December 4, 2014
By Doug Haslam, PRSA Boston member
Social media program have become a regimented part of companies’ communications programs – or have they? Despite many companies hiring dedicated social media managers, complex content planning programs, sophisticated publishing and listening dashboards, and airtight social media policies, “rogue” social media still happens. How do companies and their partners deal with unauthorized Twitter accounts, employees going off-message on social media, and blunders made on official corporate channels.
- Brian Heffron, EVP and partner at advertising, public relations, and digital agency Conover Tuttle Pace (CTP)
- Crystal Duncan, director, client strategy and operations, at social media advertising agency IZEA
- Eric Korsh, SVP social content, at marketing and technology agency Digitas
James Katz, Ph.D., a Boston University field professor of emerging media, moderated the panel discussion.
The discussion among the panelists was lively and covered a lot of ground. Below are some of the highlights:
Taking quick action and responsibility
Mistakes will happen, as will the unexpected few examples the panel brought up including:
- KitchenAid apologized quickly after a staffer accidentally sent a political Tweet over the corporate Twitter account.
- An Academy Award “Oscar” hashtag campaign needed to be abandoned as news broke of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius being arrested for murder.
- An educational YouTube campaign counteracted consumers leaving bad reviews for a new dry shampoo, to correct their misperceptions on how to use it.
In each case, decisive action was taken immediately resulting either in taking responsibility for the mistake, avoiding a potential unforeseen problem, or stemming a flood of negative feedback. Having a team paying attention to react quickly, and be empowered to do so, are important aspects of any social media program. At the same time, while speed is important one should always triple-check responses and messages before posting them publicly. Speed and prudence must work together.
HR and corporate governance need to be part social media
During the panel, Korsh of Digitas, said, “HR needs to adapt to new social media behavior, but also corporate governance should follow common sense.”
There is a recognition that companies need to have rules around social media so that employees know the boundaries of what they can discuss, and to have a framework as to how corporate channels are run. That said, many policies have built in “Don’t be stupid” language in some form. At some point, command and control only goes so far, leaving companies with the need also to appeal to their employees’ common sense and trust.
Brand voice informs how “cheeky” a brand should be
Many brands use humor on social media successfully. Does that mean your company should do it too? Not necessarily. Some companies have a staid voice from which a blast of humor or “cheeky” behavior would seem jarring and off-putting. Others (such as DiGiorno Pizza) can be more humorous, and even be forgiven for the occasional misstep.
Minimize risk of going rogue by seeing goals and KPIs upfront
Measurement is important in any social media campaign. However, clearly setting goals and key performance indicators also creates guidelines to follow. The clearer those are the less of a chance a campaign can “go rogue” through mistakes made by people unclear on the campaign objectives.
Were you at the event and have more observations to add? Do you have your own thoughts on the subject? Please add to the discussion by commenting below.
October 30, 2014
By Doug Haslam, PRSA Boston member
A version of this article originally appeared on DougHaslam.com.
I have long been fond of the phrase “(Social media ‘guru’ name here) is Not Smarter Than You” as a way of encouraging folks to create their own content and get their own thoughts out there, rather than be intimidated by those who have gotten more public notoriety as thought leaders than they have.
I still believe that you, or I, are no less smart or able than the PR veterans and – ugh- “gurus” who show up frequently on industry podcasts, blogs and webinars. Why are they there and you are not? It likely has more to do with the need to hustle and stay visible to get consulting clients and the like than much else (OK, they need to feed egos too – why not?). You probably see podcast or event panels with names of “industry leaders” attached and think “those people are smarter and know more about the business than me.” If that were really true, why would you bother?
Here is why you should still bother:
This is not about cutting down people because they are good at self-promotion – it is, however, about the rest of us believing in our own abilities to strategize, consult, execute and think on issues.
This is about figuring out how to listen critically and still learn from anybody rather than considering it a waste of time to pursue industry reading and listening from people who, in reality, are your peers.
This is about valuing the questions and not (necessarily) the answers. I reminded myself of this recently as I listened to an episode of the marketing/advertising podcast Beancast, a weekly panel hosted by Bob Knorpp. I don’t always listen through depending on what is going on early in my week, but a recent episode had a segment on “Tackling Anemic Organic Engagement” that I thought would be relevant to my own current thinking and work. So I listened – were the answers enlightening? Some yes, some no – none were bad that I can recall, but I was struck by the questions: First some that I was thinking of and hoped would get asked, then by others I hadn’t thought of.
Another recent tech podcast featured a well-known technology pundit to whom I normally listen, but on this occasion he clearly wasn’t prepared on the topic, so I moved on. It happens to everyone. I choose to think that does make people less smart, but as a sign that sometimes you have as much to contribute; fallibility is no excuse for staying quiet.
It wasn’t the answers I needed. It was the new questions.
So it’s OK to think you’re as smart as everyone else. It doesn’t even matter if you’re wrong about that. It also doesn’t mean you can’t learn.
Image Credit: Oberazzi on Flickr
October 20, 2014
A new car purchase comes as the culmination of a brand romance… your final decision indicating that something the manufacturer presented resonates with your values, needs, or both. Friendly. Practical. Rewarding. New. Progressive. Fun. Social. Fast. Smart. Familiar. Exciting. Unique. Impressive. Influential. Respected. Innovative.
And so, with those words and themes in mind, today we introduce the newest model of our website, PRSA Boston 2.0. We invite you to take the keys and fire up the engine for a test drive.
Our new and fully appointed website comes with many new features, if not that new car smell. Here’s what you’ll find under the hood:
- New chapter logo and branding that is bright and sleek, with a nod to the forward momentum that we drive across all economic sectors
- Technologies including responsive formatting for any device or OS
- Robust local member profile so your needs and interests can shape networking and programs
- Social media engagement across the board, newly branded of course
- Special interest group portals (IPN, APRs, YPN, etc.) or start your own as a hub for information and program sharing
- Intuitive site mapping and easier cross-page navigation
- Venues to expand visibility for authors’ books, nonprofit and professional events
- Links college PRSSA chapters and related student organizations within our area
- Convenient calendar notifications with your event registration
- Easy job postings
- Original photography furnished by our members as our new standard to convey our regional personality with visual authenticity
- And more to discover every day…
Please kick the tires as you explore our new website village dedicated to New England’s largest and oldest organization for public relations and integrated communications professionals. We hope you’ll bring a friend or colleague along for the ride because the content is worthy and the mapping is easy to follow. Bookmark the PRSABoston.org site to keep our growing index of current public relations best practices at your fingertips, no matter what device you choose.
However you arrived here today… welcome! From today and every visit to follow, our goal is to add value that enhances your professional life through relevant learning, easy information access and friendly, productive networking.
So sit back and enjoy the ride…
Postscript: As the project manager, I appreciate the space to acknowledge the tireless work of our A-team of volunteer project ‘engineers.’ Our journey together began in September 2013 when this group was cajoled into action. We evolved a rigorous technical and design blueprint to guide our work and source a qualified web and design partner. Together we wrote all new narrative content during beach season, sourced original photography from our members, and finely tuned the website before you. The unfailing humor and wisdom of this group, already serving on our Board and Leadership team, gave liftoff to this ambitious endeavor that was executed after hours: Jack Jackson, Dan Dent, Doug Haslam and Denise Hutchins. Finally, we are indebted to Quench Design Studio and its irrepressible Creative Director Kendall Walker who brought our vision to life.
Post Author: Loring Barnes, APR has worked in TX, PA and her native MA leading brand transformations, acquisition strategies, launches and crisis responses for product innovation, professional services, government and hospitality organizations. Her work and that of her consultancy Clarity has been recognized by the White House and many respected professional organizations. Clarity’s breadth and versatility mirrors its range of clients: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Caswell Restaurant Group, INNOVEX, Beacon Consulting Group, The Wilde Agency, Health Leads, Holy Family Hospital, etc.
She was honored as an ‘Alumnae to Watch’ and is a past board member to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst Alumni Association, as well as The Publicity Club of New England and Hospitality Homes. In addition to driving PRSA Boston’s new branding and website, she reinvigorated its Accreditation program, revamped our chapter’s awards programs, and is a Host Co-Chair for the 2016 PRSA Northeast District Conference. Loring volunteers time to Last Hope K9 and North East All Retriever Rescue and other community organizations. Twitter: @loringbarnes
September 11, 2014
Bloggers. They have arrived and their influence is not waning. Hard to believe that the first blog was created 20 years ago. Now blogging is an entire social culture. And everyone who is in the business of creating awareness for their cause, political views, brand, or themselves wants to get onboard. For this reason, blogger campaigns have secured their spot as a vital component of a brand’s public relations program.
As I mentioned in my last blog post “Four Tips on How to Run a Successful Blogger Campaign”, one important step is to determine the type of campaign you want to execute. Will your campaign include bloggers who get paid for their posts either directly or through a blogger network, or will it include bloggers that post about your brand out of the goodness of their hearts (a.k.a. “earned”), or should it be a hybrid of both. For the purposes of this piece, we’ll focus solely on paid blogger campaigns through partnerships and the important “Dos” and “Don’ts” as you consider a paid blogger partnership with a blogger network.
- DO agree upon goals. We all know the rule so this may seem obvious, but “don’t assume anything.” Success to you and your client may be very different from what success is to a blogger network company that has agreed to support your program. Before you set these goals, agree upon the duration of the campaign. Is it for a month? A year? Or are there on and off periods throughout a given timeframe (i.e., a more phased out approach)? And then set your goals based on the preferred duration. Goals that you should agree upon up front include:
- Number of bloggers participating. Agree upon the number of bloggers that will be onboard this campaign along with the minimum number of bloggers that must post. So basically set the maximum and the guaranteed minimum.
- Impressions/reach. Agree upon the guaranteed number of collective impressions (websites and social) for the entire program. This will insure you do not miss the mark in your client’s eyes.
- Length. Another nice-to-have goal is a minimum length for each blog post. We have to believe that each blogger will give 100% and include as much of the approved messaging as possible, but again, to be safe you may want to add a minimum word count for each blog post.
- DO review the list of bloggers. You will need to provide target demographics of the audience you are looking to reach. You should request to review the list of potential bloggers and have a role in the final decision on which bloggers will be involved in the campaign to represent your brand.
- DON’T choose reach over quality. This one goes hand in hand with the reviewing of bloggers, as noted in the point above. As you go through this process, be sure to spend some time reviewing the blog posts of the potential brand blog ambassadors. How often do they post and how comprehensive is each post? Is the information being provided informative or just a rambling of thoughts? What’s the blogger’s tone, and does it match that of your brand and the audience you are trying to reach? Once you’ve gone through this list of questions, take a look at the reach. Don’t feel that you need to go after those blogs that have a larger reach right out of the gate. It’s important that the quality is there; then make sure you have a good blend of bloggers with varying reach levels. Please do note that many blogger networks will not provide you with individual website measurements but will provide you with social reach.
- DON’T add bloggers to your future outreach list. You will be asked to sign an agreement with the blogger network you partner with stating that these bloggers are the property of the blogger network. Although all bloggers will be fairly easy to contact, don’t try to reach out to these bloggers directly or add them to your future earned PR campaign programs. It goes against your agreement and is really just bad form.
- DO provide a message guide. Once you have your goals and bloggers set it is then time for the most important piece: messaging. A good, solid, client-approved message guide will get you the most desired results. You want to ensure you limit your messaging to just a handful of key points that are clear and help to build the brand’s story you are looking to tell. If you can visualize a blog post by connecting your message points, you are likely on the right track. Also, be sure to provide some exciting bits, like images and videos that bloggers can build into their posts. This helps to build more engaging stories for their readers and in the end a more memorable brand experience.
- DON’T assume content posted is accurate. Yes, your blogger network will do its job in reviewing and qualifying posts but in the end you know your brand and its story the best. So, with that said, as soon as the post goes live, REVIEW. The earlier you catch an error or issue the sooner you can request a revision and the fewer readers that may have seen it.
Remember, the most important thing is that you and your client are pleased with the results. Following this short list of Dos and Don’ts will help you in your mission to achieve success.
Manejah Morad Terzi is at Revelry Agency (formerly Salt Communications), an agency focusing on the food, beverage, travel and hospitality sectors. She concentrates on B2B and B2C public relations campaigns and communications strategy. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @Manejah for questions or any B2B and B2C article idea suggestions.
September 4, 2014
With the advent of social media, PR professionals are always asked their opinion whether a client should embrace a new digital strategy that integrates with the traditional means of communication. And if so, why and how? I think, overwhelmingly, we would recommend that clients adopt some level of social interaction; however, not before we consider the appropriate vehicles and the strategy for each.
Twitter, despite the perception of its ubiquitous reach is not for everyone, and, frankly, the majority of business people still do not have an active account nor are they inclined to be followers. Plus, the 140 characters of content – i.e. what people say for or against you – is not something you can control. YouTube and a forward-facing company blog are safer social plays, but still open a company up for public scrutiny and comments from readers or viewers. And, trust me, some of the public commentary “ain’t pretty.”
Stop and pause
I am a contributor to a handful of lifestyle blogs, mostly writing about issues that impact the modern man or cooking. When I began guest blogging for these sites, I realized that my opinion was not going to be shared by all readers and prepared myself for occasional criticism. What I wasn’t prepared for however was the vitriol and personal attacks that accompanied these comments.
When I read these occasional missives, in knee-jerk fashion I lashed out at the lashers. What a mistake. Fighting fire with fire and going toe-to-toe with some faceless person is never a good strategy on which to embark and an upper hand is never gained. This is a lesson that I learned quickly during my blogging experience and one that I pass along to clients who want to dip their toes into social media with a company blog.
Unfortunately, the milieu of social media and blogging is like the wild, wild west, affording everyone the opportunity to play a bit fast and loose with what they write. It has become the medium of the retort where commentators can attack businesses, often basing their diatribes on information that can find itself in that gray area of half-truths, innuendos and conjecture. The comments are often opinion-based and leave a company seething and bent on rectifying the situation. My advice? Count to 10 before putting your fingers to the keyboard. As I said before, there is little you can accomplish that will benefit your organization by getting involved in a heated war of words with people taking issue with some aspect of your company.
Once a cooler head prevails, address the comments and try to make the writers understand the error of their ways, particularly if they are misinterpreting what your company originally wrote. Maybe it’s a product concern or fallout from a recent business policy decision, no matter the issue, you need to respond to the comments. The last thing you want others to be left with is your non-response and the accusatory nature of these right or wrong comments.
Stay calm when responding
And, of course, how you respond is just as important as what you write back to an individual. In my own blogging experience, my biggest mistake was writing in anger and not “killing with kindness.” Trust me, you come across in a much more negative fashion by copping an attitude, which gives you two problems to contend with: first, the accusation and, second, appearing like an insensitive corporate bully. So, please remain calm and respond the same way you might when writing a thank-you note to your mother-in-law.
The first sentence a blog commentator should read in your reply is how grateful you are for them taking the time to write and offer feedback. I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that most companies value customer input in adding to the organizational business trajectory and this is no different. So, thank the writer and then respond to their comments. This is your turn to set the record straight, maybe enlighten the individual, and invite them to engage in further interaction.
Mission accomplished? Maybe not, but I would suspect that at the very least some of the vitriol was quelled and the company maintained a public perception of being willing and open to discussing sensitive issues within this uncharted social realm. What a company communicates probably has not changed over the years, although the vehicles for that communication have. Twitter, YouTube, and company blogs are the new vehicles and we as PR professionals have to understand how to take tried-and-true messaging, and conform those to the parameters of the new media.
May 22, 2014
Organizing responsibilities for handling customer service questions and consumer complaints as they arise in your clients’ social media spaces is not a simple problem to solve. The solutions can range from having a PR firm monitor all social media sites as the “caretaker” for their clientsto communicating on their clients’ social media channels only in regards to product and service promotions.
Best practices for providing customer service via social media channels are not a one-size-fits-all solution. So how does a PR practitioner plan ahead when looking to work with a new client? How do they know which solution is the “best” choice for each client? When should a company consider having blogs or forums in addition to social media communication channels? How should B2B social media strategies differ from B2C companies? How do you strategize social media communication differently when a product recall or crisis occurs? What type of research can and should be done ahead of time in order to plan strategically when working with a new client?
PRSA IPN Boston’s upcoming (May 30) panel discussion, “PR’s Complex Role in Providing Customer Service via Social Media Channels,” will tackle these tough questions and more. The panel will feature four industry professionals who will offer some best practices and lessons learned regarding daily operations and long-term planning for providing customer service via social media channels. The experience among the panelists ranges from PR firms and business organizations of varying sizes and product/service industries from B2C to B2B.
Panelists include: William Kuebler, Director, U.S. Media Relations, National Grid; Meg Parker, Account Director, Hollywood PR; Andrew Rodger, Account Director, Matter Communications; and David Seuss, Senior Manager, Public Relations & Social Media, Ipswitch, Inc. The Moderator for the event will be Kirsten Whitten, Instructor, Communication/PR, Curry College & Regis College. She is owner of GT Graphics & Marketing and a PhD Student at Regent University.
“PR’s Complex Role in Providing Customer Service via Social Media Channels” will take place from 12:30 to 2 p.m. on Friday, May 30, at MSL Group, 300 5th Ave., Waltham, MA 02451. For more information or to register, visit the PRSA Boston page here.
This is event is part of the PRSA’s IPN Bag Lunch Series where, in lieu of a meal being provided, attendees are welcome to bring a lunch or snack. In addition to independent practitioners, this discussion panel is open to all PRSA members.
Kirsten Whitten is an instructor in communication and PR at Curry College and Regis College, owner of GT Graphics & Marketing and a PhD student at Regent University.