Archive for November, 2011

Crisis Byte: An Online Shark Attack or Fishy Little Nibbles?


Crisis, “PR disaster” or #epicfail: labels with a lot of subjective latitude in the fast-moving stream of social media opinion

When assessing this super-sized instalment of Bytes from the PR Sphere, I’m casting a line of request to keep a fishy image in mind that reeled me in oceans of time ago.

Attending a Toronto Cision client presentation on media monitoring, a senior staffer from Chicago captured our attention with a screen image of a large, loosely woven net, plus a number of fish—of varying sizes, commonplace looking and exotic—swimming into or through the mesh.

My memory of his premise: don’t deem all media “catches” equally in your analysis. Ensnaring “one [big] fish, two fish, green fish, blue fish” is superior in terms of a qualitative bite, in juxtaposition to a quantitative number of much smaller fish (e.g., capturing hundreds of innocuous little minnows that together might not even fill a bucket; ergo, very little “meat” or substance).

On the organizational menu of PR media goals, perhaps medium-sized or exotic fish are the ones you want to bring home—reeling in influential ethnic media or industry-specific publications. Those fish might prove more effective in increasing profile about an organization’s product, service or program, plus growing brand reputation and value.

The Cision fishing image became a pragmatic filter in measuring the success or not of media relations strategies and organizational profile outcomes. Building up a bank of lasting trust is significant, especially in the unfortunate event of a corporate crisis.

What does this have to do with the vicious, shark-like byte of a perceived online crisis?

Ultimately, this post’s thesis is to flip around the image and equation of “netting” the attention of larger-sized or exotic fish for measurable, qualitative PR outcomes, to a fishy-sniff-test assessment of how much weight to place on numerous schools of small fish (or medium-sized ones in relative isolation) identified as briefly nibbling away, online, at your organizational reputation.

What is the baseline for a true crisis or disaster?

Whether waking up to CBC Radio, watching a morning show and evening newscasts, reading (print or online) one or more of the four daily papers available in Toronto or online monitoring of international media and social media news feed streams, the information needs of this self-proclaimed news junkie are well served. The question is the amount of time and attention to spend—where and on what?

Monitoring media allows one to stay informed and have a worldview (local, national and global) and perspective about news, events and opinions shaping people, countries and organizations, good and bad.

Often the media is filled with crises and disasters—economic, political, social and environmental: A global financial meltdown. Starvation in Africa. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis and flooding in many parts of the world. An operational fail that impacts workers’ lives, the economy and location. Dictators and/or governments overturned, sometimes after violent protests by activists and the general populace.

These are scenarios where countries, businesses and individuals are directly affected: victims of illness, death, violence, imprisonment, displacement, environmental impact, loss of livelihood or privacy. These are true crises. Many are disasters. Most relate to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

These things almost always originate offline.

Social business reputation reality check

This column examines what, if anything, qualifies as an online-generated crisis, PR disaster or #epicfail and how much attention to pay to them. Because far too often such words are tossed out in blog posts or as YouTube comments, on Twitter and various discussion groups, related to perceived blunders or miscues in social business.

Sometimes it’s an exotic fish (maybe a tech blog) that swims around an incident, but most of the times it appears to be minnows of chatter that aggregate to pools of outrage by real or potential customers (and other stakeholders), plus the Twitterati and Facebook “Fan Page” aficionados, etc.

Does one ill-thought-out or tasteless tweet or a poorly researched/conceived Facebook ad or marketing campaign really qualify as a crisis? Check out this Econsultancy article, 14 epic social media fails, and assess how many stayed in the public consciousness—online and especially offline—for more than a few days. (The Kryptonite Evolution 200 and Dell Hell case studies are practically ancient history!) Compared to the Chilean mining crisis or BP oil eruption, did these online “disasters” even travel out of the social media pool and filter bubble? How many received extensive coverage in traditional, international media? (I can tell you that many of them didn’t migrate north to Canada.)

Most importantly, which of the 14 #epicfail scenarios affected stock prices or shareholder value, let alone have an impact on long-time brand reputation or trust?

Shark bytes or minnow nibbles?

One of the most egregious examples of a true social media “crisis” shark byte was a YouTube video from a Domino’s Pizza outlet going viral, involving two bored, 30-somethings employees working on Easter Sunday in a small mountain town In North Carolina. The phones weren’t ringing with any orders, so they decided to have some “rogue fun” (for which they were later arrested and charged).

In the words of Tim McIntyre, vice president, communications, at the Ann Arbor, Michigan head office, “Domino’s did not do this. This was done to us. And we’re fixing the problem. I’ve referenced the PRSA cover story where this quote comes from (in its flagship publication, The Strategist), numerous times to those who continue, misguidedly, to refer to this as an online “PR disaster.”

I recommend you read Domino’s delivers during crisis: The company’s step-by-step response after a vulgar video goes viral thoroughly. Share it and help to undo the conventional wisdom that Domino’s did a poor crisis communications job—much of it propagated by social media “gurus” looking for Google juice (which I characterized at the time as “online pizza ambulance chasers”). Not to forget “crisis” armchair experts who have never been in the eye of the storm or done sufficient research, but still deliver a pat “to-avoid-a-PR-disaster” Must-Do List.

The company did not have an #epicfail; it delivered a near note-perfect response in terms or contacting the appropriate authorities and frequent and honest integrated communications with applicable stakeholders. Today the company’s reputation and market share are doing just fine.

Another post with a similar viewpoint (from ) worth checking out is Real vs. Fake Social Media Crises, recently published on PRBreakfastClub.

On the other hand…

…I find all but two examples in this AdAge article, How to Tell if Your Campaign Has Hit a Social-Media Flashpoint, more a case of minnowing (sic) reactions.

Often it seems the necessity for social media “sentiment” monitoring is little more than a fear-mongering selling tactic for hybrid and social media agencies or consultants. Besides the viral vulgar video, the new-to-me exception is the Applebee’s incident. The reputation impact of mistakenly serving a child a margarita is reflected by how mainstream media jumped on it, which was augmented online by negative sentiment. Similar to Domino’s Pizza, when it comes to the possibility of the public ingesting tainted food, serving an alcoholic drink to a child raised the red flag of a potential or real crisis for this restaurant chain.

Enlisting #solopr peers to debate dealing with an online crisis

Following are compiled and abridged (lightly copy edited) extracts from the November 9, 2011, #solopr Twitter chat (see full transcript, Q3).

Defining a crisis and how to deal with it

Kellye Crane “The decision of when to react (or not) has always been a huge part of PR. Now, you just have to decide faster.”

Farida Harianawala “There’s no perfect formula for dealing with a crisis. Quite often you have to take information on hand, use common sense and run with it, including diligent, real-time monitoring on what’s being said and how it’s being amplified. It’s important to discern when to step in and minimize damage.”

Jen Zingsheim “A true crisis is something that has the potential to damage the business. Not just a logo redesign.”

Kristie Aylett, APR (two-time major crisis veteran) “Social media’s echo effect can amplify a customer gripe into a frenzy. The dilemma is that you get butchered for a slow response as you wait to get full picture or for reacting too quickly. There’s no sweet spot. My mantra has always been, ‘it’s the cover-up that gets you’.”

Fran Stephenson (veteran of numerous corporate crises) “You usually can’t label something a crisis until after it’s over! There’s nothing ‘off the shelf’” about any of the situations…ever. Having a crisis communication plan does help frame situations; I recommend every company have one in place to use as a reference.”

Davina Brewer Getting ahead of a story is smarter; better than playing catch up and damage control: Pay attention, monitor trends, have a plan in place to prevent before and protect afterward, whether it’s an employee, vendor or contractor. Yes, respond, but take into account the nature and severity of the ‘crisis.’ Overreacting can make a small problem big in a hurry.”

Lori Scribner “You can’t [entirely] ignore the social media chatter. Be responsive: people want to be heard and recognized.”

Terri Mallioux “If only more companies and people understood that, for the most part, folks are forgiving if not lied to and there’s no attempt to cover things up. Put victims and families first.”

Mustafa Stefan Dill “It’s due diligence to reach out to clients when we know of such incidents—they may not even see it as potential crisis. Monitor, listen, think before you respond (but do respond) and have a plan in place to deal with different levels of crisis. And if you have reactive client, train them to be proactive!”

John Trader “I think it starts with transparency. If you are transparent early, it tampers amplification and stymies groundswell. Many crisis situations can be avoided by including your community as part of the strategic development.”

Joy Donnell “Most clients are either proactive or reactive. Know which your client is and you’ll know how to prepare them for potential crises. Many don’t realize how much of PR is training clients. Brand consistency and consumer respect are a key part of crisis survival.”

#solopr participants discuss the legal side of many crises

Joel Don “How many have found corporate executives listen to lawyers first and/or follow the well-devised crisis plan they paid you to write? The problem during a crisis is that sometimes executives drop the plan and go visceral. It’s tough making a good legal vs. customer decision, as sometimes they collide.”

Mustafa Stefan Dill “How many PR folk work closely with the client’s legal team in a crisis mode? It seems like developing a good working relationship with the legal team would be good thing for PR pros; so much of what we do is similar.”

Kate Robins “There’s getting PR and there is listening to it. Getting through internally is half of the battle. I always work with legal during and before—it’s offense vs. defense, listening to lawyers so a company doesn’t open itself up to more trouble, such as litigation and big losses. Lawyers can help PR see what it can’t.”

Diana Conconi “In the long term a lawsuit can be less disastrous than consumer trust lost when a company doesn’t admit fault. It’s why crisis communications doesn’t always go smoothly: the lawyers and PR counsel are usually of two very different minds—it depends on who is running the show.”

John Trader “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a hybrid legal/social media employee who can talk the talk?”

Prepare and enable a corporation for an online crisis

Finally, a pointer to Jeremiah Owyang’s Corporate Communications, Disrupted, Yet More Important Than Ever Before. Although some of Altimeter Group’s assessment of what constitutes a “corporate crisis” is debatable (social media “pile-on effect” or the “ferocity” of schools of minnows alighting for a little nibble on some misguided campaign and then migrating away…?), I think Owyang’s three concluding points most noteworthy (which echo many of the thoughts of my #solopr colleagues).

This includes the concept of “enabling” business units to communicate, based on pre-set parameters put in place through governance, coordination and workflow.”

And wholehearted support for the idea of education programs at four levels—executive, social media, business stakeholders and all associates—although, as indicated in my inaugural column, my belief is that PR (reputation, value and relationship building) is best situated to lead (not own) social media.

Particularly for this Byte, Owyang’s third suggestion to proactively host “mock crises across the enterprise” has full endorsement. 

Swim through the crisis net

Work to make social media a considered and essential component of an organization’s ongoing integrated communications program, based on frequent and honest communications and engagement with stakeholders. When it comes to crisis communication in social business, it might prove the fastest way to minnow-ize a potential shark byte and “PR disaster.”

Let’s focus on the positive instead of the negative for a change. Share your examples of organizations successfully averting an #epicfail, based on their crisis management and/or longer-haul earned reputation.

More resources for a global-local context:

Judy Gombita  (3 Posts)

This monthly PR column is contributed by Judy Gombita. Judy is a Toronto-based public relations and communication management specialist, with more than 20 years of employment and executive-level volunteer board experience, primarily in the financial and lifelong learning nonprofit sectors. She is the co-editor and Canadian contributor (since 2007) to the international, collaborative blog, PR Conversations.

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A directory listing in Best of the Web is a vote of confidence for your business website…

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Our favorite tweets of the week Nov 21-Nov 27, 2011

Every week we tweet a lot of interesting stuff highlighting great content that we find on the web that can be of interest to web designers.

The best way to keep track of our tweets is simply to follow us on Twitter, however, in case you missed some here’s a quick and useful compilation of the best tweets that we sent out this past week.

Note that this is only a very small selection of the links that we tweeted about, so don’t miss out…

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Comics of the week #105

Every week we feature a set of comics created exclusively for WDD.

The content revolves around web design, blogging and funny situations that we encounter in our daily lives as designers.

These great cartoons are created by Jerry King, an award-winning cartoonist who’s one of the most published, prolific and versatile cartoonists in the world today.

So for a few moments, take a break from your daily routine, have a laugh and enjoy these funny cartoons…

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Social Media For B2B Salespeople? Really?

I sure hope so! In fact, since I’ve done nothing but B2B sales since 1977, I’m counting on it! First let me say that I am very excited to have been invited by Neal to be a regular contributor to this site! The best way to start with this topic may be to review a few of those things that are most important to B2B sales professionals. They want to:

  • Find new opportunities and new customers – keep their pipelines full with qualified prospects.
  • Improve their closing ratios and keep their sales figures (and commissions) well above goal.
  • Develop closer relationships with existing clients to the point where they rise above “vendor” status and become a part of the company “team” themselves as trusted advisors.
  • Get more business, and referrals, from existing clients.
  • Understand their prospective customers, their interests, and their buying habits.
  • Discover new opportunities and ways to engage with both prospects and customers.

This monthly Social Media for B2B Sales column will focus on these primary areas (and more) and how social media can assist the B2B salesperson in achieving these goals. I prefer the term “social business.” The funniest thing is that most B2B salespeople that I know are not yet active with social business. Why? Their reasons are many. “I don’t have time.” “It won’t work for me because … well, it won’t work for me.” “My clients are not using social media so what good would it be for me to use it?” “It’s a waste of my time!” These are all valid questions and concerns. I know because these were the very same questions I asked myself 3 or 4 years ago. I was quick to dismiss that which I did not understand. What I failed to consider at the time, but innately understood, was that I needed to expand my network beyond my traditional circles and then get to know these new people. I also needed to establish my expertise, and make it visible to, those who did not know me. In salespersons’ terminology, I needed a larger territory in which to hunt and one that was abundant with fresh game.

Please make no mistake. I am first and foremost a “relationship” salesperson. Still, I get paid to sell. This is how I pay my bills and this is how I eat. While it’s a must to be a “farmer”, I also like a little meat with my veggies and social business helps me to enjoy both. Let’s take a quick look at how social business helps me with expanding my territory and finding qualified prospects.

In the old days of B2B sales (and these are the same days for many), we canvassed our territory on foot or by phone and made plenty of good old-fashioned cold calls in hopes of finding Mr. or Mrs. Right. Selling has always been a numbers game. To a large extent, it still is. Upon entering their office, we scanned for clues: family photos, awards, sports memorabilia, seating arrangement, and even quality of furnishings. All of these tidbits helped us to understand our prospect. We looked for areas of common ground and interest, so necessary in establishing rapport. “I wonder who I know who he or she also knows. It would sure be nice to use that as a referral.” We demonstrated our skill and knowledge face-to-face during the selling process. We established our expertise.

Now, let’s fast forward to 2011. Today I go to LinkedIn and learn about my prospect, their company, and other members of their company. I don’t have to guess on who we both may know. In many cases it is right there for me in black and white. Once connected, I will see that he also knows Susie over at Ace Company and I have been trying to get in with them for what seems like forever. Hmmm. On Facebook I find family photos, his passion for golf, and get a feel for him or her as a person. I may see that he is also friends with some others folks that I am close to. On Twitter he is talking to Fred Smith about Fred’s plans to expand. I’d better make a note of that. Now, will somebody please explain to me how this is not valuable information and a good use of your time. And doing all this from your desk!? You can’t.

Once we have connected on LinkedIn, he not only sees our shared connections, my LinkedIn profile helps to establish my professional expertise. Even the signature line on my emails directs him to my latest blog post discussing the most recent advancements in our industry. He’s thinking that maybe I can provide their company with value.

As a life-long B2B sales veteran, I like two things. I like things simple and I like things that bring me results. My hope is to share both with you over the months to come and we will be discussing specific strategies, applications, and techniques using social media to help you to achieve both.

Craig M. Jamieson  (1 Posts)

This monthly Social Media for B2B Sales post is contributed by Craig M. Jamieson. Craig has been in B2B sales since 1977 and during that time has served in a variety of positions including; sales manager, division sales manager, national sales manager, district manager, and as a business owner. He is the managing partner of Sales Results LLC in Boise, Idaho which owns and operates NetWorks! Boise Valley B2B Networking Groups, is a Nimble Social CRM Solution Partner, and Craig also conducts workshops and seminars relating to sales and social business applications.

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Does A Phone Number On Your Site Increase Conversions?

Back in September Flowr set off on the Grasshopper / KISSmetrics Phone Number Challenge. The idea was that they were going test placing a phone number on their home page to see if they could increase sign ups. The hypothesis was that by having a visible phone number on their home page, the trust factor would increase and therefore sign ups would too.

Jonathan Kay from Grasshopper Virtual Phone Systems, proposed the original concept of this challenge…

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How Automated Evaluations Might Help Decide Upon Rankings for Search Results at Google

A number of years back, I remember being humbled by a homework assignment crayon drawing by a friend’s son which listed what he was thankful for, and included his parents, his sister, and shoes that Thanksgiving. We take so much for granted that we should be thankful that we have. A few friends and [...]…

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Be Visible While Using The ANSI Vest

Workers can sometimes be in situations that require a certain type of safety apparel. ANSI products are certified by the American National Standards Institute and that organization ensures that their products are of the highest standards. They also correlate with internationally accepted standards, which means they have worldwide approval. If employees must work in circumstances where they need to be highly visible, ANSI safety vest are the best bet.

Class One

The vests are classed by the various situations in which they may be necessary. If the worker will be relatively safe from moving traffic, he or she can use a Class One. For instance, this is the choice for warehouse workers, especially if there are forklifts and other equipment being used. This apparel is also safe for sidewalk workers and parking attendants as well as employees who retrieve shopping carts from store parking lots.

Class Two

If traffic will be moving faster than 25mph, workers will need to advance to Class Two. It is also the ANSI class 2 safety vest used when visibility is diminished by weather conditions. This class is worn by those who work on the tarmac at airports, policemen who must conduct traffic and they are also used by crossing guards.

Class Three

Highest visibility is achieved when workers are wearing a Class Three vest. These are used for the worst weather conditions and also in situations where traffic speeds will exceed 50mph. Road construction employees on the ground or in a vehicle wear this apparel as well as investigators of accident sites. You’ll also see these vests on emergency medical teams when they are in certain situations that require higher visibility. Both Class Two and Three are worn by railway workers.

Reflective

The various classes are regulated by high standards. Visibility is extremely important, of course, but there must also be retro-reflective bands of a certain width. The width standard for Class One must be one inch or greater, the requirement for Class Two is 1.38 inches or more, and Class Three must be at least two inches. Various situations require different levels of visibility and these standards are established by the classes.

Colors

The brightest colors are used: fluorescent green, yellow, or orange. Clear and visible contrast is established with the reflective material, which can also be white or gray. Fabric or mesh materials are used in these products or sometimes, a combination of both. There are also styles that offer a specific outline contrast.

Styles

Style names are by class or they can also include names such as Economy, Public Service and Incident Command Safety. It is also possible to find jackets or t-shirts that are able to meet the highest standards. There are products available with pockets and zippered fronts, too.

Social Media for Business – Establishing Effective Structure

With the explosion of high speed internet and the social media scene, businesses that aren’t getting in will most certainly be put out. It is important to exhaust all possible resources – especially free ones – in order to expand a business, connect with customers, and be more productive.

Free advertising is a blessing that is hard to come by, and the use of social media networks as advertisements is particularly helpful and cost-effective. However, businesses often do not spend the time and resources on social media properly, and instead they find that their work becomes fruitless and a waste of time. There are several key points needed for establishing an effective structure for using social media for business, including more effort on a few accounts, a solid relationship with the people who view their pages, and a willingness to try new things. 

Focus is Paramount

Those in charge of running social media endeavors should appreciate what concentrating on less accounts can do for them. There’s no need to have multiple accounts on every social media network. Oftentimes, businesses think that their social media structure should reflect that of the company: one account for every division, team, leader, project, and so on and so forth until you have 100 or more diluted and ineffective accounts. Instead, create one Facebook account, one Twitter account and one YouTube account, and keep those accounts updated frequently. People who view those well-kept pages will think much more highly of that business than if the business would have made several accounts that aren’t maintained regularly.

When people are attracted to a Facebook or Twitter page, they are more likely to come back, and as a result, learn more about the business. After all, growing knowledge and awareness of the business is exactly what people want when they use social media pages. There are several instances of businesses that really took off because of their social media exploits. All one needs to do to understand this is to look at their net profits from month to month, and one will see that they are still growing.

Grow Your Business By Making a Few Friends

Building a relationship with those who view the pages of the business is a very crucial aspect of using social media to help a business. When people view a business page, they want updated content. They also want discussions and two-way feedback from the people who run the page. If a person with high speed internet goes to a page and knows their questions will be answered in a timely manner and their suggestions will be taken seriously, they will be much more likely to return to the page, and in turn, pay attention to the business. Ideally, the social media accounts of businesses should be more aimed towards gaining attention and forming relationships than full blown marketing.

Essentially, social media is the ultimate marketing tool when used correctly. Having 9 trillion followers on Twitter may seem like a good thing, but as a business it is important to grow steadily, interact with those that are already interested in you, and allow your current followers to help expand your following (snowball down a hill, that sort of thing).

Experiment with Social Media and Be Flexible

Finally, a page of variety and fluidity can only help a business’ social media experience. A smart idea is to make questions that invite thoughtful answers, putting ideas to votes, making videos about the business, where people can see a person talking directly to them, adding relevant photos, and other visual aids.

People are more likely to become interested in a business if they associate it with some kind of picture or voice. Why do children know and understand where McDonald’s is? They know what the golden arches look like. A business using social media pages needs to create an identity, and further, an image off of that identity.

Today’s guest blog post was contributed by Blake Sanders, who writes about technology at broadband comparison site Broadband Expert and specializes in internet service providers, cell phones, and the latest in high speed internet news and information. If you too would like to submit a guest blog post to this site, please contact Windmill Networking.

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Expedited Passport Service Offer Significant Benefits

Expedited passport services are an effective way to prepare for travel. There may be times when you need to get a passport and do not have the time to wait for approval. Here are ways that one may benefit from 48 hour pasport.

Same Day Service

When travelers apply for passports, it can be a drawn out process. However, a same day service can provide passports the very next day. If you do not have time to wait for the normal process, you may not be able to travel to another country, unless you employ a service that speeds up the process.

Service That Is Guaranteed

When you choose a service with guarantees, you can rest assured that things will be taken care of for you. For example, a guaranteed service will provide everything that you need. If for some reason the service fails and you cannot make your trip, you owe nothing. This provides a strong incentive for the business to take care of everything, and in the guaranteed time frame.

Online Order Tracking

When you hire a competent service for passports and request expedited passport services, they will provide free tracking for your order. If you want to see how things are going, you can log onto the website. This eliminates the need for calling someone to check on the order. Accessing the website can be done at any time of the day or night.

Removing Anxiety and Stress

When passports are not an issue, you can focus on other aspects of your travel. This can help to remove a great deal of the tension and stress that can come from International travel. You may wish to relax and enjoy a shopping trip for some new clothes. When you experience fewer headaches, you have a more enjoyable trip.

Personalized Service

Personal service for applying for American passports can make the process much easier. For one thing, you are not dealing with a government agency for your needs. The service deals with the United States Department of State on your behalf. Employees of government agencies have little motivation to take care of your needs. They are paid if you are satisfied or not. However, private agencies are not paid unless they take care of all your needs.

When you deal with government agencies, there may be limited ways to contact them. You also may not hear back from someone very fast. A good service will provide excellent means of customer support. Often times, you may contact a service by phone and talk to someone in real time. You also may have access to online chat, and email. If your service is local, you can visit the office in person.

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