Archive for October 2010

Four Tips on Social Media Crisis Communications

October 28, 2010

This post was written by Laura Crovo, SVP, Public Relations Director of MGH

 Earlier this year, a survey from German consultancy Gartner Communications found that while nearly 85% of companies worldwide have general crisis plans in place, only 20.7% have social media crisis plans set. Moreover, a staggering 78.6% of in-house communicators said they were pretty unprepared or so-so when it comes to social media crises.

What this shows is that more and more brands are embracing the importance of social media marketing, without adequately preparing for the risks. This isn’t to say that brands shouldn’t be jumping headfirst into Facebook, Twitter and the like – they just need to treat them as they would any other communications avenue by making sure they are ready to tackle any challenges.

Several major brands have been dinged via social media recently – whether it was due to a product deficiency, customer service problem or employee transgression. But, what’s added insult to injury in many of these crisis situations are slow, inadequate and insincere responses to the calamities at hand – probably due in large part to a lack of social media crisis preparedness.

So, what should brands do?

  • Stop looking at “general crisis communications” and “social media crisis communications” as two different things. When planning for catastrophes, you need to think about all possible implications – including media coverage, internal dissent, social media furor and upset stakeholders. Whether it’s sending an email to your staff, responding to a reporter’s questions or posting to your Facebook page, all of these tactics need to be treated as equally vital in the communications process. 
  • Be prepared before hitting the launch button for the Facebook page. This is a critical part of the social media process. Brainstorm all of the possible critiques or problems, and develop potential responses or messaging so you don’t waste precious time that could escalate a social media snafu. For instance, if your business is a restaurant, be prepared to deal with claims that your food stinks, your servers are rude, your prices are outrageous, and your daily special gave someone food poisoning.
  • Pay attention – all of the time – to what people are saying about your company and where they are saying it. Even if you don’t have a Facebook page, brands need to understand that there’s always a chance that people will talk about you online. Each comment needs to be evaluated individually to determine whether, how and when you should respond. There are no hard and fast rules, but generally speaking, you should be transparent, gracious and accountable (as appropriate).
  • Respond in a prompt manner. The world of social media moves much faster than traditional communications, and any lag can just serve to fuel the fire. Similar to how you would respond to a media query in traditional PR, it’s important to quickly address issues on the web, even if only to let you your consumers know that you are taking the issue seriously and looking into resolving it.

PR and social media are not mutually exclusive – and this could not be more evident than when it comes to crisis communications. Companies must take the time now to develop plans to handle situations whether in traditional or social media platforms, or else they could be found on the wrong side of a really angry and vocal Facebook contingent.


Viral Marketing

October 28, 2010

I’m fascinated by viral marketing, and my favorite commercials are the Apple ads and the new Old Spice ads. So, I personally got a kick out of this video – viral marketing blended with Old Spice. Entertaining!

Ethics Moment – Media Calls

October 28, 2010

You work in the corporate communications division of a pharmaceutical company. Your company has hired a public relations agency for a six-month campaign to introduce a recently approved drug for muscular dystrophy. Due to the high visibility of this illness (i.e., Jerry Lewis Telethon), media attention is expected to be very high. The decision is to have two media specialists from the agency physically located on-site in your offices to manage media calls.

How do you instruct the media specialists to identify themselves during media calls?

Guidance — Professional Standard 1 Disclosure of Employment Status

When speaking to the public and/or the media on behalf of a client, agency personnel or independent consultants should uniformly and clearly identify themselves as outside spokespersons, retained by the company. 

Ethics Moment – VNRs

October 13, 2010

Your company is introducing a new product. As part of the promotional campaign, your job in communications is to produce a video news release (VNR) for distribution to TV news programs, YouTube and other social media vehicles.

How do you ensure that the VNR does not give a false perception of being produced by a news reporter?

Guidance — Professional Standard 13 Video News Releases

Fully disclose who produced and paid for the VNR, and include contact information in both digital material and the accompanying script. Encourage those using the video clips to clearly identify the VNR source.

Gap Logo PR Flub

October 12, 2010

Gap has received alot of flak for quietly uploading a new logo to its website; so much flak that, in fact, they have since taken the new logo down and reverted to their old one.

As all of us know, the costs for rebranding with a new logo are astronomical. Can you imagine the amount of flak it took for them to make the decision to say, “oops!”?

Gap quietly uploaded the new logo about a week ago. Fans objected in force, posting comments to Twitter, FaceBook and on tech blogs. Initially, Gap insisted the new logo would stay, and would be rolled out in advertising and in stores next month.  However, Gap soon changed its tune and listened to its customers, releasing the following statement on its FaceBook page: “We’ve heard loud and clear that you don’t like the new logo. We’ve learned a lot from the feedback. We only want what’s best for the brand and our customers”. The new logo was removed from its website today.

The thought behind the new logo was that it better reflected Gap’s updated image and more modern clothing designs.

What did they do wrong? They didn’t take into account the emotional attachment their customers had to their logo. On top of that, they ‘introduced’ the new logo without fanfare or even explanation. Plus (and I know I often stand alone on this), if you have something that works, and works well, why change it? Their logo was iconic – you can’t beat that PR! Finally, a big criticism they faced was that Gap didn’t ask their customers to weigh in on the new logo before choosing it.

What did they do right? They admitted a mistake, and swifly corrected it. Doing so endeared them to their customers, and allowed their customers to feel as if their opinion mattered and as if the Gap was listening. Doing so cut short what could have been an even larger PR disaster, and provided an opportunity to turn their current crisis into a positive experience for the company and its customers.

What do you think? What should Gap have done? Should they have reverted to their old logo? Weigh in with your thoughts and opinions!

PR and SEO

October 11, 2010

On Thursday, October 7, David Aglar, VP of Weber Shandwick’s Digital Practice, spoke to PRSA-MD about “Writing for SEO.” It was an amazing presentation, and turned into a much broader discussion on PR and SEO.

David’s main points were:

  • There has been a sea change in SEO in that, today, technology and coding matter less than they did previously. Instead, follow the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) guidelines for your website set-up.
  • Google (which has 86% of the world search market share) doesn’t look at tags anymore! Instead, relevant content and referring links are king. Not only that, but Google also weighs the merit of the referring links.
  • Communications professionals need to think of their clients’ or their own digital footprint: website, blog, social media (FaceBook, YouTube, SlideShare), multi-media press releases. All aspects work together to drive engagement via content syndication, “promoting content through various social activities.”
  • The new world of SEO has huge potential implications for traditional PR in that we are no longer so dependent on the media; now, YOU can drive the news cycle and ‘break’ your own news.
  • Mobile is very important in the future of SEO, so ensure all your content and channels are optimized for mobile.

Click here to access David’s presentation.

Update: The Capitol Communicator did a write-up of our event! Check it out.