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Rethinking Reputation: How PR Trumps Marketing and Advertising in the New Media World
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Rethinking Reputation: How PR Trumps Marketing and Advertising in the New Media World

by Fraser P. Seitel, John Doorley

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Good public relations is no longer just icing-it's a strategic imperative more important to your competitive success than even advertising or marketing. This is true whether you're a century-old multibillion-dollar corporation or a penniless startup. In Rethinking Reputation, public relations guru Fraser Seitel and John Doorley, founder of the Academy for


Good public relations is no longer just icing-it's a strategic imperative more important to your competitive success than even advertising or marketing. This is true whether you're a century-old multibillion-dollar corporation or a penniless startup. In Rethinking Reputation, public relations guru Fraser Seitel and John Doorley, founder of the Academy for Communication Excellence and Leadership at Johnson & Johnson, examine a fascinating new set of case studies-including the BP oil spill and the launch of CitySlips-to glean the PR dos and don'ts for the new media world, covering both standard reputation maintenance and crisis management. They also show start-up companies and entrenched organizations how to use the power of word-of-mouth to jump-start business like never before. This is a wake-up call from two industry legends-for public relations professionals as well as entrepreneurs, CEOs, and anyone else tasked with representing their organization to the world.

These new media lessons include:

* Remember that research is cheaper, and more critical, than ever.
* Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good-launch your idea before someone else does.
* Don't get so excited about social media that you forget about traditional media.
* In a crisis, you are never offstage.
* Never lie, never whine, and never try to predict the future!

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
From BP’s oil spill to Anthony Weiner’s Twitpic snafu, public relations failures are all around us. How to avoid them? Public relations consultant Seitel (The Practice of Public Relations) and corporate communications expert Doorley demonstrate how people and companies have successfully used PR to accomplish great things or to destroy themselves, and how readers can learn to use this powerful force for good. Claiming grandiosely that “public relations is the most powerful force in modern society,” the authors examine success stories from Johnson & Johnson and others, and PR disasters, such as John Edwards’s affair, and how those reputations could have been protected. Some (though not enough) analysis is done on strategy: pick the high or low road and stick to it; plan soon and plan thoroughly. Since PR is globally replacing advertising as the “go to” promotional strategy for individuals and organizations, it’s undoubtedly important to understand. Unfortunately, this slim study pretty much stops at “PR is important”—a good start, but not fully developed. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Aug.)
From the Publisher

“I would give it an 'A.' It should required reading for every communications student and their instructors, and for every person involved in a business that may some day have a PR problem or use a PR firm. Put it on your must-read list.” —O'Dwyer's

“A fun and educational discussion of building and protecting a reputation by two leaders in the field of public relations… Lots of practical information for both building a business and living a life.” —Kirkus Reviews

“By now you know we're in the middle of a communications revolution with an explosion of new media channels to reach your audience directly and then have your ideas shared in social networks. But most organizations act as if we're still in the mainstream media era of big expensive campaigns. Rethinking Reputation shows you how to reset your concept of reputation and to navigate this new media world. Beautifully written with compelling real-word examples from companies large and small, Seitel and Doorley show you how to succeed.” —David Meerman Scott, bestselling author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR, now in over 25 languages from Bulgarian to Vietnamese

“In an age of public conversations, reputation maintenance is a daily practice, and your crisis management skills may be needed at any moment. Fraser Seitel and John Doorley's book Rethinking Reputation doesn't just shed light on PR best practices; it's a wake-up call and a must-read for all communications professionals today.” —Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO Pure Performance Communications and author of Social Media and Public Relations

Rethinking Reputation reminds us all of the importance of PR in the most ad-cluttered world we've ever lived in. I highly recommend it to business professionals everywhere. Two big likeable thumbs up!” —Dave Kerpen, New York Times bestselling author, Likeable Social Media and Likeable Business

“Personal reputations seem in tatters everywhere you look today. This entertaining guide to public relations shows how the world's 'second oldest profession" is the basis of our individual reputations and relationships.” —Helen Ostrowski, retired chairman and CEO, Porter Novelli

“If your Master of the Universe reputation is under threat, you must immediately read this essential guide to master any crisis--or better yet hire the wise gurus of reputation, Fraser Seitel and John Doorley. Crammed full of wisdom from other Masters' fall from grace.” —Robert Lenzner, Contributing Editor and Columnist, Forbes Media and bestselling author of The Great Getty

“Everyone knows that reputation is a bridge--and an illusion. Rethinking Reputation is a hands-on training book that drives away theoretic cobwebs and teaches you how to use modern PR to a variety of ends. You can give this book to your bosses, boards or other constituents to get buy-in for newthink, no-BS strategies---while saving you from pulling out your hair!” —Richard Laermer, CEO RLMpr and author of Full Frontal PR

“Whether in business or politics, one's reputation is the critical foundation on which success is built. Seitel and Doorley have put forward a thought-provoking blueprint on how to both build and maintain this valuable asset.” —Ed Ingle, Managing Director of Government Affairs, Microsoft Corporation, and former senior White House aide

“The authors are good storytellers, with tales of the famous and the obscure. They are especially good at conveying the power of character-based communication.” —Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City

Kirkus Reviews
A fun and educational discussion of building and protecting a reputation by two leaders in the field of public relations. Seitel (The Practice of Public Relations, 11th Edition, 2010) and Doorley (co-author: Reputation Management: The Key to Successful Public Relations and Corporate Communication, 2006), the founding academic director of the Public Relations master's program at NYU, assemble a set of case studies from the fields of business, politics and sports, and they separate their view of public relations from advertising and marketing. "Public relations," they write, "is mandatory; advertising optional." The authors show how it is now possible to build a successful international business in a short time without advertising. Susie Levitt and Katie Shea, student designers of CitySlips footwear, achieved this through networking among family and friends and using their Facebook and Twitter accounts to organize and expand their outreach. Other cases showcase the relationship between branding and reputation and how qualities of character, such as integrity, impact the performance of both business corporations and individuals. An example is Roy Vagelos, who developed a cure for river blindness and who, when he was made an executive at Merck, ensured the drug was made available where needed for free. The authors contrast Exxon's disastrous response to the Valdez oil spill with the different types of blunders made by BP's leadership during the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and they profile figures in sports and politics who have required PR help, including Kobe Bryant, Michael Vick, Bill Clinton and Anthony Weiner. Seitel and Doorley also highlight the integrity of Clinton's former press secretary Mike McCurry, and they use Paul Volcker's example of public service to derive their own Volker rule: "never spin." Lots of practical information for both building a business and living a life.
CEO Pure Performance Communications and author of Deirdre Breakenridge

In an age of public conversations, reputation maintenance is a daily practice, and your crisis management skills may be needed at any moment. Fraser Seitel and John Doorley's book Rethinking Reputation doesn't just shed light on PR best practices; it's a wake-up call and a must-read for all communications professionals today.

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St. Martin's Press
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Rethinking Reputation

How PR Trumps Marketing and Advertising in the New Media World

By Fraser P. Seitel, John Doorley

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2012 Fraser P. Seitel and John Doorley
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-137-09222-9



The Magic Slippers and the Exterminator

THE TWO YOUNG WOMEN, HARDLY MORE THAN GIRLS, FOUND themselves promoting a new product before they had even finished the prototype, or crystallized the vision of it in their minds' eye. They had hit some snags in developing the actual product, but never in the idea, never in believing in or selling the idea. To them, the product was never just a pair of slippers. Their slippers would be stylish and sexy and utilitarian all at once. Their slippers would be magical. The women were still young enough to believe in that.

Susie Levitt and Katie Shea met in 2008 in their New York University dorm. They shared two important characteristics at the outset: entrepreneurial spirit and sore feet. Within a few meetings, they conceived of a pair of slippers that fashionable young women could wear when their high heels became unbearable. In just under a year, days after their NYU graduation, they had turned their idea into a product and obtained big-time publicity in major media, both traditional and social. And arriving almost simultaneously with the news coverage was the first batch of slippers — via China to Katie's parents' garage on Long Island, the business's temporary distribution center.

The publicity would produce not only hundreds of orders from individual women, but offers from retail stores to stock and promote the slippers. Within months, retail availability would expand from a few stores to hundreds, and then to nationwide chains like Bed Bath & Beyond, Dillard's and Neiman Marcus. And then, soon, to 25 other countries. And Susie and Katie were still barely 23.

But we're getting ahead of a good story: how youthful zeal combined with relationship building and publicity established a successful business. In record time, with no paid advertising.

NYU would not appear to be a nurturing place, even for two smart, tough young women. The largest private university in the United States, it receives more applications than any other — and it rejects more than any other. It is very tough to get in to and it can be even tougher to graduate from. Its students are in and of the most competitive city on Earth.

Enter freshmen Susie Levitt and Katie Shea in the fall of 2005. They had never met, nor would they for three more years.

They had a lot in common: both blond, petite, gifted and children of the suburbs, Connecticut and Long Island, respectively. And both were driven.

Susie, the youngest of four children, was a good student in high school and a star on the girls' soccer team. She didn't like being told what she could not do, "which may help explain why I was also on the wrestling team throughout high school." Fact is, she was much better than most of the best wrestlers, almost all boys, and she was named an All American both her junior and senior years. Her parents encouraged the children to be self-sufficient, and one of Susie's brothers became a successful software entrepreneur in his 20s.

Katie, the oldest of four children, was also a good student. She was outgoing and competitive. Like Susie's, her parents encouraged the children to be self-sufficient. Her parents and uncles were entrepreneurs, always looking at possibilities for new business opportunities. In high school, Katie was involved in a small eBay business that sold factory seconds of women's clothing.

Katie: "My grades in high school were not as good as most of the kids' who get into NYU. I think that my experience in that small eBay business helped me get in."

When Susie and Katie were introduced their junior year by a mutual friend, it was a desire to form a business that brought them together. They had a good idea, but it was their ability to form relationships, trust in the strength of those relationships and execute their ideas that made them successful.

They became friends right away.

"We both had this desire to form our own business," Katie remembers, "and we immediately saw kinship in that." Within weeks, over a glass of wine in Katie's room, they thought they had hit on an idea for something special.

The two seemed to arrive at the idea simultaneously — going from complaining about the discomfort of high heels to acknowledging their affection for such shoes to realizing there had to be a way of having both style and comfort. Shoes that attempted to do both seemed to accomplish neither; they came out either unstylish or not significantly more comfortable than regular heels. They realized that what they were looking for was not a hybrid, but a complement to the heel that was not a sneaker.

Katie: "It's hard to look and feel good in a nice outfit with sneakers, even when people realize you are just wearing them until you get to work or home."

Susie's sorority sisters understood immediately. It was intuitive for such young women of the city. So the sorority became the focus group for new product research.

"They reinforced our belief," Susie says, "that the shoe had to be flexible, foldable and yet sturdy enough to wear on city streets. It had to be functional and sexy and affordable."

But Katie and Susie realized that the product would not be complete without very special packaging that would make it fashionable, even glamorous, to be seen carrying a second pair of shoes. So they designed the wrist pouch for the slippers to include an expandable bag that could hold the regular or high-heeled shoes. Carry the high heels in the pouch to work or the theater or school and, later, carry the slippers in the stylish bag. Manufacture the slippers, the pouch, expandable bag and packaging in bright colors. Make a fashion statement. Prevent a blister.

"We thought we had a good idea, but we were not exactly sure how to proceed," Susie says.

The first big problem was that the $10,000 they had scraped together was just enough to choose a manufacturer, experiment with various samples and produce a first batch of slippers. It was not enough for lawyers, marketing, advertising or other start-up costs.

"We had already come to realize that our excitement produced excitement in others and that others wanted to help," Susie says. "Whenever we would start thinking we simply did not have enough money for prototyping and patenting and production and publicity, someone would provide it as a favor, pro bono as they say. It was amazing. The thing that tied our business plan together — from idea to sales — would be relationship building."

Susie and Katie both held internships on Wall Street during their time at NYU. Over that first glass of wine, though, in their junior year and at the height of the Great Recession, they decided to reject investment banking and leap feet-first into slippers. Susie's father had recently died of cancer, and her mother supported her entrepreneurial spirit. Katie's parents, as entrepreneurs, understood.

Susie: "I don't think either of us ever second guessed what we were doing. We had this conviction."

But their internships in investment banking had taught them a lot, and in their senior year Katie and Susie entered a business plan competition at the NYU Stern School of Business. They worked together, planning for the start-up of a company that would market the slippers. They made it to the semifinal round of the competition and got to know some of the judges — one in particular, Bob Klein, the CEO of one of New York's largest extermination companies, based in downtown Manhattan.

Katie: "We kept bouncing ideas off Mr. Klein, even months after the competition ended. He must have thought us pests, excuse the pun. Who would have thought that the male CEO of an extermination company could have such great ideas about fashionable, functional footwear for women?"

They then learned of another business plan competition sponsored by the online broker Alibaba, which specializes in linking the right manufacturer with the right product. They had learned of Alibaba through an article in Entrepreneur magazine.

Susie: "The Alibaba competition had a first prize of $50,000, and we thought we had a shot at it."

This time they made it to the finals, winning $3,000.

By the winter of their senior year, while juggling term papers and exams, they decided to go for broke — "expecting we might get there fast," Susie says. Pushing ahead, they found a lawyer at NYU who would help them file for a patent at no charge; worked with the Entrepreneurial Center at NYU, asking for any help the Center could provide; and they explored several manufacturers through Alibaba. They worked with that manufacturer online to design a prototype.

After weeks of give and take, the shoe ended up being a kind of ballet slipper with two reinforced soles, one up front and the other in place of the heel, so that the new shoe could be worn indoors or out, on any surface. It was comfortable and sleek and folded into a small pouch containing the expandable bag, all of which could fit on the wrist or in a purse.

They chose a firm in Shanghai, China, to make the prototype they decided to market. (They were comfortable working online, creating virtual relationships, because they had grown up with such relationships.)

Early on, they got the idea to call the new shoes CitySlips, alliterative and evocative of the kind of style young fans of the TV series Sex and the City might like. Did it work? They did research with that demographic, their sorority, and the answer was a clear "yes."

On May 29, 2009, they received the first shipment of 1,000 pairs, at Katie's parents' garage on Long Island, and they were all set for an orderly launch. Three days later, an article featuring them and their slippers appeared in the New York Daily News, the nation's fifth-largest newspaper. The orders flooded in, and the two scrambled to meet them. They set up a PayPal account on their website. The serendipitous publicity meant that it was too late to build new relationships. So they desperately reached out to the relationships they had fostered for years, recruiting family, friends and NYU interns to help fill the orders. Susie and Katie worked 15-hour days for weeks into the summer.


The publicity from the Daily News article was like lightning in a bottle.

"It became a joke with family and friends and classmates," says Katie. "'Let's skip the pleasantries,' my Mom would joke, 'and get to CitySlips.' Now that I look back on it, it makes sense that we would gain publicity for the shoes before we actually had any to sell."

That first article sparked orders from retail distributors. "Our plan called for us to have at least ten New York–area boutiques at launch," Katie says. But the publicity and response altered that minimalist market thinking.

Why not go for the big chains while at the same time cultivating small boutiques? So they devised a plan with a timeline for selling to both the boutiques and the chains. They contacted everyone they "knew who may know someone" and used the referrals to correspond with the chain headquarters online. By the end of 2009, Susie and Katie had signed 300 retailers. But that was just for starters: on February 1, 2010, they signed the Dillard's chain, which has 300 stores; in August, they launched at Neiman Marcus, with its 42 high-end stores; and on November 15, they launched at Bed Bath & Beyond, with its 1,800 stores. By December 2010 they also had agreements with over 1,000 boutiques.

The total number of stores stocking CitySlips at the end of 2010, 18 months after the first batch was produced: more than 3,100 in the United States alone. By now the shoe was also being sold in 25 other countries, from Canada to South Africa.

"We still did not want to spend on marketing and advertising," Susie says. So they again turned to friends and acquaintances, who suggested they market via the shopping networks such as QVC and HSN. They viewed the shopping networks more as wholesalers and distributors than marketers. The shopping networks take a percentage of sales, so Susie and Katie did not have to pay the networks to promote their product as one normally would.

Susie: "If we had to do that, there would have been no shopping networks for us."

The young women turned out to be good publicists. During the summer of 2009 and into 2010 they wangled appearances on a couple of the major shopping networks in the United States and Canada. They appeared at trade shows before hundreds of thousands of women, which cost only their time.

From friends of Katie's aunt's cousin (seriously) they learned of a monthly shopping event for young and middle-aged women called Shecky's Girls' Night Out. Vendors display their product lines, as they might have Tupperware in the 1960s and '70s, at a rented venue such as a nightclub. The shoppers get a drink or two or more and, usually, buy something.

Susie: "That experience gave new meaning to the relationship principle 'Six Degrees of Separation.' In our experience so far, it takes just three or four to reach just about anybody."

Katie: "We had great fun at Shecky's two different times in late 2009. We sold some shoes, but the main advantage, we're sure, was in the relationships we made, and in the word-of-mouth promotions and endorsements."

In other words ... public relations. Or, in this case, accidental public relations.

Susie: "I don't think that Katie and I even thought it through — that we would use mostly public relations, and very little marketing or advertising. All we knew was that we couldn't afford advertising, and that PR was relatively free and results in third-party endorsements."

The article in the Daily News on June 1, 2009, three days after the first shipment of shoes was received, was part of a centerfold feature on businesses started by college students. The inclusion of CitySlips in the article was the result of the relationship the two young women had built with Jeff Carr of the Berkeley Center for Entrepreneurship at NYU's Stern School. He was one of literally scores of NYU staff and faculty Katie and Susie visited time and time again during their junior and senior years.

"When I was approached by the reporter for the Daily News," Carr said, "I immediately thought of CitySlips. Katie and Susie make an indelible impression — simply because of their enthusiasm."

Katie: "We were learning PR on the fly. One thing we learned from the Daily News article is that PR begets more PR."

Within days, major coverage ensued in New York magazine, Forbes magazine and on several blogs. On August 21, CitySlips was featured on the CNN home page — with a link to the company website.

Susie: "Once again, we were learning about the power of relationships. The CNN listing came about because one of my sorority sisters at NYU just happened to be interning at CNN. And I guess that is another lesson we will not forget — that relationships do not have to be with senior, powerful people to produce great results."

Relationships had served Susie and Katie well every step of the way, and they soon realized the importance of building a relationship with their customers. Social media proved to be an ideal outlet for starting "the conversation." Concurrently with the launch of the CitySlips shoe, they worked proactively to build a presence on the Internet's major networking sites. They embraced four of the media: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs.

Funk-tional Enterprises — the name of their new company — launched its first Facebook account in April 2009, a month before the first batch of the product was produced. This was a so-called Group Page to recruit people to join the conversation about flexible, functional women's footwear. The Fan Page, to recruit people who simply like the CitySlips brand and want to talk with others about it, followed in February 2010. They added the so-called Personal Account to recruit "friends" for frequent and personal conversation (the way most people understand and use Facebook) in June 2010.

Each account shares the same basic information, updates and contact information, though the Fan Page has rich visual content via multiple photo albums. Visitors are engaged with links to media placements, new blog postings and the occasional website that Susie and Katie feel is worthy of promotion.

"We not only listen to our members, fans and friends," Susie says, "we often accept their suggestions. A lesson we learned early on from Facebook is that we should treat our customers as our bosses." Susie and Katie always try to use a personal voice in their Facebook posts so that members, fans and friends feel they are visiting a friend's page instead of a company's.

By late 2010, their Facebook group account boasted 1,129 members, an impressive number for a young, small company. By then their Fan Page was also robust, with 1,098 "likes," and their personal account had 217 "friends."


Excerpted from Rethinking Reputation by Fraser P. Seitel, John Doorley. Copyright © 2012 Fraser P. Seitel and John Doorley. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Fraser P. Seitel is a public relations consultant, author, lecturer, columnist, and media commentator, appearing frequently on the Fox News Network and other outlets. He is the author of The Practice of Public Relations, which is used in universities worldwide and has sold over a million copies in eleven editions.

John Doorley is the founding academic director of the Master of Science in Public Relations degree program at New York University. He also founded and directs the Academy for Communication Excellence and Leadership at Johnson & Johnson, with multiple course offerings in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Until 2000, Doorley was head of corporate communication at Merck & Co., which was named America's Most Admired Company. He has been the chief speechwriter for CEOs of major firms and copyrighted a program to help firms manage their reputations.

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