from Miners, for Miners.

At the end of the day, this is all about sharing holiday joy. Still, we have to know – who wins?!

Media Minefield Goes Back to the Future

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back-to-the-future“You Can Make Your Future Whatever You Want So Make It A Good One!” – Doc Brown

Deloreans, hoverboards and Flux Capacitors greeted Miners as we went “Back to the Future”! In true Media Minefield fashion, the theme for our bi-annual State of the Minefield (SOM) address was clear when you walked through the door. Our CEO, Kristi, even wore a Media Minefield lab coat, just like Doc!

The SOM was all about looking to our future, December 31st, 2021. At the heart of reaching our five year goals are our Core Values- the guiding principles that define the “Media Minefield Way”.

Miner at Heart
As Miners, we have a deep level of commitment to Media Minefield and to each other. We are a team, and each and every day, we give this our all. We work hard and we play hard. And, we are not afraid to wear capes!

Innovative Creator
We are constantly trying new things. Therefore, a Miner needs to fearlessly evolve and problem solve! With a 100% placement record, you can bet we are committed to trying, trying and trying again.

News Ninja
Nearly 200 years of newsroom experience means Miners know what it is like to work in the media. We understand the time constraints of our contacts, and we work well under deadlines. Just like any good journalist, we are constantly learning.

Excellent
Media Minefield is a place of excellence. It is our mission to exceed the expectations of our clients and our media contacts. Dedication to quality work and a sense of responsibility allows us to do that every time.

Respectable
Miners do what we say, period. We are accountable for our actions to ourselves and to each other. Most of all, we bring a positive attitude to work. We are passionate about changing the perception of the public relations industry and we are excited about our future.

As Doc said, “Where we are going, we don’t need roads.”

A Radical Idea | Thankful at Work

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img_4876This Thanksgiving, workers around the country are thankful for a few days off. We Miners are no exception – we’re looking forward to quality time with family, but we’re also thankful for the other 361 days of the year.

All it takes is a quick glance at the Media Minefield Gratitude Board, on which we have written what we’re thankful for, to see why:

Thankful for Friends Who Are Like Family
It only takes a few minutes in the office to see the smiles and hear the laughter. We are a company of co-workers who are truly friends. Our teamwork is more than a good time; it’s good for our clients as well. Collaboration is easier and more productive when it’s with people you enjoy working with.

Thankful for Work-Life Balance
While we cherish our time at work, we’re also thankful to have the flexibility to take time away. We especially appreciate our work-life balance this time of year, as many of our kids are in holiday programs and snowstorms can wreak havoc on our commutes. Flexible policies allow us to work where it’s safest and spend time with our families at home as well as at work.

Thankful For Dress Up Days
Trust us – there’s a little extra pep in your step and a smile on your face when you’re dressed like a superhero, rock star or like your favorite hobby (just to name a few of our dress up days.) The creativity of our fellow Miners never ceases to amaze us and pushes us to up the ante. You know the gauntlet has been laid down when a co-worker wearing a green wig declares, “I’ve got to up my game.”

Thankful for Unicorns
The unicorn is not a myth and more than a mascot; it’s a mindset here at Media Minefield. Every time we pass the unicorn in our conference room or land on the coveted unicorn spot on the prize wheel, it reminds us that anything is possible and pushes us to dream bigger. We are thankful for the encouragement year-round.

From the Media Minefield family to yours… have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Donald Trump’s Message Map to Victory

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Make America Great Again

Four words defined Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and played a big role in winning over voters and winning the White House. At Media Minefield, we would call Mr. Trump’s slogan his primary message. It’s the “elevator speech” from which all of his other talking points emerged.

Mr. Trump isn’t the first candidate to feature the phrase (although he was probably the first to tweet #MAGA.) Ronald Reagan first used the slogan in 1980, and Bill Clinton used it as well. Why does it resonate with voters so much?

“Make America Great Again” is Donald Trump’s promise. It sums up his goals for a presidency, yet it’s vague enough that voters can take from it what they want. It’s a one-size-fits all slogan, meaning different things to different people.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, tried out dozens of slogans, but none stuck with voters in the same way. Clinton’s most popular phrases were “Stronger Together” and “I’m With Her.” While they are vague as well, they don’t give an indication of who Hillary Clinton is or what she would do in office.

President-elect Trump may also be the king of earned media. Although many other candidates outspent him on TV ads, he had more airtime. From the moment he arrived on the presidential scene, the media covered him 24/7. He has been constantly in the headlines and on TV news since he entered the race in the summer of 2015. It’s a little ironic that he got such a huge boost from the media he so often claimed was against him.

What can candidates, businesses and brands learn from Donald Trump’s victory?

  1. Create a solid message.
  2. Utilize the media – earned and social – to share that message as much as you can.
  3. And don’t forget the hats. You don’t always have to say your message – you can wear it, too!

Politicians & The Media: What NOT to Do

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Say what you want about this presidential election season, it certainly has been interesting! The candidates have had their share of moments in the media spotlight- both good and bad.

They are certainly not the first (nor will they be the last) candidates who have made missteps in the media. Throughout the years, many politicians have made media gaffes- some may have cost them the election, others are still punchlines years or even decades later.

When we start working with a new client, we run through our initial coaching, or “Media 101”, with tips on how to do an interview. If we were to give tips on how NOT to do an interview, we could look to these past presidential candidates:

Richard Nixon vs. John F. Kennedy Debate (1960)
The country’s first televised presidential debate is a classic example of one of our media coaches’ favorite tips: even men wear makeup. Both candidates turned down CBS’s top makeup artist, who had been brought in for the event. Kennedy had a good-looking tan from weeks of outdoor campaigning (and may have gotten a touch-up from his team). Nixon, on the other hand, used “Lazy Shave”, a drugstore pancake makeup to hide the stubble on his face. Nixon’s powder melted during the debate, and beads of sweat dripped down his face, which made him look nervous, unprepared and uncomfortable under pressure. Nixon cleaned up his appearance for the following debates, but it proved difficult to change his first impression with the TV audience.

Al Gore Invents the Internet (1999)
This is a misquote that has become a running punchline still brought up to this day. In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Gore’s exact quote was, “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.” Gore certainly was an early supporter of the Internet, but his statement gave him the label of a serial exaggerator. The lesson here – put thought into every answer when the camera is rolling. Remember that media is about sound bites. Any sentence can and will be used out of context in debates, in ads and in pop culture.

Howard Dean’s Scream (2004)
Howard Dean learned the same lesson of no escape when he let out a mixture of a “yee-haw” and a scream on the night of the 2004 Iowa caucuses. Dean had lost, but it was out of excitement he made the noise that stuck with him through the rest of the campaign.

Rick Perry’s “Oops” Moment (2011)
We stress it with every client – prepare, prepare, prepare! While there’s no doubt Rick Perry practiced before the Republican presidential debate, he could have used a little more prep time. Perry hit a stumbling block that he could not recover from when he  announced he would eliminate three agencies of government, “Commerce, Education, and, uh what’s the third one here?” After several moments of awkward fumbling, Perry had to admit he couldn’t remember the third agency and could only say “oops.” He later remembered the third department, but the cringe-worthy moment is what people remembered in the following days, weeks and months of his campaign.

Mitt Romney’s “47% Comment” (2012)
Microphones are always hot. That’s a tip we like to remind our clients to avoid an embarrassment like the one Mitt Romney suffered in 2012 when a bartender secretly recorded him telling donors 47% of donors would vote for President Obama “no matter what.” The video was leaked to Mother Jones magazine, who posted it online, where it went viral. Romney himself has admitted the comments caused serious damage to his campaign.

Cam Newton, Put on a Happy Face

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Right ncam-newtonow, the headlines aren’t pretty for Cam Newton. Words to describe him include “sore loser,” “spoiled brat” and “pouty attitude,” following his 90-second news conference after the Carolina Panthers lost to the New Orleans Saints.

As most sports fans know, this wasn’t his first time. Newton was blasted for a very similar curt and uncooperative news conference after the Panthers lost Super Bowl 50 in February, 2016. Just a few days before Newtons’ most recent public display of sulkiness, Media Minefield talked about that Super Bowl news conference in a media training session with a professional sports team.

What did we tell the team? Newton suffered TWO major losses on Super Bowl Sunday, both during the game and after. He had to go out of his way to do a “make-good” a few days later, when he apologized for his behavior. By then it was almost too late. Much of the public and the media had already decided he was a bad sport. All of it could have been avoided if Newton had controlled his message by acting professionally and giving the media what it needed.

The biggest loss for Newton in this equation is all of his good work is drowned out by his negative attitude. One of our media coaches remembers Newton for going above and beyond with an 11-year-old Make-a-Wish recipient, a story she covered as a journalist. Newton spent an extensive amount of time with the young boy and truly made his wish come true.

But, unfortunately for Newton, that’s not what we remember. We remember the abrupt answers, the sullen looks and the stomping away.

Our advice to Newton is to get composed enough to put together a 30-second soundbite after each game – no pouting, no attitude. You don’t have to allow reporters to grill you for an hour, but be polite for a few minutes and excuse yourself if you can’t manage your emotions.

And keep up the community involvement! The more good press you can get, the more the conversation will shift from the negative toward the positive.

Giving Back on Two Wheels

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img_0958img_0951A little laughter… lots of elbow grease… an afternoon well spent.

The Media Minefield office was empty for a few hours Wednesday afternoon, but the miners were still hard at work. Our mission: putting smiles on kids’ faces.

As part of Media Minefield’s Give Back Day, we spent a shift volunteering our time with the nonprofit Free Bikes 4 Kidz. The organization collects used bikes, cleans and refurbishes them and gives them to kids in need. It’s a big undertaking – they’ve given out more than 32,000 bikes over the last eight years!

It was definitely not a normal day in the office, but the event was still well-aligned with our company values. Media Minefield has been supporting nonprofit groups since Day One. We are committed to helping the community in ways beyond our Give Back Day: we work with nonprofits at a discounted rate, and we support our employees who want to utilize our flexible work schedule to give their time.

We are grateful to serve and help a few nonprofit clients each quarter. Our news-driven approach to public relations makes us uniquely designed to help them get their messages out to potential volunteers, donors and clients. That allows them to focus on what they do best – serving the community.

In our effort to serve the community, we hauled dozens of bikes and cleaned dozens more. But, in a sea of wheels, kickstands and handlebars, we hardly made a dent in the work that needs to be done. We encourage everyone who can to spend a few hours helping out – it’s an investment well worth it!

4 Things About the Debate That Have Nothing to do with Politics

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Politics aside, Monday night’s debate was a lesson in what to do – and what not to do – when you’re in the media spotlight. And what a spotlight it was! Overnight ratings show the matchup between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump drew almost as many viewers as the Super Bowl.

We’ll leave much of the debate about the debate to the political analysts. As a media company, we noticed a lot of the events surrounding the debate can be found in the coaching tips Media Minefield shares with every client early in our relationship with them:

Getting Ready
The two candidates took different approaches in preparing for the debate. While Trump hashed out strategy with advisors, he also said he didn’t want to over prepare. Meanwhile, Clinton spent three days hunkered down to get ready for the Monday night matchup. She practice-sparred against a long-time aide who knew her weaknesses. Our media coaches give the nod to Clinton’s way of preparing for a media interview. We always recommend role-playing and practicing your responses out loud.

Introduction
Even though the majority of the debate was contested, the introductions took a very different tone. Both candidates began the night with pleasantries to debate moderator Lester Holt before the gloves came off. This is another coaching tip we share with our clients. First impressions matter. Beginning an interview with a smile and a pleasant “hello” is the first step in appearing personable and likeable.

Honesty is the Best Policy
Here’s where the candidates both got off-track. Fact-checkers worked feverishly throughout the debate, questioning the comments coming from both candidates. The Washington Post reports Trump lied 23 times and Clinton failed to tell the truth 10 times. Because many of their comments fell in the gray areas, there’s no black and white line when it comes to each candidate’s truthfulness. Even so, we want our clients to always tell the truth during an interview. If there’s something they’re unsure of, an “I don’t know” is better than a falsehood.

Extending the Appearance
Donald Trump extended his exposure by making a stop in the spin room. That’s where the media gathers after a debate. Campaign staffers usually make the rounds, but rarely does a candidate him or herself make an appearance. We give kudos to Trump for taking the opportunity to extend his exposure.

The candidates will face off again Sunday, October 9th. We can’t wait to see what happens in Round 2!

An Office Divided

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lmaa-football-on-fieldAt Media Minefield, we work like a team and support like a family.  But for 3 1/2 hours on Sunday, we will be an office divided by sports rivalry. You read that right. Packer fans have invaded our Purple Pride office.

We are no strangers to good natured sports ribbing. Our Steelers-backing Media Coach enjoyed trash talking with a client in Baltimore who cheers for the Ravens. Another Media Coach made a football bet with a client in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The client had to wear a Helga Hat in front of Lambeau Field after the Vikings beat the Packers. (To be fair, both sides lost on that bet, and our Media Coach had to wear a cheese hat in front of TCF Bank Stadium when the Packers won.)

We’ve had intra-office rivalries before, just not to this extent. We have a lone Seahawks fan (who shall remain nameless), who cheered as Blair Walsh went wide left in the playoffs last year. We also have a Bears fan among us, but this is our first football season with fans of teams on both sides of the Minnesota-Wisconsin border.

Monday will be agony for those on the losing side. We have a bet going, and fans of the losing team will have to wear the opposing team’s colors to work. It will be ecstasy for the winners who will enjoy three months of bragging rights.

There’s only one thing left to say: May the best team win!

Best Places to Work Perks

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Field pass for access to Minneapolis / St. Paul Best Places to Work event at US Bank Stadium.

At Media Minefield, we feel honored to be recognized by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal as one of the Best Places to Work in 2016! We believe our flexible hours, unlimited vacation, teambuilding activities, babies at work and Margarita Fridays earned us a place in the top ten in our category (10- 25 employees).

As we celebrated with our fellow honorees, we were inspired to learn about some of the creative programs and perks they are enjoying. Some that stood out include:

  • On-site massage
  • Free soda
  • Expense-paid conferences and networking events
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Intra-office currency – employees can earn it and redeem for gift cards and days off
  • Annual warm weather team retreat with spouses/partners
  • Friday afternoons off in the summer (This is a popular perk!)
  • Family events, including an overnight at Water Park of America
  • Showers for people who bike to work
  • Buddy system for new hires
  • Snack bar including kegorator
  • Weekly happy hours (Cocktails are another common theme!)
  • Whirleyball tournaments

Congratulations to all of the 64 companies and 19,544 employees who joined us on the list! We hope to see you again next year!

Olympians & Their Brands Overshadowed by LochteGate

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With the Olympic flame extinguished on the 2016 games in Rio, there’s one storyline that’s getting all the attention: the Ryan Lochte scandal and the fallout to Lochte’s personal brand as he lost endorsement deal after endorsement deal. But if you look beyond LochteGate, there are several athletes who won a gold medal in personal branding.

Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps went into the 2016 Games as the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time (28 medals), and he left with six more to his name. We know Phelps has had issues in the past, but his domination in the pool makes the public forget about it. At age 31, Phelps will have to find ways to stay relevant now that his Olympic swimming career is behind him. If he doesn’t mind poking fun at himself, Phelps has a golden opportunity to capitalize on the other reason he made headlines in the Olympic Games: #PhelpsFace. We would love to see a creative endorsement featuring the photograph seen ‘round the world! We think his son, Boomer, could even land an endorsement for baby swim wear, baby carriers or baby headphones. For a newborn, Boomer certainly got a lot of quality screen time and seeing Michael as a family man helps his already golden image.

Katie Ledecky

If there ever was an athlete who embodied “girl power,” it would be Katie Ledecky. She didn’t just beat other swimmers in the pool, she set new world records. Ledecky is so good, her stats are raising the conversation about narrowing the gender gap between men and women. Not to mention, Ledecky is only 19 years old, and her age will help propel her personal brand. We’ll be seeing a lot more of her in four and eight years, but also in the meantime as the endorsement deals line up.

Nikki Hamblin and Abbey D’Agostino

Never heard of these two runners? You will. New Zealander Nikki Hamblin and American Abbey D’Agostino won the very rare Pierre de Coubertin medal for extraordinary sportsmanship. The award has only been given out 17 times in the history of the Olympics – the pair make number 18 and 19. Hamblin and D’Agostino were running the 5,000 meter race when Hamblin clipped D’Agostino and both fell to the ground. D’Agostino was hurt, but the pair managed to finish the race together. Their actions represent international sportsmanship, which is really what the Olympics are all about. In an Olympic Games that will be remembered for scandal and controversy, that’s a story you can bet people want to hear more about!

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