Today in the Holmes Report, I wrote a guest post on how large companies and the media often have a lion and hyena relationship—natural born enemies who fight over the spoils of newsworthy information. It’s a relationship that grows increasingly cynical as companies get bigger and bigger, when it could and should be much more symbiotic.
One very powerful thing that has actually made this adversarial relationship even worse is the advent of content marketing. We see more and more companies who have never been comfortable with traditional public relations embrace content marketing like a lifeline, thinking that controlled storytelling through contributed posts and the corporate blog is an end run around the perceived risks of media, analyst and influencer relations.
This means companies feel even less inclined to build strong relationships with beat reporters who have a job to do and therefore skirt any communicating through a more objective, third-party lens that reaches a much broader audience. This is a major, major miscalculation on the part of a corporate and marketing communications team. In part, because the opportunities for controlled content are much more limited, but also because content marketing and public relations complement each other.
Earned media and original stories have always had more influence than contributed, marketing or advertising content, and content marketing gives corporate communications teams channels to amplify earned results. It is truly a 1 + 1 = 3 equation that yields outstanding benefits if done correctly.
Think of content marketing as diet and PR as exercise. When used properly in combination, you end up with a communications program that is healthier than the competition and will help a company look and feel more agile to external audiences.
InkHouse has a saying: if content is king, distribution is queen and she wears the pants. Content marketing and PR go hand-in-hand and the results can be powerful.
Everyone has that person in their social media feed, the one who is constantly posting about how much he/she hates her boss or how awful the company in general is. As a PR professional, I cringe every time I see this because I know that brands can and do “listen” to these conversations on social media and these posts should be against their company social media policies (if they have one). In fact, a recent study by FindLaw.com found that 29 percent of adults ranging from 18-34 are fearful that something that they post on social media could compromise their current or future job prospects.
But what happens when it’s not the employees who are behaving inappropriately on social media but the actual brands themselves? When brands create cringe-worthy moments on social media, users can quickly activate like-minded people against these brands. The more absurd or ironic the blunder, the better. Here are five tips to help brands avoid feeling social media regret:
Have a social media escalation plan in place to help protect your brand’s reputation should a crisis occur. Social media can be a powerful tool when a crisis arises to help manage the issue and control the message, or it can be a brand’s worst enemy when the company behaves in a way that repels customers by being defensive, lacking transparency, or even being just plain cold. Having a clear plan in place with guidelines and best practices can help to avoid turning off users on social media. For guidelines on how brands should behave when tragedy strikes, check out Tina Cassidy’s blog post.
Read and understand a trending hashtag before jumping into the conversation. DiGiorno recently used #WhyIStayed, a conversation centered on why people stay with abusive partners, in a light-hearted tweet about pizza. Needless to say, users were appalled, causing DiGiorno to not only delete the tweet, but to also issue an explanation stating that they did not read what the hashtag was about before posting.
Use separate apps for your personal and work accounts to avoid accidental personal posts on corporate pages. Who can forget the whoops moment the American Red Cross experienced a few years ago when a post about #gettingslizzerd was accidentally pushed out? Don’t let this be you.
Publicly acknowledge all customer complaints. It may be tempting to ignore criticisms that come your brand’s way on social media in hopes that the issue will fade but this is never a smart approach. Social media is fast-paced and customers who are voicing issues on these platforms expect an immediate response (and will complain louder when issues are not acknowledged). It’s true that some customers will be unsatisfied no matter how much you offer to alleviate the situation, but putting your best effort forward to remedy the issue will always reflect better on your company than not acknowledging them at all. And furthermore, make sure not to push out automated, template responses. Users will notice this and they will call you out on it. Show that the company is run by humans, not robots.
Establish a corporate social media policy that is re-evaluated every six months and communicate it clearly with employees. Not only is it crucial to have a company’s top executives representing the company professionally and appropriately on social media, but all employees should know what the rules of engagement are for discussing corporate and industry issues on social media.
Have you experienced problems in the past with employees using social media? Consider following in the footsteps of the New York Police Department (NYPD). After a series of gaffes, it was announced this week that it will be sending its officers to Twitter school. What are some additional tips that you have to help brands avoid social media regret?
Anyone following the live stream of Apple’s iPhone 6 release yesterday – or really, anyone who glanced at Twitter yesterday afternoon – knows that the company notorious for flawless presentation and seamless innovation experienced what many members of the media are calling a “disaster,” a “travesty,” and even an “embarrassment.”
After spending days counting down to a live feed that would share Apple’s new products with millions around the world, viewers tuned in to Apple’s website to find a TV test pattern and a woman’s booming voice translating the Apple executives speeches in Chinese, louder than the actual executives themselves.
At a time when companies like Samsung, Google and Amazon have risen up to compete with the consumer technology giant, yesterday’s video presentation was more important than ever for Apple to reach, in real time, an audience beyond those seated at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts.
What is possibly even more terrifying for a brand than a live streaming fail during a major event is the inevitable backlash that occurs on social media within minutes.
While live streaming an event – particularly a press event – can be extremely beneficial in terms of expanding your media reach, your prospective customer base, and your company’s brand awareness, a poorly executed live streaming event will not only deliver a bad experience for those trying to view the event, but could overshadow the entire announcement you were trying to make in the first place.
If you are thinking of live streaming an upcoming event for your company, here are are some tips for successful execution:
Hire a vendor. In an effort to keep an event budget low, companies often attempt to cobble together some sub-par live streaming solution through free online tools and cross their fingers that it works. In reality, if your announcement or event is important enough to your company to live stream, it is worth the investment to hire an expert and make sure it is done right. Because you can be sure that if it’s not, people will tweet about it!
Conduct a site visit. In addition to assessing the venue for physical dimensions, ceiling height, power needs, lighting, noise and Internet connections, you will have to opportunity to meet the AV staff – and become their best friend. If something goes wrong during the event, they will be the ones with the inside knowledge to help you fix the problem as quickly as possible.
Go in with a plan. In the world of event planning, this is known as a “run of show” document that tells stage managers, lighting technicians, audio technicians and technical directors what they should be doing and preparing for behind the scenes. In terms of the live streaming component, your run of show should include floor plans that show the room layout and location of AV, cameras, lighting and catering, as well as webcast information, call sheets, and production schedules.
And then have a backup plan. Both the best and worst part of a live event is…that it is live. Anything can happen, so it’s best to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. The presenter’s wireless microphone could go out. You could lose power. A presenter could come in with a brand new presentation. Having a back-up plan at the ready will help to mitigate some of these unexpected issues. Make sure you have back-up microphones and a reliable power source. Perhaps have a staff electrician present who can manage the power needs. Also have a back-up computer ready to run the slides, and always wire the stage in case a presenter prefers to use their own laptop.
Practice, practice, practice! Do a rehearsal. And then another rehearsal. And while we’re at it, how about a third rehearsal. The speakers should wear mics and walk through their presentations, click through any slides and get comfortable with the environment. Those responsible for the live stream should know their transitions, cues for videos, as well as the camera angles desired and how the show will open and close. From beginning to end, every transition, video roll, lighting change and audio cue should be rehearsed.
Be able to roll with it. As they say in show biz, “the show must go on.” Regardless of what happens, there is still an audience physically present (and maybe virtually, if you haven’t lost them) that is waiting for a show, so you have to deliver. The back-up plan helps with this, but at the end of the day, there is always the chance equipment will fail, a crew member will call in sick, or the presenter will go off-script. Since there are no second takes with live video, it is best to remain flexible and expect the unexpected.
By taking these tips into consideration, you should be able to pull off a flawless, best in class live streaming event. And maybe big brands like Apple will start looking to your company as an example to follow.
When we identify a Tweet, an account to follow, or other content that’s popular or relevant, we may add it to your timeline. This means you will sometimes see Tweets from accounts you don’t follow. We select each Tweet using a variety of signals, including how popular it is and how people in your network are interacting with it. Our goal is to make your home timeline even more relevant and interesting.
Right now, no one really knows exactly what content will be shared but Twitter seems to be treating favorites, mostly by people users follow or by popular tweets that a user they follow follows, more like retweets. Currently, there is no way to opt out.
While some of the arguments against these changes are valid as Christina Warren from Mashable points out, I think it may be beneficial for those in communications for a few reasons. First, it will potentially filter in breaking news that might be interesting for our clients, as we often find out things we wouldn’t have been exposed to through retweets. This may just expand that universe. Second, it will expose us to a new group of users to follow and potentially engage with.
I know I may be among the minority here, but with so many social platforms to cultivate for clients on a daily basis, I appreciate the extra assistance in finding topics and people that may be interesting to me or my clients.
When I got into technology public relations back in 1998, we were approaching the peak of the Internet bubble. Just as technology was disrupting the business models of pretty much every company on the planet, PR was going through its own innovation cycle. We were shifting from faxing pitch letters and mailing press kits, to email and online press rooms. And while 2001 saw the Internet bubble pop in a big way, the societal, business and economic changes ushered in by the Internet boom were pervasive and lasting.
The Industry Standard hit its peak during the .com era
Fast forward ten years to 2008, and we were again going through significant change in terms of business, economics and PR practices. This time the disruptions were focused on housing, finance and politics, as we saw Lehman’s fall and President Obama’s rise while economists were forecasting doom in a way unseen since the Great Depression. But amid that sobering backdrop, I was living professionally in a mini-bubble driven by the rapid growth of cleantech which was revolutionizing the way energy was being produced and consumed. This growth would help forward-looking agencies stave off some of the pain of the Great Recession, as it helped offset the impacts of traditional technology companies cutting their spending.
Amid the economic turmoil, there was again a shift in PR practices as blogs and the proliferation of social media gave us new insights into the personas, preferences and practices of our number-one constituent: journalists. Thursday deadlines, email pitching and mass pre-briefs under embargo became less critical, with texting, tweeting and SEO-boosting online exclusives becoming more commonplace.
For 16 years (eight each in both Boston and San Francisco), I was fortunate enough to watch these disruptions from the desk of a single employer. I saw hundreds of colleagues come and go, and worked with dozens of companies in cloud infrastructure and applications, information security, open source, mobile, consumer, Internet of Things, Web 2.0 and a number of other markets. That professional stability allowed me to focus more on industry disruption versus occupational disruption, with the conscious mindset that I would only usher in the latter if faced with an outstanding opportunity.
Today, society and more specifically the PR industry is in the midst of a new wave of disruptions which are pervasive and again, will have lasting impact. These disruptions are impacting the economy and society at large, along with how we do our jobs as PR professionals. From a PR standpoint, it is the realization that “the hit” is no longer endgame for a news announcement or campaign, but really the midway point. The advent of content marketing and publishing, and amplification services means that PR professionals are no longer just selling stories—they’re telling them. More subtle but just as important is the shift from a product PR mindset (embargo, launch, rinse, repeat), to a thought-leadership mindset (continuous dialogue and mind share) that better suits today’s world of Twitter, Vine, LinkedIn and Medium, versus the 20th century PR world of Thursday deadlines and the almighty print clip.
The technological and societal changes are even more substantial than what is happening in PR. Boiled down to the lowest common denominator, the technology driving these changes are “sensors.” The convergence of cheap processing, radios and storage, massive bandwidth, near-ubiquitous connectivity, and cloud-based applications are driving the ability to remotely and implicitly gather information in a way that is changing the way we consume and interact with products and services. The most sophisticated of these sensors are smartphones and consumer electronics, which—enabled by the cloud and mobile innovations of last decade—are driving a new level of audience engagement and personalization. The data generated by these sensors is being collected and analyzed, spawning the growth of big data analytics and applications. The resulting analytics are being used to improve business efficiency, better serve customers and disrupt business models (sharing economy, crowd funding, etc.) in ways not seen since the late 1990s. The Internet-of-Things, powered by smart sensors, mobile and cloud, and fine-tuned based on big data analytics, is the single most disruptive trend in technology today. That disruption needs a PR partner.
I believe we are at the forefront of the changes taking place in the PR industry and better suited than any other prospective PR partner to leverage those changes for the benefit of companies in technology-related markets. InkHouse was purpose-built to serve the constantly evolving needs of the industries and companies driving disruption, with substance-based PR campaigns that drive business results. Silicon Valley is one of the epicenters of that disruption.
If you couldn’t tell from the length of this post, I am excited for the incredible new opportunity at InkHouse San Francisco and the occupational disruption it has ushered into my life for the first time in 16 years. If you made it this far with me, I would love to hear from you and learn about the disruption you’re driving, embracing or navigating.
At BostInno’s third annual BostonFest over 2,000 young professionals working in Greater Boston made their way to the Seaport World Trade Center. Several InkHousers made it to the event, where we took in the view, sampled some food truck delicacies, and represented InkHouse (a BostInno’s Coolest Companies nominee) as we met so many other creative, motivated, and hardworking Bostonians. We started off the night by taking in all that BostonFest had to offer…
Hashtags – they’re not just an amazing reoccurring segment on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (see here and here and, oh wait, here too), or a hilarious way to look back at the Twitterverse (remember #thingslongerthankimkardashiansmarriage?). When properly leveraged, hashtags can help expand your content reach, make Tweets more findable in Twitter searches, and can even become popular enough to become a “Trending Topic.” So, with all this in mind, here are a few ways to strategically use “popular” hashtags to boost your company’s social success:
Highlight case studies or document your progress with a project.
Remodeled office space, or moved into a new place completely? Show it off!
Point to updates or add-ons to your products.
Share your tips, or expert point of view. If you’ve written a blog about this topic, be sure to link back to it.
Use either of these hashtags to link back to an old blog post or popular content. Great for slow news days
Have a little fun! For example, you could tweet out employees’ old high school photos – maybe even play a game of guess who – or use this as the perfect opportunity to highlight industry milestones or technological advances … Mad Men, anyone?
Here’s an idea. Let’s say you’ve got a conference in NYC – leading up to the event, take a selfie (or superimpose your company mascot if you have one) in front of the Empire State Building or in Central Park. Day of the event, take a selfie (or use your mascot again) in front of your booth.
So go on and get to hashtaging with the best of them! Got more ideas you want to share? Post them in the comments box below.
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Over the last ten years, blogging and social media have provided women with a platform for communication, self-expression, activism, community and revenue. During this time, blogging platforms evolved, smartphones became ubiquitous, social media became second nature and brands, businesses and even politicians realized the influence of women and blogging.
This year, the BlogHer conference celebrated its tenth anniversary. What started out as a gathering of a few “mommy” bloggers has grown into a powerful enterprise that attracts a passionate gathering of more than 3,000 bloggers, the crème de la crème of keynote speakers and a who’s who of consumer brand sponsors. Attendees were entertained, educated and awed not only by powerhouse speakers/household names like Arianna Huffington and Kerry Washington but also by Twitter’s VP of brands Melissa Barnes (interviewed by “the most feared and well-liked journalist in Silicon Valley,” Kara Swisher), eBay’s CMO Richelle Parham and comedian Tig Notaro. We heard from some of the “original” bloggers from ten years ago and learned how the act of blogging for a decade has transformed their lives – both personally and professionally – as well as impacting society. And we were moved by the eloquence, courage, wit and insight of many individual bloggers who narrated their most powerful and personal stories during the Voices of the Year session. (Worth a read, believe me.)
There were many themes that resonated throughout BlogHer14. What struck me most – and which PR professionals and brand marketers should pay attention to – was that despite the quest for SEO, page views, traffic, monetization and buzz, the following five fundamentals still matter the most:
Storytelling: Even if monetization is the goal, storytelling remains the essence of blogging. Stories matter, words matter, passion matters – these themes echoed. “Words make the world,” said blogging veteran, @schmutzie. Personal blogger @addyeB, who eschews SEO, described her approach: “Words burn hot and I need to get them out there.” To build a connection with bloggers, PR and brand marketers must find a way to mesh their goals with the stories that bloggers want to tell. This is different from pitching reporters, according to @BusyDadBlog who commented: “Media is driven by information; bloggers are driven by passion and storytelling.”
Authenticity: Having a voice and being true to it is something bloggers care about and are not willing to compromise for the sake of a brand. “Every sponsored post is a shot at your credibility,” explained successful blogger @kristenhowerton. She provided the example of a brand that pitched her to write about granola bars. She didn’t want to write about granola bars. But she did want to write about the benefits of unstructured play for kids and was able to weave granola bars into her story which made it all the more authentic, relatable and ultimately, more successful for both Kristen’s blog and the brand.
Community: “Finding your tribe” was another consistent theme of BlogHer. The power of blogging to connect people with a common cause or passion. A vibrant community can amplify a message, propel activism and build strong connections and allies. But the conversations between members of a community may take place in many places – on social, in blog comments, forums and so on. For PR and brands, figuring out how and where to engage these communities can be very powerful.
Dealing with negative comments: Blogging and social media gives people a platform to tell stories and speak their minds but they also give negativity a channel. There was a lot of discussion among the bloggers at the conference about how to deal with such negative content with options raising from block-and-delete and fighting back tactics to taking the high road and even learning from the trolls. @kristenhowerton explained her rationale: “When people like your stuff, they share it. When they don’t, they comment.” @Djazzo advised us to “Lean into the discomfort of negative comments. They inform the gravitas of your writing.” Equally, brands and business people are often subject to negative comments and, like bloggers, should use them to acknowledge and understand what motivates or annoys their audiences. You can find some good tips here.
Influence: Bloggers and their communities wield enormous influence, especially when it comes to women, the ultimate target demographic for many brands. @BusyDadBlog acknowledged, “Bloggers have the power to change conversations and to make or break brands.” He commented that, with influence, comes the responsibility to be fair. eBay’s CMO Richelle Parham told the audience that eBay actively seeks out “passionate experts” to deliver “micro-endorsements” for brands selling through the platform. What makes a good influencer? “Someone who has a point of view, passion, a distinct voice and something unique and special to say,” she explained.
The chief takeaway for PR and brands: don’t overlook the fundamental motivations of bloggers and blogging communities. Find ways to help them tell the stories that matter to them. (You can find other practical tips for pitching mommy bloggers here.)
BlogHer14 drove thousands of tweets during its three days and after – here’s a handy dandy synopsis as told through 140 characters and images.
Pitching the media is a key element of a jobs in public relations. Like anyone who takes their job seriously, we’re highly invested in the outcome of every pitch email we send or phone call we make. So what exactly are the emotions we go through? Take a look at our latest on Buzzfeed for the full scoop.
Ever in a rush, but see something interesting on Facebook that you would like to explore when you have more time? This week, Facebook announced a new bookmarking feature called “Facebook Save” that allows users to flag or “save” items that interest them such as links, news stories, pictures, places, TV shows and music, so you can revisit them later.
The saved items are automatically archived into a list that is organized by category and users can view them at any time on mobile or on the web. To access saved items on mobile all users have to do is click the “More” tab, and on the web click the save feature link on the left side of the page. The lists will also remain completely private unless users choose to share them with their friends. And if you forget about something you saved, every so often Facebook will show you reminders in the News Feed.
With the announcement of its Paper app back in January and the addition of this new bookmarking feature, Facebook is definitely moving in a direction towards making the site a go-to news and information source. So if you haven’t made Facebook part of your syndication strategy yet, it’s time to get started. This platform is more important than ever for organizations and individuals looking to expand their reach.
For more information on Save, which will be available to everyone on iOS, Android and the web over the next few days, check out Facebook’s official blog post.
It will happen to all of us at one stage or another; a news flash appears in your Google Alerts, a tweet shows up on your Twitter feed, the phone rings in the middle of the night and just like that – you are suddenly operating in full-on crisis mode. All other priorities are on hold and you are 100 percent focused on the pressing situation at hand.
Whether you have a delayed product launch, a major mishap in social media, or you just found out your CEO is involved in scandal; a crisis of any kind can make a communication pro’s heart pound out of his or her chest in anticipation of the impending chain reaction.
So how do you ensure you have your best foot forward when a crisis strikes? Follow these six tips to calm your nerves – and make sure your communication team is crisis ready.
1) Develop a crisis plan in advance. Prepare for an eventual crisis, before it happens.Have a preliminary crisis protocol plan in place so you can respond quickly, or know when not to respond as Tina Cassidy covered in her recent post. This plan should include the key crisis communications leaders, executive leadership, spokespersons and where and when you will come together in the event of a crisis. Include conference call dial-in details for remote staff and a preliminary company FAQ document that can be updated as needed. Most importantly be sure all executives and potential spokespeople have been media trained and practice answering tough questions, so they are ready to stand tall in the event of a crisis situation. Lastly, ensure the plan calls for all outbound social media communications to be halted until a statement is developed. It will be imperative to monitor all chatter and take specific and re-occurring complaints into account when drafting a response.
2) Assess the situation. The most important thing to do before devising any response is to get the right people in the room, or on the phone, and assess the situation. Make sure all affected parties are accounted for and represented in the meeting, and that their opinions on potential response and backlash are taken into consideration. A crisis can impact different areas of a business in different ways and while the communications team and spokesperson can lead external communication efforts, the affected team/functional area leaders must be involved to offer insight and perspective on how their internal audiences and customers are affected.
3) Consider all outcomes. Once you have all the appropriate leaders in the room and have assessed the situation, you can brainstorm all possible questions anddevelop consistent answers for each audience. This includes employees, media, shareholders, customers, partners, the local community, social media, etc. All tough questions, and potentially damaging speculation, should be addressed, and messaging crafted to position the situation in the most accurate and most direct way. The object of the brainstorm is to prepare for all possible questions and develop answers that can be shared externally. In many cases, legal or financial hold-ups may hinder your ability to communicate answers on certain questions, in this case be honest in what you can and can’t answer at this point in time.
4) Create response team assignments. In any crisis the speed in which a company responds is of the utmost importance. Dividing and conquering all communications needs at once will help ensure you are timely in reaching all affected audiences. Employee and customer emails will need to be crafted and sent before speculation spreads. FAQs will need to be developed in response to the questions raised in the crisis, events may need to be planned to bring the media or employees up to speed, and press and social media statements need to be issued. All of these actions will need to be assigned to available crisis team members to ensure they happen in a timely fashion.
5) Issue a statement. Now that all potential tough questions have been addressed and you have deemed the situation worthy of a media response, you are ready to issue your media statement. Ensure the statement is factual, void of drama, and offers a solution or timeline for next steps in addressing the problem. Be sure the statement is then reviewed and approved by the company leadership, spokesperson and legal department. This may take some extra time, but it is critical to gain approval to ensure all bases are covered BEFORE you speak to the press.Once the statement is issued, avoid making any media statements, or responding to questions outside of the prepared answers and available facts. This will only open the door for more questions that you may not have the answers too.
6) Get to work on the big picture. Once the short term needs are addressed, a longer-term action plan needs to be put into motion. This should include learnings from the incident; address any possible weaknesses that led to the crisis and the fixes that will be put in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
There is no secret formula for handling a crisis, and no two situations are the same, so you will have to improvise and think on your toes. Just remember when your heart is pounding out of your chest and you are running on two hours of sleep in two days, this too shall pass and the media will move on to the next crisis in no time.
Are you a crisis communications pro? Have other advice to share? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.