Companies should certainly prepare for the possibility of a product recall–but  “no matter how prepared you are,  you will never be prepared enough.”  So said Lisa Adler, VP Corporate Communications at Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company,  in moderating a panel  on “Communications During Product Recall.”    The panel, held on September 19,  was sponsored by the company and MassBio.

In her experience, Adler said, “things never go smoothly.  You need to anticipate that. ”

Panelists recommended that companies have a “war room” in which stakeholders–including  decisionmakers from legal, regulatory,  and other key departments– gather to approve everything that goes out.

Manisha Pai, Millennium’s PR director pointed out the importance of being prepared to use–and respond to– social media. “While you can’t get your entire message out in a 140-word Twitter message,”  she said, you can link it to more complete information on your home page.

[Boston Globe Reporter Rob Weisman and ‘s Adam Feurstein both said that while they might follow a few companies on Twitter they consider such communiques “tips” or alerts” to follow up on, rather than news items in themselves.]

When Weisman asked fellow panelists whether companies’ communications efforts in recalls  are  meant to protect the company or the public,  Pai, of  Millennium responded, “It’s both. ”

As a consumer-focused company, she explained, “our reputation rests on our responsibility to consumers and on our role as a public citizen. We need to protect the public–and also the company. ”
Adler added that,  for Millennium, protecting the public comes first.

Feuerstein and  Arlene Weintraub,  Xconomy’s New York City bureau chief, both emphasized the importance of transparency–and telling the whole story as soon as possible.

Feuerstein said:  “Coverup is the biggest crime.”  It’s better to risk getting some negative press in the beginning if need be–because if you wait a few months to come forward,  the analysts “will nail you….You often can’t recover from that.”

Anita M. Harris, President
Harris Communications Group

HarrisCom Blog is a publication of the Harris Communications Group, an award-winning  public relations and marketing firm located inCambridge, MA.  We also publish New Cambridge Observer. 


Free consultation with  the Harris Communications Group on Thursday, April 21, 2011
Social media is a wonderful outreach tool—but for landing customers, it’s only as good at the Web site it sends visitors to. During the recession, many companies and organizations neglected their Web sites —but as the economy improves, we are seeing great interest in replacing outdated content and clunky, old fashioned Web technologies with new material and functionality that is easy and inexpensive to use.
As part of Harriscom’s Third Thursday speaker series,  we will evaluate five Web sites for free.
If you’ll send your url to, we’ll   meet with the first five companies to respond.
Meetings will be scheduled for Thursday, April 21, between three and five PM  at in the Cambridge (MA)  Innovation Center at 1 Broadway in a room yet to be determined.
  We’d  also be happy to look over forthcoming press releases and other marketing materials if you’ll send them ahead of time.
—Anita M. Harris
Anita  M. Harris is president of the award-winning  Harris Communications Group, a Cambridge, MA agency specializing in  strategic marketing communications, public relations and thought leadership for emerging companies in health, science, technology and energy fields.
  A former national journalist, Anita has reported for Newsday and the MacNeil/Lehrer Report of PBS, and served as a regular columnist for MSN.  She has taught communications at Harvard, Yale, Tufts and Babson and served as Public Affairs Director for the Harvard School of Public Health. 
In more than 12 years as a commumications consultant, she has developed Web content and navigation systems for  Inforonics, DIAMED, Radcliffe College, Center for the Study of Aging, and the St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, among other clients. She has provided media relations and thought leadership services to  a variety of companies in the US and abroad. 

Sorry to read in today’s Boston Globe that both Business Wire and PR Newswire -which are paid to send out press releases–were hornswaggled by a media relations imposter for whom each posted fake stories.

According to Globe reporter Todd Wallach, last week, PR Newswire   sent out a fake press release claiming President Obama had ordered a probe into General Mills.

And on Friday, Business Wire sent a release falsely claiming that Javelin Pharmaceuticals had won a 5-to-4 victory before the Supreme Court with the aid of Justice Clarence Thomas.

In both cases, the releases were rescinded  before they could affect the companies’ stock prices, Wallach reports.

Both  included a New Zealand phone number at the bottom. 

When Wallach called the number,  Matt Reed, a 30-year-old database designer in Auckland told him that he’d sent the General Mills release to discredit President Obama.  And that he’d sent the Javelin release to push Business Wire and other press release companies to step up their security to prevent future hoaxes.

Odd, to say the least–but definitely a cause for concern.  And, Wallach reports, an FBI investigation.

As a media relations professional, I’ve found both Business Wire and PR Newswire (as well as Marketwire) to be above-board and careful–but can see how hoaxes like these can easily be perpetrated by anyone who has a credit card.

 Not sure if paid wire services need to require background checks before posting releases or if I‘d be willing to undergo one…but do think there’s a need for greater scrutiny of press releases–not just by the paid wire services but by bonafide journalistic wire services, as well.

Again, under my media relations hat, I was delighted when, several years ago, the Associate Press ran a press release I sent on behalf of a client verbatim–except for one minor change in wording.  (Uncredited, of course).

I like to think it was such a great release that nothing needed to be done to it–or that perhaps my reputation for honesty was known. 

But, under my journalist’s hat, I was appalled that no one from AP called me or my client to confirm that we had actually sent the release–or checked the facts– before disseminating it to the world.

Today the situation is even more serious: anyone with a computer and an Internet  can post anything to the world. 

On the one hand, this great boon to free speech and the sharing of ideas and information.

But on the other, the burgeoning of Internet use has eroded the readership, financial position and  gatekeeping power of the traditional press. In financial distress,  news organizations are cutting corners–and staff. Reporters and editors are being asked to do more, faster.  

 Not only is there less coverage, but it is becoming more to difficult trust the accuracy of what is covered. The traditional press has long been our nation’s main bastion for protecting the marketplace of ideas from the spread of disinformation. 

I hope that media organizations, bloggers, anyone in a position to disseminate information will do so responsibly. And that my readers, business owners, the American public,  will subscribe, buy ads, do what you can–to prevent a potentially dangerous situation from getting worse.

Here’s a link to the Globe article:

Anita M. Harris, president of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA, is a former national journalist who has taught journalism at Harvard, Yale and Tufts Universities and at Simmons College.

HarrisCom blog is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA. We also publish New Cambridge Observer and Ithaca Diaries.

Just responded to a PR person’s rant about being asked to give free advice–and her resentment of people who want to “pick her brain.”

I’m not crazy about being asked to work for free…but certainly there are ways to say “no.”   Such as… I wish I could, but I’m not in a position to work for free; or “I’m swamped”  or “I’m off the clock, just now.”

My colleague Ted responds to just about anyone who asks for help; as he says,   “We’re in business to make friends.” 

  Having spent too much time out of work, I know how much it means to have someone offer a helping hand–and will respond, when I can, to almost anyone who is looking for a job.

Likewise–I try to find time to help students or recent grads who need a little career guidance or connections to people who can help provide insight or work.

You never know where things will lead.

 Just last night, someone to whom I’d given a bit of free advice recommended me for a consulting gig with an entrepreneur.

On Monday, I’ll be having a phone conversation with the entrepreneur, even though he told me up front he doesn’t think he can afford me and doesn’t want to waste my time.  But  I’m  interested learning about  his startup and if I can’t afford to take on the work,  I might know someone who can.   I do believe that “what goes around comes around”.

Still,   I have to admit that after being asked too often to explain  social media and its uses, I’m a bit fed up.  So I’ve decided to post some blogs that will allow me to both beg off such inquiries and publicize my  knowledge and skills. 

 And who knows? Maybe this post–which has offered some ideas (I hope!) for free — will help to do the same!

—Anita M. Harris

HarrisCom Blog is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA. We also publish New Cambridge Observer and Ithaca Diaries blogs.

Much enjoyed hearing members of the Boston health care press  admit (boast?) that they have almost zero use for social media.

Speaking on a panel at last week’s meeting of the Publicity Club of the New England,   journalists from the  Boston Business Journal (BBJ), Dow Jones Newswires, the Boston Herald and WBZ-TV) said they don’t “get”  Twitter--don’t have time for it, and can’t  see why anyone would want to use  it.

Jon Kamp, who covers medical technology and energy for Dow Jones said, “I’m 35 going on 100. I don’t get it; I don’t know what to do with it. When I’m 100, I hope I’ll be saying the same thing.”

Brad Perriello, executive editor  the year-old,  an online business journal covering the device industry,  said he mainly posts  news feeds to attract readers to the publication’s Web site.

Ryan McBride,  a correspondent for Xconomy, a national online publication with bureaus in Boston, Seattle and San Diego,  said he follows certain industry leaders on Twitter but rarely contributes, himself.

Several said they have linked-in accounts that they barely use and and none use Facebook professionally.

” Facebook is to show people pictures of my kid,” Kamp said.

McBride described Linked-in as “an online Rolodex that’s full of people I don’t talk to much. Facebook is friends and family and all the people in high school whom I didn’t know were my friends.”

Julie Donnelly of the BBJ can’t see the point of posting on Facebook.  “I’m not that interesting,” she said.

Debbie Kim of  WBZ-TV  said she doesn’t have time  and Christine McConville of the Herald, said that, as an investigative reporter, she doesn’t think it’s a good idea to make public the details of her life.  Plus,  “I can barely return my emails, get enough exercise, see my friends.   I certainly don’t have time for [Facebook].

She does, however, enjoy contributing to videos that appear online every three weeks or so.

The conversation was moderated by Michal Regunberg, vice president of Solomon McCown & Co,  a Boston public relations firm.  Regunberg’s questions focused on the ways in which cutbacks and other changes in the media are  affecting coverage.

All of the journalists agreed that the national debate over health reform has been the focus of their coverage in recent months (and that they’re tired of it).

All said they are working with less time, fewer resources and greater demands to produce more.  As a result, they have less time for research or feature writing.

McConville said she must write two stories  a day for the Herald. McBride covers two different beats for Xconomy. Donnelly writes for both the Boston Business Journal and Mass High Tech and is responsible for breaking stories on line as well as in print.   Debbie Kim, medical producer for WBZ-TV, must sometimes produce as many as four pieces in a single a day.

Kamp  mentioned that in the past, Dow Jones’ headquarters was relegated to offices in New Jersey but now shares the New York City newsroom of the Wall Street Journal–and that, in many newsrooms, there is tension over which stories should be posted online immediately and which should be  held for the print version of the paper.

All of the above means that anyone trying to get coverage faces huge competition for reporters attention and must provide information that is extremely clear and to the point, the journalists agreed.

The discussion  made me glad to be out of the pressure cooker journalism has increasingly become–but happy to see  a high level of competence, dedication and concern for truth in the Boston press corps.

——-Anita M. Harris

HarrisComBlog is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA. We also publish New Cambridge Observer and Ithaca Diaries Blog.

On behalf of the Public Relations Society of America, Steve Morella of  Tekgroup, today gave a very useful Webinar on how to integrate social media and online newsrooms.

I was impressed with Steve’s knowledgeability and pleased to learn of several new sites for monitoring social media outreach and campaigns.

Among other topics, Steve emphasized the importance of:

  • Online newsrooms as  central headquarters for all materials–including not just press releases and contact information but also white papers, bios, articles, blogs, rss (real simple syndication)  capabilitt and feeds to social media  such as facebook,  twitter and linked in.
  • Search engine optimization not just in the writing of press releases, but also in posting them in online newsroom postings
  • Categorizing feeds by topic  (sales, financials, industry) and type
    ( news, features, video, audio, blogs)
  • Co-ordinating feeds with social media outlets such as Facebook, linked-in, twitter, u-tube and blogs–as well as bookmarking/commenting/referral/sharing sites, like, http://www.,  and
  • Including video, audio and hyperlinks, as well as links to stories, studies and the like, in order to create social media press releases with  “legs”  (my term, not his!)
  • Setting goals and measuring success of  social media outreach using  sites like shorten, shares, and tracks hits on your links;, which allows you to search for blogs based on keywords;, which analyzes daily trends in the blogosphere. measures twitter trends,  measures users tweets and retweets; and allows you to see when and how often your tweets are read or retweeted, so that you can  post when you’re most likely to be read.

Obviously, Steve’s  social media tactic worked; here I am, a potential competitor–posting a blog about it! (He’s the director of Sales and Marketing for Tekgroup, a global firm offering online public relations services).  Here are urls to the presentation slides.

–Anita M. Harris

HarrisComBlog is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA. We also publish New Cambridge Observer.

At the September  meeting of the Cambridge Search Engine Optimization Meetup Group Chris Baggot of  Compendium Blogware, advised a tech savvy group of 72 that key words and multiple pages are crucial to winning high blog rankings on search engines like Google and Bing.  

Group members interrupted Baggot  numerous times with questions. (They didn’t want to believe that Compendium’s platform, which focuses on providing many pages, each with its own keywords, could work better than WordPress). But Baggot held his own. 

Key takeaways:

  • Eighty  percent of activity on the Web is search–by people who are looking for solutions to particular problems– using keywords.
  • Bing, and, now, Google, are increasingly using content, as opposed to links, in ranking the importance of particular posts. 
  • Domain names don’t matter: blog titles, and keywords do
  • Have as many focused blog pages as possible–hundreds, if you can, each with its own main keyword
  • For consultants: tell stories of problems you have solved
  • Search engines “like” frequency and fresh pages; write short but often
  • Blogs should be 100-150words; if you have to more say, write another post
  • Include a call to action–give people a way to go forward: have an offer; ask them to sign up for something

Ohmygosh I’m over 150  words!

Here’s my call to action:  Contact me  at if you need communications strategy,   media outreach, Web structure and content, a WordPress blog or writing for any medium about almost anything.

–Anita M. Harris

Harriscomblog  is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA.   We also publish the New Cambridge Observer. Copyright:  anita m. harris, 2009

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