Kicking The Shit Out of Option B

kick the shit out of option bBy Julie Wright, President

What’s your ability to adapt to stress and adversity?

How prepared is your team to respond to obstacles or crises?

Adversity is a fact of life and of business. Things won’t always go your way. In fact, every once in a while, things will go horribly, irreversibly wrong.

Resilience. It has to be the most powerful quality a person or a company can possess.

I was overwhelmed reading Sheryl Sandberg’s message on Facebook earlier this month that described her grief after suddenly losing her husband.

Her conclusion was one I could relate to for mourning just about anything, from the loss of a loved one to the loss of a financial nest egg, a job or a dream.

“I was talking to one of these friends about a father-child activity that Dave is not here to do. We came up with a plan to fill in for Dave. I cried to him, ‘But I want Dave. I want option A.’ He put his arm around me and said, ‘Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the shit out of option B.’

Dave, to honor your memory and raise your children as they deserve to be raised, I promise to do all I can to kick the shit out of option B…”

That is the essence of resilience.

Kicking the shit out of option B.

I don’t want to talk about how to mourn life’s big stuff. Read Sandberg’s post if you want to learn how to do that right.

I want to take inspiration from her post and apply it to our business lives.

How do you behave when your big campaign doesn’t achieve results, your company becomes the subject of a lawsuit or financial scandal, a disgruntled employee does something awful, your CEO quits or a regulatory authority doesn’t approve your project or product?

Do you look for people to blame and find excuses for failure? Or do you analyze what went wrong, what could have been done differently and what processes or systems need correction? Do you rush for explanations or give yourself time to make a thorough assessment?

Sandberg took 30 days to gain her perspective and share what she had learned.

sherylThat introspection is a key to resiliency. You can’t adapt and succeed in the face of setbacks if you’re not taking the space and time needed to learn from them. Whether you need more or less than 30 days, the point is not to rush this process or communicate with a knee-jerk response. A little distance and perspective can help you see the true problem, understand your own reaction and help you determine where you go from here.

In a crisis where a company is expected to make a statement immediately, don’t rush to provide answers. Rush to provide comfort and instill confidence. Let people know you care, are taking action and will share information and next steps once they have been carefully evaluated.

Just like introspection, leadership is key to a company or team’s resiliency. Leaders need to re-inspire teams with a renewed purpose and readiness to kick the shit out of option B—whatever option B might be: a new or rejigged campaign, a leadership transition, a fresh product development plan or company-wide safety initiative.

Sandberg is a leader, well-spoken and exceedingly capable of selling her ideas. I have no doubt, after reading her post, that she will kick the shit out of option B.

Another feature of her resilience is her support system. She has her mother to help and a close network of confidantes to comfort and advise her.

In fact, her epiphany about option B came through the words of a supportive friend. And, at the time, it wasn’t where her heart was pushing her.

A good friend who had more perspective on the issue than she did was able to speak this truth to her.

That’s the role of trusted advisors during your corporate tragedy. They’re your support system and can help you find option B, as well as figure out how to kick the shit out of it.

You need outside points of view and the input of people who are experts in their fields and true professionals who can view the situation objectively and speak the truth when it needs to be heard.

Do you have those relationships? Do you know who you can turn to for counsel—who will help you find your option B? And are you open to hearing hard truths and listening to ideas and solutions that might cause some discomfort in the short term?

Like Sandberg, have you shared your vulnerabilities with those closest to you? Hiding the truth from trusted advisors or faking it with them will not build that mutual trust, nor will it allow their best advice and support. You have to let them in. And you have to be open to listening and valuing objective, outside experience and advice.

So be prepared for setbacks and losses in business, just as in life. And, when they happen, be ready to kick the shit out of option B. Give yourself and your team the time and space to gain perspective and learn the lessons to guide your new direction, use your leadership to restore enthusiasm in the new goal and call on the support of objective and valued consultants to ensure you have looked at the issue from all angles and without judgment.


Check out our related posts below:

Your Competitive Advantage is Being Human

In Communications, the Constant is Change


Why PR is Becoming a Visual Game (and How to Win)

Wonka meme

Remember when you were a little kid and your parents asked you to pick out a book to read? Did you gravitate toward the one that was a sea of black-and-white letters, or the cool one with lots of colorful, eye-catching photos?

In high school geometry, which was the better textbook? The one that wrote out how to determine the surface area of a trapezoid, or the one that showed you?

Even now, are you more engaged and likely to retain information with presentations that are strictly verbal, or ones that have graphics and charts?

It’s a fact: human beings are visual creatures. As a general rule, we remember 80% of what we see, compared to 20% of what we read and a small 10% of what we hear, a New York University psychological study found.

Applying this to PR, an industry in which the main objective is to communicate positive messages about a brand or person, Wharton School of Business researchers determined that presentations based on visuals were found more compelling and convincing than those that were only verbal.

Furthermore, 67% of the audience in the study said that merging visuals with verbal aids were all the more effective. So how can we, as PR professionals, leverage these findings to the advantage of our brands?

Get Social

With the popularity of visually-driven social media networks like Pinterest and Instagram, there’s no time like the present to socialize your PR strategy.

pinterestPinterest is especially great since a pin can link directly back to a website. If you pin a PDF of your fresh press release and put some compelling preview text in the description, your audience will not only want to read that particular release, they’ll be taken to your news room, blog, etc. and likely read many more. And check out your team. And explore your website.

In an industry like hospitality, make sure to load your website and e-menu up with lots of great photos showcasing your space, food and amenities. With one click, users will be on your site and one step away from making reservations.

instaInstagram isn’t to be forgotten, though. Although it lacks the referral power Pinterest has (at least for now), it’s a great vehicle for furthering community relations efforts or raising awareness of your brand offerings.

For example, nonprofits can benefit immensely from showcasing their volunteer efforts and positive impact in real time, while a fashion line can post sneak peeks of their new collection and the behind-the-scenes design process to get fans excited to buy.

With a few well-placed hashtags, even non-fans will be in on the action. Networks like Facebook and Twitter, as well as outlets like blogs, can also add to your visual storytelling power in their own unique way.

Create a Better Press Release

Notice I say “create” rather than “write.” That’s because although words still rule in PR, the changing face of the industry requires a little something extra for maximum connectivity and traction from both consumers and media.

As mentioned last year in our piece on putting together a great press release, adding just one photo to a release will increase views by 14%. Applying elements like more photos and video continues the upward trajectory, culminating in 77% higher consumption when visual education tools like infographics comepolaroids into play.

This all depends on the industry, too. B2C brands will do well with high-quality photos of their products or properties, while B2B people may be more receptive to charts and graphs.

As with any PR effort, think about your target audience when adding visual elements to collateral like press releases.

Get Ready for Your Close-Up

If you’re not sprinkling video into your PR plan at least occasionally, you should be.husky

ComScore found that in the US alone, people watch more than a billion online videos every day. Why?

They’re dynamic, typically easy to consume and people equate them with entertainment. Video makes it simple and fun to showcase brand philosophy, spread the word on updates and give a glimpse at the human side of a company, which consumers love.

If you’re trying to rebrand a respected, but traditionally conservative corporation, try a regular feature showcasing employees doing volunteer work or shadowing them for a day on the job. If you’re a tech-savvy company, dabble in mixing up your written press releases with video ones.

Video is also a great tool for media relations. At (W)right On, we’ve had great success creating client b-roll and sending on to news stations for high-quality, late-breaking event coverage – plus, it allows you to pick and choose the footage you want to show off. And, video is a fast way to introduce people to who you are as a company, piquing the interest of potential customers, media influencers and even investors.

What other ways have you found visuals instrumental in a successful PR program? Tell us in the comments or find us on Twitter.

Don’t Be Guilty of the Two Worst PR Writing Habits

If I read another Tweet, Facebook post or quote in a press release that starts with “We are excited…,” I’m going to shoot myself.

There’s only one person in the world who is excited by your excitement, and that’s your mom.

What I need to know is why I should care. Why is this at least interesting to me?

Call it WIFM (What’s In It For Me) or just common sense, but your communication—be it 140 characters, a 10-minute speech or an entire campaign—must meet some basic need in your target audience for it to be effective.

The only sin worse than “We are excited…” or “We are pleased…” in a press release quote is to open your release with the awesomely redundant lede, “XYZ Company announces today that…”

A press release is an announcement so it’s quite unnecessary, Captain Obvious, to tell the reader you’re announcing something. That is assumed. Seeing this laziness makes me want to put a stick in my eye.

What if every press release followed this mundane structure? Then, I beg you, put two sticks in my eyes. (I’m sure journalists who look at hundreds of press releases each day feel the same way. If you’re a journalist, I’d love to hear your press release beefs in the comments section below!)

Sadly, a search of PRWeb’s news feed showed over 20 releases with quotes containing “We are pleased…” in just one day!

These are the bane of even mediocre, let alone good, PR writing.

So fight the urge to boast.

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Add a touch of creativity to stand out.

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And avoid stating the obvious.

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How can you avoid these writing traps? First, just try harder and think before you write!

If you are stumped, an easy fix is to pay attention to the verbs. They are the most important element of speech in your communications. What is the action you are announcing? Winning an award, reporting financials, signing a major contract, acquiring a company, advancing a cure for cancer?

Replace “announce” with that action so that the lede is focused on the newsworthy action.

Here’s another essential writing tip: Always put your audience’s needs first. This is the first commandment of good communication. And when you live by it, you’ll avoid the sin of self-serving excitement—a.k.a. press release masturbation.

Put your audience’s pleasure ahead of your own if you want a loving and lasting relationship with your target market.

This is particularly helpful when you must write about events of questionable newsworthiness but great C-suite excitement. These include industry awards, new executive hires or partnerships.

Try applying these strategies:

  • Does your news meet an emotional need in your customer? Share it in a way that makes them feel good or better. “Even Grumpy Cat nearly broke a smile when he learned about our Super Duper industry award!”
  • Tweeting about a new CEO? Rather than “Our company is excited to welcome…” try engaging your followers to welcome her. “What do you want new CEO Juanita Doe to know about our products and service? #welcomejuanita.” Share responses and show your new CEO that the company’s social media network is a source of important feedback and input from customers and employees.
  • Did you win an award thanks to the support of your loyal customers or the work of your dedicated employees? Make that your message and instead of saying “we are excited,” try “we are grateful.”

Instead of a one-off post about the award on social media, plan a series of posts over a few weeks that profile an employee or a customer who contributed to your success. Create a campaign to raise awareness about the honor as well as grow your community and build goodwill with your most important stakeholders.

This could work for a tech company’s Most Innovative Product award or a resort’s success in reaching #1 on TripAdvisor. Who helped you get there?

What creative or strategic approaches have you had success with?

Sometimes the challenge is convincing decision makers at your client or company that being engaging and interesting is more important and productive than chest beating. Ask them to share the news with mothers and then with their teenage kids. Somewhere between those two extremes is the true indicator of whether anyone cares.

I will concede there are times when your audience may be just as excited about some news as you are, and it’s valid to share in that. A San Diego company might Tweet, “We’re excited that the San Diego Chargers are going to Super Bowl.” That would be legitimately exciting to people in the local market.

Just resist the urge to Tweet, post or speak like a cheerleader—particularly if you’re cheering for yourself—unless conditions really call for a cheerleader.

And never, under any circumstances, announce an announcement. Announce your news.

By Julie Wright, President


The Next Big Social Media Platform


In a recent discussion about opportunities to engage a lackadaisical customer base, a client asked, “What are the kids using these days?” Regarding social media, it’s something we hear often.

Sometimes the question is “what’s the next Facebook,” or, “are people still getting information from (insert name of platform),” but at the heart of the query is an understanding that social media is powerful and the landscape is ever-changing. It’s not 2007; businesses have caught on and understand that information isn’t consumed as it traditionally was. Chat up your friends around the water cooler and it’s likely that they’ll cite an article, meme or trend that they discovered through a “new media” channel (social networks, blogs, vlogs, etc.).

So, the question remains: what’s the next big social media platform?

To understand the next standout social media platform is to first understand basic principles of how people communicate. Second, it’s to understand the latest ways the Internet is being used.

Humans are thoughtful, emotional and social creatures. We express thoughts and feelings through speaking, touching and body gestures. When we do this with other humans, we call it socializing. While socializing, we anticipate cues to help us gauge impact, interest and agreement that will influence how/ what we communicate going forward. We prefer to socialize with others who have similar view points, or at least similar approaches to communication, although diversity keeps things interesting. We communicate to achieve outcomes, express ourselves or even just pass the time. This is human communication in a nutshell.

Figuring out how the Internet is being used is much more difficult, but to simplify, we can split the answer into two components: occupying through content and fulfilling a need. The guy who’s leaving YouTube comments that have nothing to do with the video is occupying himself by producing content. There’s no goal he’s trying to accomplish through his actions, nor is his commentary part of a larger plan. He’s commenting because it’s easy and he is entertained by others’ responses. The key here is it’s easy.

Fulfilling a need is simpler to understand. Two examples of innovative Internet applications that address needs are WebMD self-diagnoses and EBay’s new Group Gift, which allows a group of people to pitch in on a present. For businesses, it’s important to understand how customers are fulfilling their needs on the Internet. That serves as a foundation to determine what social channels to focus efforts on and what approach should guide their overall social media strategy.

In our experience, there are steadfast social media criteria to help determine what the next big social media platform will be:

  • Appeal – If the platform is too niche, it won’t get mass appeal (although hyper-targeted platforms can be incredibly effective for certain brands, but that’s for another blog)
  • Solving a new need – Providing a solution to something people didn’t realize was a problem
  • New way of solving an old need – Solving a problem better than a previous solution
  • Scalability – Ease by which new users join and connect, and degree to which connecting and growing circles improves the experience
  • Simplicity – For something to catch on, it has to be easy for the general public to do because if it can’t be figured out by a quick trial, people will move on

Based on these criteria and my diligent research, I present to you the three apps most likely to be the next big thing:

  • Circle – A mobile app that shows you what’s happening nearby right now and adapts to your location to provide useful information anywhere you go. Sound familiar? Ashton Kutcher is a key investor in the Palo Alto-based venture. The app has amassed a user base of 12 million spread across more than 1,700 U.S. cities. The app claims a million users join every month. Uniquely, Circle doesn’t try to make you build a new network for the app, but instead uses the contacts already in your phone. Sharing your plans with friends is incentivized by earning points which can be redeemed for real life value, such as an Amazon gift card or a weekend in Las Vegas.
  • Nextt –  Ever scroll your Facebook feed and think, “Who cares?” That’s because what’s shared on Facebook, and many other sites, are happenings of the past. Nextt focuses on the future and, more specifically, your circle of friends’ future. Nextt solves the main problem of online social networks, which is preventing you from interacting with friends offline. You know, like when you’re with friends at happy hour and everyone’s nose is in their phones. To solve this, Nextt gathers you and your friends in one convenient place to effortlessly organize and plan upcoming gatherings.

What’s Nextt for you? from Nextt on Vimeo.

  • Highlight –  This app is a location-based social network that makes local searches more social. Highlight draws data from friends and feeds you information about those around you. Whether someone is biking past your apartment or a pal just wrapped up at work, Highlight will tell you everything you could ever want to know about your friends. Sound a bit intrusive or creepy? Let’s be honest and agree the notion of privacy is much different than it was a decade ago, not to mention that it’s up to you what amount of data you allow the app to share with friends.

Platforms like Facebook and Instagram allow friends to share events of the past. Twitter and Foursquare allow communication surrounding the present. Nextt will usher in the new wave for social media: the future.

As a bonus, I came across some wacky and poorly thought out social media platforms and apps while researching this post. For your entertainment, here are the Bottom 3 newest social media apps. Enjoy!

  • Yo – This app asks you to build a circle of connections so that you can merely send people a “yo” message. That’s it. Seriously. Somehow, the app secured $1 million in initial seed funding, but considering it has no revenue stream and a use that’s more novel than captivating, Yo (in its current state) is heading for the app graveyard.
  • Yik Yak – An app that allows people to anonymously share messages with people in their area without actually knowing them. This article brilliantly quipped that Yik Yak “combines comment section trolls, schoolyard bullies, a person’s random thoughts and a whole lot of f*bombs” and questioned its usefulness after causing two false school evacuations in a week.
  • WhatsApplebee’s – Ever find yourself in an Applebee’s (drawn in by a “two for $20” combo, no doubt) and felt the urge to chat it up with fellow patrons without having to stop chewing the gummy sirloin you ordered? WhatsApplebee’s (not officially affiliated with Applebee’s) allows you to chat with other patrons, but it only works when you’re in an Applebee’s. “That’s awesome,” said no sane person ever.

Communication Changes, Constantly

At (W)right On, we pride ourselves on being at the forefront of good communication practices. Had the agency been around in the 50’s – 90’s, things would have been easier – there was stability and relative predictability. There were also far fewer communication channels (e.g. in TV, radio and print), journalistic work wasn’t executed at such breakneck speed and attention spans were longer.

Times have changed, and “dramatically” would be an understatement. Hundreds of communication channels became thousands, then millions with the blog community; communication became instantaneous and instantaneously global; Gen Y (Millennials) entered the scene having only known life with a gadget in their hands; sound bites became character bites (no more than 140); recipients’ message absorption capacity decreased with a greater need for stimulation and interaction is increasingly digital instead of human-to-human. I could go on. Stating these facts is not meant necessarily as an indictment of them. To the contrary, there’s much good to be found in them – it’s simply recognizing that many aspects of communication have profoundly changed.

But through these decades, and for centuries prior, there remain constants in stories.


Stories will never go out of style. We humans often have the most engaging conversations when a story is shared: Around the dinner table. When there’s actually news. Sharing wisdom with a child or friend. Motivating a group to action. For entertainment and relaxation.

The same rule applies to business communication, too. The art of and need for storytelling – beyond a status update or picture share – is ageless. Involve any element of intrigue, protagonists and antagonists, humor, conflict or any of the universal themes we gravitate toward and your message will get across.

While distribution channels and methodology will continue to evolve, telling stories is a stalwart in conveying messages. Well-told stories capture attention, elicit emotion, engage the audience, provide relevance and inspire to action. For organizations, stories can connect and emotionally invest people in their brand.

Storytelling – just one of many constants in the sea of communication change.  What’s your story?

5 Social Media Lessons from my Green Tea Party Protest


Here’s what I learned trying to bring back Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass after my favorite tea was discontinued.

I discovered Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass a few years ago and became hooked on its soothing, subtle flavor. All other green teas were too bitter or tasted like grass. Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass became a daily ritual for me.

But late last year, I had trouble finding my beloved product. In January, I discovered that Good Earth had overhauled its product line in a rebranding and my favorite flavor had been discontinued, tossed aside in the pursuit of the millennial market.

I did what any devoted customer in the 21st century would do: I complained to Good Earth on its Facebook page. The company responded, steering me to their new product, Citrus Kiss – part of a sassy new lineup that also included Tropical Rush, Sweet Chai of Mine, Wild Chaild, etc.

Yes, Citrus Kiss contained green tea as well as lemongrass, but it also contained stevia (a natural sweetener) which means it tasted nothing like Green Tea Lemongrass (GTL). Unacceptable! And a waste of my money!

I started a Facebook page called Bring Back Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass. Other disgruntled fans of the former product found the page and ultimately it drew nearly 200 fans.

In the process, I learned five lessons about social media that I’ll share below. You’ll have to read to the end to find out whether I scored a victory or not:

1.       It’s not the size of the audience but the depth of their engagement that matters

The Good Earth page has over 64,000 “Likes.” My page has only 749. However, my protest page attracts more comments on its material with real conversations taking place between commentators than the brand’s page. The small number of people involved are very invested in the cause and know that they’re part of a community that cares just as deeply (and who would never steer them to a pre-sweetened alternative!). Bring back Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass!

2.       You can’t buy engagement

Early in my protest, I would go to Good Earth’s Facebook page and comment using my page’s identity on the complaints of other ex-GTL customers. My message was always respectful. I just wanted to let the poor tea drinker know our page existed and that they could find others who shared their passion for the product there.

Then, suddenly, Good Earth’s social media folks banned my page from commenting on their page. That made me mad and I had to get even.

So I spent $30 or so to grow my page’s following quickly – targeting fans of Good Earth’s page specifically. The campaign added 100 followers in a flash. But those folks, like Good Earth’s thousands of followers, didn’t interact like the ones who engaged organically. So I didn’t continue it. Instead, I would occasionally post as myself on Good Earth’s page with a link to the Bring Back GE GTL page. That strategy was slower but far more effective. I would have done it more often but I’ve got other things to do besides fighting to bring back Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass.

3.       The Facebook algorithm is a beast and must be fed continually or atrophy

Once I had more of an audience, I felt Good Earth would take the page more seriously. However, I noticed that if I got too busy to show my page some love for a few days, my next post would get fewer likes or comments. On the other hand, if I kept up my activity, I saw more interaction.

Another helpful activity was to continually like, comment on and tag commentators in replies (if their settings allowed it). This helped stimulate more engagement, which raised the visibility of the posts so that more people saw them. But it was also a strategy that recognized we are all human and social media must always be approached as a conversation and not just ad copy or canned responses.

4.       Social media is a conversation

That’s truly the only approach that works.

I shared my picture on the Bring Back Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass Facebook page so people would know I am real and just like them. I made some really cool connections, too, which has become my favorite part of this experience.

Al and Sheila from New Jersey mailed me a few GE GTL Decaf teabags after they won an eBay auction of some of the discontinued stock. I loved Al’s note that came with the bags. I mailed one of those teabags back to Christina in Tulsa who had tipped me off to the eBay sale in the first place. There were so many others… Inna from San Clemente. Lisa. Chanan. Nigel.

One person credited GE GTL with getting him through MBA school. Another said it got her through chemo.

It’s also true to say that we were all having a conversation with Good Earth on its Facebook page, too—or at least trying to. But did we get anywhere?

5.       Social media is powerful

It worked. Sort of. At the end of April, Good Earth announced that they would be bringing back a limited supply of GE GTL. In late May, they began taking orders. They were sold out in five days. I got two of those cases, or 12 boxes of 20 teabags. My Facebook friend Paula also found me five boxes at a CVS in Escondido since I shared some of this information on my personal Facebook page, too. (Thank you, Paula!)

The question now is whether the new Good Earth products are generating the sales the company had hoped for when they ditched their loyal customers. If not, they should bring back the classics, Good Earth Green Tea Lemongrass and its decaf cousin.

Our mighty little community demonstrated the marketplace demand, and, now, Good Earth has a national network of passionate product enthusiasts they can activate the minute they decide to do so.

So, Good Earth, what are you waiting for?


P.S. For those of you who care about the business side of this, Good Earth was started in Santa Cruz, Calif. in 1972. It was acquired by Tetley in 2005, a subsidiary of Tata Global Beverages.

In January 2011, Tata shut down production of Good Earth in Santa Cruz and moved all the ops to New Jersey. In 2013, it launched the rebranding and basically did away with the company’s heritage and its product lines.