Tag Archives: twitter

Huge Shift in PR Speed, Responsibility & Accountability

In the previous post, I outlined our strategy for the president’s announcement about possible changes on campus.

Shortly after our announcement, a faculty member friend expressed concern about announcing the news on social media, feeling that the news was detrimental to the university.  She appreciated the administration’s transparency but felt we should be more cautious in what we “share with the outside world.”

Her concern is  legitimate.  In the mad rush of last minute rewrites to hit a 10 a.m. deadline we inadvertently posted the president’s letter to the campus community on our News site  instead of  the news release.  But the release exactly reflected the letter.  The information was the same.  But there was, to some,  the perception of sharing inside information.

I told my colleague  that in today’s  social media driven world, as soon as someone says something, whether it’s true or false,  it becomes public. People share and comment on it, spreading it whether it’s true or false.

As a PR department, we do have a need to be truthful, accountable and swift.

So it’s crucial to get the the institutional announcement out as quickly as possible.  In doing this, we own the news on this matter; we are the originators.

This was reinforced  when a reporter with a local daily tweeted our news with a link to our announcement.   The reporter had to do no work at all.  This is an ongoing, major  shift in journalism.

Gone is the the buffer of “according to PR spokesperson. . . .”  The reporter simply links our story — the source.

We are no longer PR Departments .  We are multimedia production agencies, creating news stories and distributing them to the understaffed journalism profession quickly and truthfully.

This is a huge responsibility.

More on this in the next post.

If you missed my previous post, check it out to see how we successfully minimized the sting of our announcement about possible campus changes.

Using Social Media to Ease Bad News

Last week our university released some not-so-positive news.

We didn’t have to.  We took a pro-active stance and put it out there.  Thankfully, we have a president who believes in being out front with everything possible.

My news director, campus technologies/social media person and I work very closely together, as these offices should on every campus.  Before we posted the news, I called the social media person.  “Do we have an upbeat story we can post right after our initial news?”

“Sure.”

He pulled a five-minute video of our new suite-style residence halls that we had produced for a TV show. He posted the first story on Facebook, which, like it or not, is one of our primary news channels.  A few minutes later he posted the res hall story which sat above the “bad news” story.

The initial news story was seen by 3,838 people, had five likes, one share and no comments.

The res hall story was seen by 8,620 people, earned 142 likes, 30 shares and 22 comments, all wildly positive.  They ranged from a proud mother who was sending her son here and couldn’t wait for him to live in the new dorm, to many nostalgic posts from alumni remembering their days in the old dorms.

Lessons:

1.  When you have news that’s not sugar sweet, be quick, proactive and assure the public know you’re an honest news organization.

2.  Have something else ready to soften the blow and post it in concert with the other news.

PS:  I did get a question from a faculty member on why we posted the initial story, essentially sharing it with everyone on Facebook and Twitter.  I’ll share her concern and my answer in the next post.

The Successful Message: Sincere & Relevant

Our president, Fran Hendricks, is a retired Air Force brigadier general and a 1979 graduate of our university .
A sincere Veterans Day message from him seemed like it would be appreciated by veterans and non-veterans alike. We wrote a script and he edited it. We shot it with a single camera in his office with the U.S. and Pennsylvania flags behind him. These were not props. They’re part of his office.
He speaks straight into the camera. We cut to B-roll of photos of MU graduates and area veterans from all branches.
It ends with him saying: “Veterans, thank you,” and a salute. We fade to an image of  raising the flag on Iwo Jima.
The music carrying it is “America the Beautiful.”
I had put a lot of thought behind this before we even started. We did not want him in uniform. He is a university president. But after serving the country for 33-years, Fran Hendricks is very much a soldier, and always will be. It’s a source of pride to him, faculty, students, staff, alumni and area residents.
Hendricks is a humble man and I knew that a “message from the president” would not pass muster. He’s a service-oriented person and the university is the greater body that he now serves. The message would be from Mansfield University.
Most importantly, there was no sales pitch. I repeat for all of you PR folks who need reinforcement for your superiors: no sales pitch. No website at the end telling veterans or potential students to check us out. It is a message, pure and simple, of appreciation to veterans and current service people.
The results were heartwarming, inspiring and revealing. We posted it on YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Our ultra-savvy web person, John Maslar, targeted veterans and bases in a five-state circumference, as well as alumni and students
His stats show show that in a five day period, the video:
-was seen by 125,000 Facebook/Twitter users;
-was shared on Facebook 75 times;
-earned more than 700 likes;
-was retweeted 8 times
-Between likes/views/shares/retweets/clicks, we had about 2,500 interactions.
As John points out: “that’s 18 cents per person who took the time to read and interact with the message.”
The video worked for several reasons:
-It is succinct (1:12);
-Hendricks is straightforward and sincere;
-the message is simple and direct;
-There is no “extra message.”
It gained us appreciation from students, alumni, staff, faculty, constituents and introduced us to new audiences.
Yes, you can count on one hand the number of colleges who have a retired general as a president, but every college has a special person who can convey a relevant message on an appropriate occasion.
Just be clear, concise and don’t pollute it. A clean message has its own halo effect that lasts for years.

In other words, make the salute sincere.

“Disrupted” Should Shake You, Wake You

For years, as a PR professional, I’ve been trying to figure out how to get to high school and college students. I imagined them surrounded by a bubble I couldn’t pierce.
Stefan Pollack explains this generation’s communications world in Disrupted. It’s clear, direct and commendably presents his findings without offering “easy”  answers.
The iGen generation, as he labels it, has created the biggest shakeup in communications in generations. The iGens are those born after 1994 who have never known a world without computers,  parents without mobile devices, and who want their information now and know how to get it instantly.
If it takes more than an instant, it’s too long.
They don’t need to memorize old facts because they curate.
Pollack credits Apple for changing the way we communicate through the introduction of the iPod, which revolutionized the way we buy music and ushered the downfall of record stores, iPhone, and the iPad which signaled the downfall of desktops and laptops. He doesn’t give enough credit to the almost simultaneous appearance of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, and Netflix, which share in the apocalyptic shift in the way we buy, read, listen, communicate and overthrow countries.
This is a minor complaint. Pollack is right. The revolution has happened.
iGen was born into the technology and with unwitting naturalness changed all the rules overnight.
Radio ruled for decades, dictating music we should listen to, infested by commercials. TV fed us nightly shows interrupted by commercials. Newspapers and magazines created cover and inside stories dotted by ads. The book industry told us what we should read. Period.
All are now in death gasps.
The traditional media, gatekeepers of news and scripting what’s important, are gone. iGens, now their own gatekeepers, allow in what’s relevant to them. If they accept it, they share it with their friends, the “infinite touch points.”
If they find you relevant and approve, you may succeed.

If they find you irrelevant, or worse, dishonest, they can injure or even destroy you by simply and instantly spreading the word.
Blasting ads at this generation is a waste of time and money. Relevance and interactivity is the only way to communicate.
And they want humor.
Over the past couple months I’ve found myself recommending Disrupted to members of various boards that I’m on, to my university president, to colleagues. All of us in the marketing world know traditional media is dead to those under 50. Disrupted presents its findings and explains how iGen is  communicating and if you don’t get on board – not just with the social media but understanding the way they’re  thinking, seeing the world and acting in it – you are a historical footnote.
At lunch recently, I ran these ideas past a 17-year-old female songwriter who’s going to college to major in philosophy. She nodded in agreement and added: “I Google things I’m interested in so I’ll get Google and Facebook ads about them.”
Read that sentence until it sinks in. They don’t complain about advertising. They invite brands that interest them.
And Brand, once you’re in, you’d better be real, relevant, transparent, have a sense of humor and a social conscience.
Disrupted passed the iGen test.  It’s the Bible for today’s marketing.

Putting The Public Back in Public Relations: Part 2

I enter part two of the review of Putting the Public Back in Public Relations reminding you that I think the book  is  valuable.

Putting the Public neatly summarizes the demise of the traditional media and the rise of the social media and PR 2.0.

It’s  ironic that the authors understand and capture  well the new media and the need to communicate ideas  in a quick, concise, clear way that’s tailored to our particular audience, and it takes them 300 pages to do it.

-A 300-page novel is not outmoded.

-A 300 page book on social media is.  With more thought and a good editor it could have been at least 50 fewer pages.

-As soon as it’s published, any references to Robert Scoble’s posts, or Chris Anderson’s blacklist is not news.  In the PR 2.0 world, this stuff is ancient history.

Granted, the  book is both a guidebook and history. But 300 pages is still too long.

The authors repeat things over and over.  I’m sure they’re doing it to drive home their points.  But I, like others, am reading this book because I already read the leading blogs,  listen to podcasts (which is where I heard an interview with them, leading me to buy the book), engage in Twitter, read AdAge and Wired and and follow Scoble.

In the larger picture, these are niggling complaints.  The authors have done a service to a profession in profound evolution, providing a pioneering work that’s  a textbook for the future of PR.

As the authors point out, we’re in the time of a huge transition.  PR is in an era of telling stories and being a part of a community that we understand and contribute to.

With each chapter I found myself grabbing a pencil to mark passages where Brian and Deirdre offer up insight, truth and a clearer way into PR’s future.

Just as importantly, I’ve subscribed to their blogs and sites to keep up with the conversation that they initiated.

Putting the Public Back in Public Relations, A Review

One of my favorites podcasts is FIR (For Immediate Release) with Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson. I was intrigued with a recent interview  with Brian Solis and Deirdre Breakenridge about their new book Putting the Public Back in Public Relations.
I bought the book.
I’m working my way through it now. I say “working” because it’s not an easy read. I appreciate that. I’ve read so many breezy books filled with slogans, cliches and battle cries that having to really concentrate is a nice change of pace.

I’m reviewing this in two parts because it brings up a lot of issues in this time of apocalyptic transition in communications.

The book revolves around the concept of “PR 2.0,” coined by Solis. It takes a realistic look at what’s wrong with PR today (PR hacks, spammers, lazy “pros” who don’t know or care about the audience they’re pitching to).  I like it.  Call a hack a hack and go forward.  Show them how to improve and if they don’t, follow Wired editor Chris Anderson’s lead and blacklist them.

The book has five parts: “The True Value of PR;” “Facilitating Conversations: New Tools & Techniques;” “Participating in Social Media;” “A Promising Future;” “Convergence.”

The authors do a good job of looking briefly at the history of PR and how after 100 years it has morphed from “throwing it out there and seeing what sticks” to getting to know the “people formerly known as your audience,” participating in conversations and giving and taking.

It’s a huge  transition to go from a century of traditional media that force fed the masses to a global community of “tribes” as Seth Godin defines it.

I started my career as a reporter for a daily newspaper.  I also wrote review columns and did weekly radio shows.  I was an intimate part of the traditional media and I welcomed its downfall in the onslaught of  the rowdy, free-for-all world of blogs, podcasts, vidcasts, and Twitter.

Putting The Public. . . captures this transition very well.  In every chapter I learned something new.

There are also things  I take issue with.

More in Part 2.

Ignore Questions & Critics at Your Own Peril

Listened to a great episode  on the For Immediate Release podcast. An Australian  t-shirt company, Cotton On was making t-shirts for babies that were a little risque.  (It looks like they’ve since pulled the line).

One saying was particularly offensive.  A mother sent a note to a prominent mommy blogger about the slogan’s  insensitivity.  The mommy blogger wrote to the company asking for clarification about the offensive t-shirt.  She received what appeared to be a standard committee-written response that did not address the issue.

She sent another email asking if the company understood that the saying was offensive and asking if they were going to do anything to correct it.  Result:  another canned response.

The mommy blogger’s posts  began making the rounds.  A Twitter conversation formed.  You know how it works after that.  As people share the messages, make their own comments and create their own posts, it radiates outward creating a firestorm of activity.

A hash tag was created on Twitter reading “Cotton On Are Sick”.  A lot of comments were retweeted.  It finally hit the mainstream media and  Cotton On finally responded.  By now, of course, it was too late.  There was no way to undo their mistake.

They withdrew the offensive slogan with a long apology.

The lesson is not new to us in the business.  If you get inquiries from someone ins the social media, your response needs to be honest, personal, and immediate.

What used to be a 24-hour news cycle is now an immediate 140-character news cycle, as FIR cohost Shel Holtz points out.  He quoted another expert who says when queried, you have to respond immediately and in the same media where the issue appears.

It’s a fascinating episode with a case study that can apply to all of us in the business.