Absolutely Public Relations’ Big Social Media Fail


Today, while browsing the PR news, as I do every day, I ran across a news release announcing the usual type of business deal: company X appoints Y firm as new PR agency of record. I followed the release to find out more and see if it was worth being featured on a PR news site. Apparently I ran right into a good story, but for the wrong reasons.

The company in question looking for a PR agency to handle their strategy and implementation and coordinate their PR efforts is Holben Hay Balzer CPAs, part of the Holben Group, a Denver-based accounting firm. They chose a Denver-based PR firm, Absolutely Public Relations. Is it a coincidence that the last names of a the HHB managing partner and the woman running the agency are the same? Probably not.

Moving on, I go about reading of HHB’s PR campaign handled by their new agency of record: communicating a name change, promoting one of their partners as the company’s public image and of course, you guessed it, a full flavored social media PR campaign: blog, Facebook page, Twitter accounts, the big guns.

Visually, all websites involved fail to look very appealing. While it is understandable for a new client to have a shaky looking website (you can advise them on getting a redesign and update their logo), a PR company should know that well, like it or not, how your website looks is important. Never mind the awful images, the fact it looks like a child’s play or that they do not really have a logo and their name is graphically inconsistent over the website, they also use difficult to read fonts, you need to scroll to get a look at their entire main menu.

The HHB Twitter accounts are powered by automated tweet feeds and they haven’t gotten the hang of the whole conversational aspect as of yet, the Facebook page and blog only feature HHB corporate news, so the social media strategy seems rather poor to me.

I went on to check the Absolutely PR Twitter account, and it’s pretty much the same. Thank God for automated feeds that you can connect to and have them update your account and for other people who do the same who you can follow and use as retweet material! Oh, and thank God Guy Kawasaki happened to speak at a conference back in… 2008, otherwise the Absolutely PR owner/founder would have never been introduced to blogging and Twitter! I get it, you teach your client to do what you’re doing. What I don’t get is why on earth they’d advise them to get a Blogger hosted blog. Absolutely has a blog attached to their domain, which would have made sense for HHB as well! The blogging platform they chose should have had no effect on their decision where to host the blog.

I officially declare this the PR Goof of the day! And my personal advice: if your site looks like crap, if your social media skills are close to zero, don’t go bragging about being chosen to do the same low quality work for someone else! It makes you and your client look bad!

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  1. Marketing Nottingham says

    These are very useful guidelines for us to better understand why some public relations fails. Besides, it is in our mistakes that we find our way to perfection.:)

  2. Alina Popescu says

    Maggie, I hope you realize it is not by annoying sensibilities. I really started this all by trying to cover the news you sent out through an online PR site. In researching your story and following the links you’ve added, I reached the twitter profiles and other work you stated was done by your company for a client.

    As Mig said, we all eventually help friends and family as some will want to become our clients. But I personally think you try harder for family just because people might know of such a connection.

    I am sorry if you took any of the things I have written as an offense. The truth is I felt the news release was just a waste of my time and I am sure I was not the only one from those who read it. If you choose to make your work with a client public and turn it into an online distributed announcement, you should be prepared to face some criticism. If you feel anything of what I said is inaccurate, I would love to hear your arguments and further debate the issue!

  3. Mihaela Lica says

    Maggie, the “better” starts now, when, as a colleague from the same line of work, I advise you never to make such comments on a news site that raises some questions about your own news announcement. Let me explain why:

    – the questions in case are more than pertinent, not addressing them reflects negatively on your professional abilities;
    – your reaction to the critique was childish – again, not something a grown-up PR would want people to believe.

    Now, when you get PR assignments from members of the family, the best idea would be not to make a big fuss… announcing the event like the second coming of the Lord or something… You know, we ALL have relatives we help from time to time. It’s normal, it comes with the territory. But how many of us announce them as new customers? Come on!

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