Bridging Two Worlds

A conversation about online media and what it means to your organization

Archive for April, 2009

Media Relations and Social Media

Posted by B2W on April 28, 2009

By Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

There are a great many media on Twitter – for the most comprehensive list we have found check out mediaontwitter.com.

However, before you leap in and start pitching media on Twitter. This blog post at the Bad Pitch Blog is worth a read. Social media provides an excellent opportunity to start or join a conversation that is relevant to your organization. However, you can’t just jump in and start pushing yourself on to them – or anyone engaged online, for that matter. Like media relations, it just doesn’t work that way.

Peter Shankman of Help A Reporter Out (HARO) has a great approach to people that go off topic when participating in his (free) HARO service – if you are off topic when you pitch, he blocks you from receiving the list.

I have to say, Shankman’s crankiness about pitches ‘upped’ our game.  We have always prided ourselves on effectively pitching the media … in building good, positive relationships with journalists because we don’t send them useless information. I worked as a journalist for years and have very strong memories of bad pitches, news releases and “samples” that we received at the magazine being put in the spotlight and the PR person who sent them being mocked in front of a group of reporters. These same reporters would then file that name away as “useless” and that PR person had a hard time getting attention then …

Shankman has that kind of approach to pitches – he is ruthless and this attitude reminded us that we have an obligation to our clients to hold our pitches up to a gold standard. Here at AHA, we even half-jokingly review our pitches chanting ‘What Would Shankman Think?’

Mentioned above is the Bad Pitch Blog – it’s worth reading and gives you direct and straight forward advice about what makes a good pitch, how not to send a “green” pitch that ends up putting materials in the landfill! – and how not to take your relationship with a journalist too casually (texting a pitch? Come on!).

Social media is creating an ability to connect with journalists, with bloggers and with your community – don’t take it for granted and please, view this as an opportunity to really connect …. Not to push out information AT people, but to start or join the conversation with them. It’s a two-way street, now. Be sure and look both ways.

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Beaches in Alberta?

Posted by B2W on April 23, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

In the “what were they thinking” category…apparently a promotional ad for Alberta’s new $25-million branding campaign actually depicts two children on a famous English beach near Bamburgh Castle, the legendary home of Sir Lancelot.

I heard about this issue on Twitter. It will be interesting to follow this via social media and see how big it becomes.

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The medium IS the message – at least for now

Posted by B2W on April 22, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

Craig McInnes had an interesting opinion article in The Vancouver Sun yesterday with the headline: Digital pictures are the tattoos of the Internet: You wear them forever. It is a great headline, a good piece and worth a read.

In the article, McInnes talks a little about Ray Lam, NDP candidate for Vancouver-False Creek and the Facebook photos that led to his resignation. He also mentions Sharon Smith, Mayor of Houston, B.C., who had a photo of her wearing only her chain of office show up online. There are many instances and incidents—political, corporate and personal—where inappropriate comments, images or videos have shown up on the Internet. McInnes is right, even if you pull them off your Facebook page, blog or website, chances are they are still out there somewhere and accessible.

We talk to clients a great deal about this new and unedited world when we consult on brand/reputation management as well as how to deal with an issue or crisis online. It’s a part of who we are today as communicators, professionals and people.

One key point that I think hasn’t been talked about a lot yet is that right now, it seems that the medium is the message – or at least provides news value. Ashton Kutcher takes on CNN and the discussion surrounds the ethical use of Twitter and whether Kutcher represents the “common” person. Somehow the story that this “stunt” (for lack of a better word) did something good for charity. Oprah starts to Tweet and pundits wonder if Twitter has jumped the shark. Never mind that Oprah is highly influential and does some good things for the world and might use Twitter to create positive change among her followers.

I think one of the most interesting cases of the medium overtaking the message is the miracle of the crash landing in the Hudson River by the US Airways pilot. There were some great stories about the miracle landing, the amazing abilities of the pilot and how the story was broke on Twitter. All good news stories. What I didn’t see much coverage on was the reason the plane crashed or much focus on that key point – THE PLANE CRASHED.

Right now, an organization that starts to use social media has a good chance of generating some coverage – good or bad – about their use of social media. Are they using it right, what does it mean for the organization, it is a good or bad thing for that particular tool?

Oprah on Twitter, oh my goodness, it’s gone mainstream and that’s a shame – cry the purists and early adopters. And I can see their point, to a degree. But aren’t these tools being developed to create opportunities for all of us to communicate?

Perhaps Oprah will use the tool more as a broadcast medium to send out messages rather than join the conversation. Personally, I give her more credit than that. However, if she does use it only as a one-way megaphone to talk at people, then either her specific community will either accept that form of communication from her or they will abandon her. At the core of it, usage depends on what your stakeholders and/or community will or won’t engage with. It’s all about them.

Social media has opened the door for real conversations. Some smart organizations realize the value of embracing the fact that the consumer now has a strong voice. These organizations also support, encourage and collaborate with their communities.

I have to admit, I can’t wait until this phase is over and social media is seen as what it is – another tool in the communicator’s tool belt. We can do some great things with the organizations we work with – both as in-house communicators and consultants. Don’t let the buzz around it all push you away from looking at what will work for you. 

 

Posted in Demystifying Online Communications, Interesting, Marketing Communications, Social Media, Things That Make You Go hmmm... | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Edmonton & Other Social Media Thoughts

Posted by B2W on April 21, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

There are a couple of topics for today’s post, so I will try to keep them short and sweet.

Della and I had the honour of speaking to the Edmonton Chapter of the Canadian Public Relations Society on Friday. It was a great group of people – all interested in how to apply social media tools and tactics to their communications strategies. You can check out some of the tweets throughout the session here.

Chris Brogan, who I have a huge amount of respect for, has a great post on The Undiscovered Country of Presence Management. Here he talks about the challenges of having organizations on Twitter and Facebook and blogging or commenting on blogs. Who should be the voice, where should you look online for your communities, how do you go about it? This is a great start to an important conversation.

One of the key points for any organization that would like to embrace social media is that you need to be strategic about it. You need to begin like you would any other traditional communications campaign and understand who your community is, where they are and how they would like you to join the conversation. And at the core of it—Chris nailed it in his post—what people want is “real” interaction. Social media provides the opportunity to create a relationship with people – one human being to another.

Great public relations has always been about building relationships – ethically, authentically and with integrity. Social media allows us to do this. It takes a client that will authentically embrace transparency, some effort, resources and a commitment to staying strategic (and not being pulled away by the newest, brightest, shiniest piece of technology). It provides opportunities that we have never had before.

We know that social media has changed how we do our job. Right now we’re in a bit of chasm between how it used to be done and how it can be done. It is a challenging time, but it’s exhilarating too. The world is demanding that organizations step up and be accountable, responsible, engaged and that they contribute. As communicators, our role is to help organizations do this in a way that benefits the community, the employees and the organization.

Posted in Public Relations, Social Media | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Domino’s Delivers Charges

Posted by B2W on April 16, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

Domino’s has created a YouTube response to the issue that they recently faced regarding what we have now heard was supposed to be a “hoax” video on YouTube.  There were several videos made by the two young people who worked (past tense) at a Domino’s franchise in North Carolina. (See our previous post on this.)

Domino’s takes a very interesting approach to this issue – and in my opinion, it’s a little over the top.  Depending on what kind of policy Domino’s has, maybe these young employees didn’t realize how wrong this was. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a stupid, stupid thing to do, but not only have they been fired, according to Domino’s USA President Patrick Doyle, there are warrants out for their arrest.

Here are some of the phrases from the video:

  • We are taking this incredibly seriously.
  • This was an isolated incident.
  • The two teen members have been dismissed and there are felony warrants out for their arrest.
  • The store has been shut down and sanitized from top to bottom.
  • We’re re-examining all of our hiring practices to make sure that people like this don’t make it into our stores.
  • We have auditors across the country in our stores every day of the week.
  • The independent owner of that store is reeling from the damage this has caused.
  • It sickens me that the impact of two individuals could impact our great system.

I want to point out that I was not a part of managing this issue and don’t know all the details. This review of what I see is armchair quarterbacking, but it is also what I perceive as a consumer.  

I like that he was taking this seriously; it is a serious issue. It was very important to say that this was an isolated incident and that the teens have been dismissed.

I don’t know what they know and was not privy to how many complaints that they received or what the loss of revenue is but these two teenagers did a stupid thing. They should be fired, but felony warrants? (Mail Online is reporting that the two have been charged with distributing prohibited foods.)

It was important to let people know that the store was shut down and sanitized from top to bottom. (Although using the term “bottom” is kind of ironic…if you saw one of the videos.) I also think it’s important to let people know that there are auditors in their stores ensuring the cleanliness of the kitchens and that this is part of their ongoing policy and not just because of this incident.

I really think they need to look at what their social media policy is—or define one—rather than create hiring practices to make sure people like these two kids don’t get hired by Domino’s. Is this even possible? I expect that employees at Domino’s are like other fast food chains – many of them are young adults. We have all heard of these types of stories at fast food restaurants – so I am sure this kind of thing happens more than we think. I would love to believe that a hiring practice could remove this type of thing from all restaurants. If Mr. Doyle comes up with it, he should share it with the world!

It’s a new world; people do silly things on videotape and upload it to the Internet. Before this sort of thing happens, let’s give employees the knowledge of what is or is not appropriate and the repercussions if something like this was to happen.

Perhaps Domino’s might have said that we are now implementing a social media policy and are going to assist our franchises in working with staff so that they understand the damage that can be done by what they might perceive as a “hoax.”

I expect millions have seen the videos by now. The charges will now have hundreds of millions of people around the world searching these videos out. This will create further damage the Domino’s brand.

To me, it seemed like Domino’s used the heavy hand of “THE MAN” here and it could have used a little finesse. The words used were very powerful and created a strong emotional reaction in me – including fear for these poor, and not so bright kids. In this video, Mr. Doyle sounds angry. Maybe he could have gone to the gym and got rid of a little bit of his anger before taping the video. I get that he is taking it seriously, but I didn’t leave with a positive feeling about Domino’s after that video.

It may have been more effective to have this video done in an interview style or have Mr. Doyle speak directly into the camera. Having him read from a teleprompter didn’t allow for a connection to happen for me. 

Compare this to how JetBlue handled a huge issue a few years ago. This isn’t the best produced video and then CEO David Neelman trips over a few words, but he comes across as sympathetic, believable and authentic. This response video works, in my mind. Domino’s…not so much.

I would be interested in hearing other perspectives.

 

Posted in Interesting, Issues and Crisis, Social Media, Things That Make You Go hmmm..., What Were They Thinking? | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

#Amazonfail

Posted by B2W on April 15, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

Thanks to Chris Brogan (@ChrisBrogan on Twitter) for this link to a blog post by Clay Shirky. It is a thoughtful, interesting and informative post on the challenges that Amazon faced this weekend. It is worth a read. 

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Would You Like Some Cheese With That Nose Hair?

Posted by B2W on April 15, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

There seems to be a new issue online every day. Over the weekend, there was the Amazon issue where it seemed the online bookseller had removed thousands of gay and lesbian themed books from their listings and search results. Social media guru B.L. Ochman has a very good post about this issue.

And then there is the Domino’s video that showed up on YouTube yesterday. The company quickly took it down. But you know that sneaky Internet…there is always another copy somewhere that gets put back up.

According to this piece in Advertising Age, Domino’s corporate headquarters was reacting cautiously to the kerfuffle about this disgusting video. It turns out the two Domino’s employees have several videos – check out what The Consumerist has managed to track down, if you can stomach it.

It’s always easy to be an armchair quarterback and say what should be or could be done about the situation. Without knowing what went on at Domino’s, it’s hard to say whether for their situation their strategy is sound. I just have one question – given these videos and the “cautious” response from Domino’s, how quick will you be to order from them? (Even knowing that your local Domino’s store isn’t the one in the video.)

 

Posted in Issues and Crisis, Social Media, The Worldwide Connection, Things That Make You Go hmmm..., What Were They Thinking? | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Has Twitter Peaked?

Posted by B2W on April 14, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

Steve Rubel, one of the leaders in the field of social media, just wrote a piece in Advertising Age saying that he thinks Twitter is peaking. He makes some good points, but what I find more interesting are the comments under his piece. Many people in communications and marketing disagree with him. They believe that for organizations in a non-tech world, Twitter is just hitting its stride.

Rubel is one of the gurus and has been active on Twitter since 2007. That’s a long time and he was obviously an early adopter. The tech savvy types out there that jump on things like Twitter first provide an amazing service to those of who are mid-adopters. They get in, check it out – and because the online world is open and collaborative, they share what they learn with us.

For the clients that I work with, it doesn’t make sense to be an early adopter. Investing resources, including getting senior executive buy in into an early stage technology isn’t strategic unless you are positioning yourself in the tech sector for a specific reason. Many organizations are just starting to get their feet wet with social media – from blogs to Twitter to Facebook. And for many that have started, they come to us looking for assistance in bridging what they want to do online with their traditional communications plan. They want to know how to develop a social media plan that supports their business objectives and how to engage and maintain an interactive presence. They want to provide value to their community, whether it’s an internal or external community.

Rubel might be right; the early adopters may be off looking for the next big thing. But if the past is any indication of the future, that means that people like you and me have quite a few good years left with the micro-blogging service. 

 

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What Social Media & The Grieving Process Have In Common

Posted by B2W on April 8, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

There is an interesting gap in knowledge and acceptance when it comes to online/social media in some organizations. I have seen a range of emotions about it from some senior executives (including communicators). And it hit me the other day – it’s not much different than the stages of grief that are often cited.

First we have denial. – Oh come on, this is just a trend. It will all work itself out and go away. Look at the dotcom boom and crash. This is all just a bunch of technology that has no business case for our organization. None of our stakeholders are using social media, right?

Then anger. – How are we supposed to add this to our plate? What do you mean our competition has 10,000 followers on Twitter and the CEO blogs everyday and LOVES it! What next? I just can’t keep up! How are they making money anyway…and why should this matter to us?!!! I will just pass this off to an intern and it won’t matter.

Followed by bargaining (or as we liked to call it the “pilot project”). – Ok, I will approve a small budget to try it this once. But <INSERT your supreme being here> (God, Universe, Board of Directors, Shareholders, etc.) if I do this – and it works, you need to give me help. And by the way Director of Communications, I think this falls under your department, don’t you?

Onto depression.Well, it worked…(sigh). We got responses from our stakeholders – and they’re excited about this opportunity to have an authentic conversation with us. I am beginning to realize the value – and what it all means (sigh). For the next month or two, I am not going to look at the report on the pilot project and just let it sit on my desk because I know there is so much to do and I don’t know where or how to start.

And finally onto acceptance, which can even lead to hope! This is by far the most exciting and rewarding stage – both for the organization and the individual. Realizing that not only is social media here to stay, but used strategically there is real value in it. The understanding that there are communities of people – decision makers, influencers, supporters – that want to interact with people in their organization dawns and it is exciting. Here is where you begin to embrace the fact that the world has changed and start to recognize the opportunities that come with this paradigm shift.

Below are a few random examples of how the world has changed.

In this report, a judge in the U.S. had to recently rule on a juror’s use of Twitter during a trial.

Here, a judge allowed a reporter to cover a federal trial using Twitter.

And here are some stats on the growth of Twitter and Facebook.


Posted in Demystifying Online Communications, Interesting, Marketing Communications, Social Media, Things That Make You Go hmmm... | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Can Big Media Control Google Content?

Posted by B2W on April 7, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

TechCrunch has a very interesting article entitled “The Whining Sound You Hear Is The Death Wheeze Of Newspapers.” It’s well worth a read.

The article discusses how some large media organizations are accusing Google of “stealing” their copyrighted content. It also links to another TechCrunch post about the Associated Press declaring that it will now police the Web and “develop a system to track content distributed online to determine if it is being legally used.”

There is a huge challenge in trying to police the Internet and, while I am not a copyright expert, it seems to me that some of these large media conglomerates are spending an awful lot of time, energy and money on trying to control the Internet instead of focusing on creating a new, interactive and collaborative business model.

I read a lot of blogs, follow a lot of people (but not too many!) on Twitter, spend time on Facebook, use Google, and spend far too much time on Mashable. From my perspective, content creators online are quick to credit and to link to others – including media outlets. Doesn’t this drive traffic to the media sites? Isn’t that a good thing? And – according to the TechCrunch article – there is a way for these big media moguls to stop Google from listing their content and it’s just one line of programming. So why don’t they…because they WANT people to find the news and click that link. It seems like they want to have their cake and eat it too.

One of the few “grown ups” in journalism that I think really “gets it” and is investigating how journalism and the Internet can create a mutually beneficial relationship is Kirk LaPointe of The Vancouver Sun. His blog is also worth following.

I love journalism. I grew up at Maclean’s and I have a huge respect for how the mind of a journalist works. We, as a society, need journalists to ask the tough questions, to research and fact check, to make complex subjects more understandable to those of us who are not experts in the field, and to bring perspective and balance to an issue. In my opinion, journalists are an important part of the fabric of our society. It’s not the journalists doing this…it’s the big business that has been behind the media for all these years.

The Newspaper Association of America is meeting in San Diego this week and according to a blog post by Jeff Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do?, he says that Google CEO Eric Schmidt will speak to them.  That will be an interesting discussion.

This is an interesting time. I hope the business of the big media companies doesn’t get in the way of true journalism and that the big dog media conglomerates can find a way to see the value of the Internet, bloggers and Google and the fact that this wide open approach to information, sharing and a global conversation is a really good thing. And if they put half as much energy into finding a way to make money from it as they do trying to control it, their world would be much less stressful. 

Posted in Demystifying Online Communications, Interesting, The Worldwide Connection, Things That Make You Go hmmm... | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »