081407-off_the_recordRagan.com had a piece this week that dove into the complicated waters of going “off the record” during a media interview. This is timely, of course, because of the unfortunate comments made by an Uber executive that he thought was off the record.

This person basically said he would be for hiring researchers to target reporters that have challenged the company, in order to “give them a taste of their own medicine.”


Why should this matter to my B2B audience, including marketers, executives and their agency partners? After all, Uber is a high-profile B2C brand, so everything it does is scrutinized by media and consumers alike.

Consider: Having worked in B2B for most of my career, industries can be a lot like a community; everyone seems to know everyone else, and one misstep during an interview means word can travel fast, particularly in today’s social media environment.

The best way to manage this risk is to assume anything you say to a media member like a trade publication editor – on the phone, at a trade show, at a social event or even in the restroom – could end up in print and/or online. Therefore, never going off the record is the best policy, because you then eliminate the possibility that you could say something that you wouldn’t want anyone else in your industry community to see, much less your boss.

This most important considering that trade editors in particular have somehow gotten away from taking notes during an interview. There have been a troubling number of editorial meetings I have scheduled at trade shows in the past few years where the editor showed up and just listened to my client talk.

To me, that’s borderline disrespectful, but also dangerous. If you go off the record with a media member who’s not taking notes, you’re relying on their memory of the discussion for accuracy when they write their show reports. Will they remember what was on and off the record?

Do you seriously want to take that chance?

In hindsight, I remember vividly executives from B2B companies I interviewed when I was a trade publication editor at Model Retailer that liberally jumped back and forth between on and off the record. My policy was to never write down something told to me off the record. That way, I always knew that whatever was in my notes was on the record, and therefore fair game for my reporting.

But that was my policy. Again, want to take a chance? I think not.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to work with your media relations counsel to craft key messages ahead of time, and think through responses to both easy and hard questions that might come up during an interview. It sounds cliche, but if you stay on message, there shouldn’t be a problem.

That’s certainly better than saying something to a media member off the record and having it get around your industry, or a trade show floor, or social media channels, and then having to do damage control.

Image credit to Business2Community.com


twitter-bird-300x193Friday’s story in the Wall Street Journal about Twitter CEO Dick Costolo’s struggle to define the vision of the social media network is a cautionary tale for organizations of all sizes, including (and perhaps especially) of B2B companies. The story notes that, “Amid staff changes, Mr. Costolo has vacillated in defining Twitter, confusing investors betting on the company’s future and Twitter’s own employees, who are unclear about its mission.” This has led to significant turnover in company leadership, according to Slate.

Ask yourself: What’s the purpose of your organization? Why does it exist? And is there a clear, cohesive vision for the future?

If your answer to any one of those questions is, “I don’t know,” then you’ve got some work to do.

In short, it’s on you to seek understanding. That sounds almost philosophical, but it drives to the larger question: Why am I working for this organization?

If you don’t understand the vision, or if it’s clear that there really is no vision, or you really don’t support it (be honest), then how can you reflect it to the larger world? A brand may be what “they” say it is – “they” meaning customers, prospects, supporters and the like – but “they” are affected by what, and who, they see and hear. That means you.

I love Twitter. Always have. I tweet at two accounts (@GreggVoss for business and @GreggVossPreps for my high school sports passion). But admittedly, I can’t get a read on the vision of the company, particularly since it went public a year ago. I have a sense of its objectives – to add shareholder value; to not be compared to Facebook; and to target more than just active users, according to the WSJ piece. But its vision? Indeterminate, as Mr. Spock would say. Costolo (who didn’t talk to WSJ, which was a big mistake, IMO) is described by the paper as “a reactive thinker who bounces from one idea to the next.”

Now put all that through the lens of your organization. I’ll say this: I’ve attended many, many trade shows in my time, and it’s gotten fairly easy to see across the aisles which B2B companies have a vision, and can articulate why they exist. The booth is inviting, traffic is brisk, the graphics and literature are simple, striking and consistent, and you somehow “feel” they are industry leaders. Those brands are strong; people are talking about them because their high expectations are repeatedly met.

And then you see the companies that don’t have a vision; their goal is find as many customers as they can. Contradictions abound, from one booth graphic and conversation to the next. Disorganization and less-than-friendly booth personnel don’t help.

That’s not reflection of a vision, but is a suggestion that a vision doesn’t exist.

It’s sad, really, because every organization – B2B, B2C, nonprofits, what have you – possesses the opportunity to claim a vision and articulate it both internally and externally. That becomes the brand.

So let’s do this: Make it a goal of yours this week to ruminate about your organization’s vision. And if you’re not quite sure, take the time to ask a few questions.

You might be surprised at what you find.


Where Does Wearable Technology Fit for B2B Brands?

October 24, 2014

I have friends who work in IT that swear the next big thing is wearable technology, and the statistics seem to bear that out – the market is supposed to be anywhere from $5.8 billion to as much as $12 billion by 2018. Of course, we’ve seen Google Glass for a couple of years now, […]

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Simplicity Key for Brands to Make Communications Channels More Effective

October 20, 2014

Jacobs & Clevenger here in Chicago had a blog post recently that posed a surprising question: Have all communications channels stopped working? In it, Ron Jacobs muses about whether marketers should stop investing in websites, if SEM and SEO are still effective, and the virtues of direct mail. It was a perfect segue for today’s […]

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Why Are Some B2B Brands STILL Doing Social Media Ineffectively?

September 30, 2014

I was working on a research project recently where I was tasked with surveying a group of B2B companies’ social media presences, and once again, I was astonished by how ineffective they collectively were being approached. What was wrong, you ask? You name it – one-way newsfeed-like communication, complete and utter lack of engagement, no […]

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Maximizing Your LinkedIn Profile, Part 2: Content

September 15, 2014

My note: In Part 2 of this mini-series on maximizing a LinkedIn profile, I dive into profile content, specifically focusing on things to improve that might not be obvious. My friend and LinkedIn connection Patrick Mayoh talked about connection in Part 1 last week, which you can read here. I might add that in the […]

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Maximizing Your LinkedIn Profile, Part 1: Connecting

September 11, 2014

My note: From two continents, my friend and LinkedIn connection Patrick Mayoh and I attack the challenge of maximizing your LinkedIn profile in Part 1 of this two-part series. You may remember Patrick, who works for Euromonitor International in his native Cameroon, in west-central Africa, wrote this insightful post about the brands that stand out […]

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In Defense of B2B PR: Three Keys to Shining as a Brand Representative

August 28, 2014

Beth Monaghan from Inkhouse Media and Marketing had a really good take recently about why she entered the public relations field, and why what she does on a daily basis is so fulfilling. You can read her piece at Ragan.com here. It was thought-provoking for me, especially as a PR, social media and marketing communications […]

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Being in the Present: Personal Brand Lessons from The Power of Now

August 3, 2014

I’m back, after nearly two weeks of convalescing after my most recent surgery, and frankly, VERY glad to be back. It wasn’t pleasant … a tonsillectomy and work on my soft palate left me feeling like I was swallowing glass shards for the better part of the last couple of weeks. Ick. But, two pieces […]

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Yes or No – Is There Any Legitimacy to Brand Journalism?

July 23, 2014

FYI that I’ve got surgery scheduled for this afternoon (the second of two this month, ugh), and so I’m tidying up loose ends before I head out. One of them is to tie off on the discussion generated by my previous post about brand journalism. It sparked quite an insightful discussion within the PRwise LinkedIn […]

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