Tip #1: How to Build a First-Rate Online Public Affairs Offering – Or At Least One that Doesn’t Suck

As promised,  here is the second post (and first tip) on how to build a first-class benefitplansonline reputation management group. As I have mentioned, this is a series of posts that offer what I think are the keys to success in establishing, promoting or defending your company’s issues or reputation in the online environment.  And doing so within the corporate or agency environment.   So here goes, dear readers:

Tip #1 Hire the best minds you can, regardless of age – and pay them what they deserve.

This one is a personal irritation for me.  I spent 15 years in the agency world, and as I ascended the corporate ladder, I assumed a greater role in the hiring process.  My ascension, however, rarely coincided with the sole ability to determine compensation.  Recession aside, I cannot tell you how many times I argued with upper management about the compensation package for potential recruits who were top-notch people.  It’s hard enough to find a stellar candidate, but then the dance begins.  And you can bet your bottom dollar that your competitors are in the dance too.

The following conversation was one that I had years ago that was my first slap-in-the-face moment when it came to fighting the fight for top-notch talent.

MARK: Candidate XYZ is outstanding.  The best I have seen in a long time.  Why can’t we go higher on the salary?  Or get more creative in the compensation?

HR LUDDITE: Mark, we did a survey of all of the agencies in our space and we determined that our salaries fall right in the industry average.

MARK: If we pay the industry average, how can we expect anything but AVERAGE EMPLOYEES??!?!?

HR LUDDITE: “[sputter, stammer] Well…well…”  What she was really thinking:  “F**K YOU, MARK.”

Writer’s note:  stupid should hurt.

The conversation above was real (except for what I imagine the HR person was thinking, but I bet it was close), but it makes the point that if you want top-notch people, you have to pay top-notch salaries.  Period.  Full stop. I get that we are in a recession and profit margins are shrinking, so if you can’t pay top dollar, why not:

  • Give regular, merit bonuses for excellent work?
  • Offer working from home whenever your person needs it?
  • Give him/her every other Friday off?
  • Or get REALLY creative?   I once managed to convince upper management that it was time to reward people by showing that we not only appreciated them, but understood them as people.  So one woman got a full-day spa treatment, one got a trip and a pass for an industry expo, one got a plane ticket home ot Puerto Rico, etc.

You get my point.  If your people have made money for you and worked above and beyond, then compensate them in ways that go above and beyond AND show an understanding of what they are likely to value most.

There are a zillion ways to get creative in compensation, but the bottom line is that if you want more than average, you have to compensate in more than average fashion.  Period.

Coming Up:

  1. Hire the best minds you can, regardless of age – and pay them what they deserve.
  2. When you hire people, don’t bait the hook with “work-life balance” and then work people to death.  And if they do have to work monstrous hours, compensate them creatively.
  3. Give them the software, hardware and online tools to be successful.  Don’t ask people to fight with one hand tied behind their backs.
  4. Encourage intellectual curiosity in your staff.  Push reading and conferences so that their minds are fresh and challenged.
  5. When it comes to your client(s), select the right mix of tools that enables them to really — REALLY — monitoring the company/client’s online reputation.  This means print news, online news, trade pubs, blogs, Twitter, TV, radio and attack sites.  You must look at everything.
  6. When you are doing the monitoring, pick the right people to assess the opportunity or threat.  That means knowing that venues really matter, the potential viral nature of the information, and most importantly, how to calibrate your response to the threat or opportunity presented. And oh — they have to have an excellent understanding of the subject matter.  So junior staff here, folks.
  7. When you find a threat that is serious, use ALL of the tools at your disposal.  That could be full-blown Web sites, dark Web sites that can be activated quickly, blogs, Tweets, third-party online and offline recruitment and activation as well as — yes, this is controversial — opposition research and, if necessary, opposition depositioning. That’s right, if you are getting attacked, attack back.
  8. Look at social media like learning a language.  The more that your staff (and you) know, the more that you will not know.  This is where #4 comes in handy – if you and others are reading and listening to smart people, you will have a sense of what to be looking at for the future.
  9. Given all of the tools in #8, do not be afraid to take the gloves off.  If the threat is so serious that it could unfairly bring down your business or client, make sure everyone understands whats at stake;  and what you should be doing about it.  If the threat is so serious that people are going DEFCON 5, make sure that
  10. Be a thought leader – if you do all of the above well, you are likely smart as hell.  Engage in online conversations with others that a) further your learning and b) further your reputation.
  11. BONUS:  Rinse, lather, repeat.



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