Archive for June, 2012

Social Media Mishaps

One of the biggest risks associated with an organizations venture into the social realm is the #fail.  Whether on Twitter, Facebook or any other medium.  Companies without proper structure and planning in place open themselves up to all sorts of dangers.

Go here for some great examples

It is hard to pinpoint the exact cause of these PR disasters.  From my observations of companies, I would identify a few possible issues.

For small businesses, mistakes often come as an owner/manager who also runs social media gets too personally involved, many small businesses may even feel comfortable saying some of these things to a customer in person (I disagree with that approach), but when you put something online, it becomes a much bigger issue.  Case in point- Boner’s BBQ (note- this is pretty much as bad as it gets).

Another issue I see frequently with small businesses, is (I’m going to make some generalizations here) when the Baby Boomer owners, ask their 16 year old digital-native grandchild to help them get their business on Facebook.  This can work out all fine and well, but there is a lot of risk involved, and it is always critical to know and trust the people running your online media.  Companies need to remember, that just because someone has their own online presence, doesn’t mean they should be managing an organizations.

In larger organizations, a similar situation exists, where Social Media has become something the IT department handles, because it is done on a computer.  Luckily this is changing.  It is also important that professional communicators handle your online communications (this really is a no-brainer).

Another problem that plagues larger businesses, is the scheduled post.  People catch onto this pretty fast, and if not, events will make sure it blows up in your face eventually.  If any further example is needed, just look to The Great Twitter Crash of 2012; reports have indicated that when service was restored, accounts with tweets scheduled during the outage dumped them all at once.  That makes your organization look very authentic (or not).

The answer to all of these issues (and I am sure there are many more causes I’ve missed) is to employ, hire, contract, bribe with cookies, etc- people you know and trust to communicate for your organization online.  In addition to this, a social media plan needs to be in place, preferably woven into a larger communications plan.  This plan should allow for the flexibility necessary online, while still accounting for humanities more pathetic tendencies to say stupid things online.

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Communication is a 2 way street- Don’t forget to listen.

The internet and new media have opened up limitless channels for organizations to spew forth promotional information hoping to hit a relevant public.  Talk is constantly being made of how new media is revolutionizing communications.  But how many organizations are really allowing for innovation in this regard?  A vast number of companies continue to blast their messages out onto every available channel, hoping for a few conversions.

The benefit of social media is the two-way communication channel it opens up.  Organizations need to listen and interact with their audiences through these tools, and in reality each medium they use.  Social media isn’t just a new tool, it is a change in how people communicate.  It has put power back to the customer.  After decades of companies expressing their desire to listen to consumers by outsourcing call centers, providing 1-800 numbers and generic support desk email addresses, there are now tools that give companies the opportunity to really listen and act.  After years of red tape, new media gives consumers a new avenue to pursue for help, concerns and other important feedback.

The challenge is for companies to adapt to, and embrace communication as a 2 way process.  Organizations must listen, and then act, demonstrating that they do in fact care about what their public is thinking.  As opposed to monitoring the conversation solely to report a set of statistics about engagement to justify their online presence.

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Moving beyond “Spin”

The mention of PR often leads to an imaginative journey through dimly lit back rooms, where spin is discussed by those pulling the strings.  If I recall the first thing I learned in a university Public Relations course, was that this is not what we as PR professionals do.  And throughout my educational experience it was reinforced, over and over and over again.  Outside of my coursework, I see this message regularly from practitioners and industry related materials.

With all of this repetition, why are PR professionals still known for beings “spin doctors?”  Amidst a communication revolution brought on by the internet, there are more opportunities for open, honest (albeit well thought out) communication than ever before.  Organizations and PR professionals need to work together to encourage rather than inhibit this type of open communication process.

Organizations need to make their PR team accessible.  This article has some great tips for setting things up this way.

In addition, communicators from throughout an organization need to be capable of responding to this level of open communication.  With the level of interaction available through new media, people have to be ready to respond and participate in the ongoing dialogue regarding their organization.  Now this requires careful thought and planning, rather than a shoot from the hip approach- but that is another post.

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