Tag Archives: Crisis preparedness

In the online world, which function should lead?

Is public relations about controlling the conversation, and therefore antithetical to social media, or does PR play an important role in shaping brand message? Not surprisingly, the panelists for the “Facebook for Public Relations,” weren’t in alignment. Some were associated with online marketing companies while others represented PR companies. A woman in the audience from Fleischman heatedly told the panel that PR should lead the parade because PR had been successfully managing content for 65 years. Hoo boy.

From crowd comments, it was pretty clear that PR is not well understood. One guy went so far as to say that his attitude toward PR was “meh” because he got plenty of press releases.

Adele Cehrs of Epic PR Group made one of the better comments by noting that PR can play a critical strategic and tactical role when bad things happen, whether to your company or to a competitor’s. Companies have the potential for thought leadership across channels by paying attention to conversations on and offline.

Why bother with traditional media at all, an audience member asked. “Third party credibility,” Adele suggested. Chris Brubaker of Roost noted that traditional media may have a more immediate and material impact on sales than social networks.

“PR has a certain smell to it,” one person said. Sally Falkow of PRESSFeed acknowledged that there is good PR and bad PR. People expect 2 way channels with real people, not with the PR people. Authenticity is critical. That means admitting if there’s a problem with your product or service.

Cultivating relationships with journalists and bloggers, in advance of need, is a precondition for effective PR. That requires not only knowing who they are, being familiar with what they write about, and being helpful. Sally noted that many journalists actually post about what they’re researching.

The speakers mentioned several tools for finding bloggers and writers who have an interest – and following – for a particular topic for example, Socialmention and tracker.

Is this the end of PR, the moderator asked, or at least the name of the function? A journalist commented that he didn’t want to be bulldozed; he would write what he wanted and, good or bad, it would be better than a news release.

“The Internet is another medium. We have to learn how to deal with it,” concluded Sally.

As a former senior marketer, strategy officer and senior leader in a national PR firm (three different hats, three different companies), I found the whole session SCARY.

(live from All Facebook Expo from my iPad with apologies for errors)

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Corporate communicators: transform or die

Corporate communicators need to be more like transformers (flickr credit: naladahc)

Corporate communicators need to be more like transformers (flickr credit: naladahc)

The role of emotion is going to have a huge impact in the next year.  We’re not very good at thinking fast, but we’re very good at feeling fast… The emotional substrata of all media will rise.”  – Clay Shirky, author, Here Comes Everybody, speaking at NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference, April 27, 2009

Kind of a harsh title, isn’t it?  If you take comments by Clay Shirky to heart, this will be the year that social media — those irritating, buzzing pests that keeps strafing corporate communicators’ ears — will actually sting.  With tweets about swine flu up to 12,000 per hour (and rising), it’s clear that many people can share and collect “information” as quickly as they can type the # hastag symbol.

As I type this, I can hear the virtual “buts”, as in, “but my audience isn’t on Twitter*,” or “but we’ll lose control of the message if we start to just jump in on social media.”  Didn’t your mother tell you “no buts”?

Amy Mengel, a blogger who describes herself as “late to the party and trying to catch up”, asks “Are corporate communicators hopeless in social media?”  (Hat tip:  Tracy Campbell, CHA)  Her post was triggered by a cringe-inducing comment by Amber Naslund of Radian6 who said that if she had to replace herself, she’d recommend a grassroots rookie with lots of energy and a willingness to question old assumptions and approaches.

Many companies fear that their brands could be highjacked by the great chattering masses, according to Shirky.  The problem is, “The nightmare that you feared has already happened.”  I’m with Amy.  I think corporate communicators can transform.  We all need to get over the “buts” and adapt to the current reality.

PS Did you know the largest demographic on Twitter is 45-54?

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What does Twitter mean for crisis preparedness?

To my PR pals who can’t imagine how they can possibly find time to scan blogs or Twitter (one receives and reads five newspapers a day at the office), here’s yet one more reason to believe that it’s no longer discretionary to know what’s going on outside traditional media channels:  more people are getting their news from Twitter.  NPR’s Morning Edition is airing a story today about how Twitterers often get the scoop first, thanks to their facile fingers and ubiquitous mobile devices.

Twitter can be good news for marketers and PR folks who figure out how to use this tool and stay within the norms of Twitter culture and etiquette.  But it can also be bad news for PR folks who quickly find themselves fighting a tide of innuendo and misinformation.

Recent example:  Amazon changed the algorithm that delivered search matches, which made a large number of books, including many that are gay and lesbian-themed, fall lower in rankings.  Twitterers apparently erupted in outrage.  As reported in the New York Times on Sunday, April 19, Clay Shirky, adjunct professor at NYU’s grauduate Interactive Telecommunications Program, said on his blog that he regretted jumping aboard the Twitter accusation train.  He later concluded that the Amazon glitch was due to technology, and not anti-gay bias or conspiracy.

So what does this mean to PR staff, or organizations that care about their reputation?   At least one person should be facile at Twitter and able to jump into the fray to correct the record if need be.  If people are getting misinformation from Twitter, makes sense that you will have to reach them through their preferred method of communications.  A statement released to your local paper won’t do it.

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Crisis preparedness: a must-read blog post from Beth Kanter

What a difference a decade makes.  I had occasion to dust off a crisis preparedness template I created 10 years ago while at Hill and Knowlton.  My, oh my.  How infrastructure and monitoring has changed.  For anyone with public relations or brand management accountability, listening to what’s being said about you in the blogosphere is a vital activity.

Beth Kanter’s post today offers a sweepingly comprehensive look at how one should be listening.  It’s a little daunting, but burying one’s head in the sand and ignoring what’s being said on social media isn’t an option.  This is one time where I strongly recommend clicking on the link above and reading her full post.  As she often does, Beth embeds links to related articles.  Click on “listening goals” within her post today, for example, and Beth takes you to a thoughtful case study on her wikispaces page about the American Red Cross’ listening process.  And the end of THAT Powerpoint includes links to 10 additional presentations with interesting titles like:  “Social Metrics:  The Search for ROI in Social Media.”

In my next post, I’ll ask whether you have “actionable organizational listening goals”, which Beth expands upon.

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Filed under Blogging, Crisis preparedness, public relations, Social media, Uncategorized