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Archive for the ‘pr’ Category

roby's war

photo by Roby DiGiovine

Solid piece by John Bell over at Digital Influence on the relatively new and ever evolving PR discipline of digital crisis management this week. This is pretty timely as I keep running into PR departments and firms just now starting to get comfortable with the notion:

It’s almost a joke amongst communication pros. The first step isn’t the YouTube video response. It isn’t evaluating whether the Twitter uproar is gaining velocity or dying out. It isn’t even pulling your comms team together for a crisis meeting internally to figure out what to do. The first step is, of course, preparing for the crisis before it ever happens.

Bingo. John goes on to list a simple 4-step plan to get your organization (or client’s organization) up and running:

1. Get a Listening post program in place immediately. If you are not listening to your public across the entire Social Web – blogs, Twitter, Social networks, opinion and review sites – then you are at risk.

2. Get the C-suite smart about social media as a communications phenomena and channel. Any significant crisis is going to bubble up to the CEO of President to make decisions. Sure, s/he will look for advice from the VP of Communications, legal teams and more but that CEO will want to make their own decision. If she doesn’t understand the power of the social Web, then s/he may make a bad decision.

John suggests creating a training session specifically designed for the top executives, setting up an RSS feed for them and reviewing it weekly (showing them how to add and remove feeds on their own won’t hurt), and inviting them to your regular Social Media training sessions and discussions.

Great advice. PR and Social Media shouldn’t be treated by executives as some distant dominion of legal and coms. Today more than ever, executives need to learn to take ownership of this particular skillset, particularly CEOs. Business leaders are expected to comment and intervene in times of crisis, and waiting until the proverbial fit hits the shan to get a C-suite exec ramped up on all of this is ill-advised, to say the least. Start a program now, make it digestible and convenient, and plan to help your C-suite’s practical grow over time. This doesn’t stop with introductions and cursory overviews. This is monthly training for the rest of their tenure.

Here’s more:

3. Build a list of likely scenarios. Chances are your communications team already does this. What if our product or service fails and injures people? What if an executive is caught doing something shady? What if a video portraying some terrible act in our stores is published to YouTube? What if a growing collection of customer bloggers start talking about a customer service-nightmare together? What if detractors organize online and begin to use social media to attack you or your client? You can’t imagine every scenario, but if you identify the most obvious ones including the platforms online where they could manifest you can start to imagine the responses necessary.

4. Create your digital crisis management procedures and integrate into your larger playbook. Two simple ideas here: A) Plan your use of social media to respond and B) make sure you integrate with your other means of response (e.g. traditional media, outreach to stakeholders, internal communications).

The idea being that having an actual plan, having run your department through crisis response drills even, and establishing a procedural framework will help you respond faster and better than not having a solid plan at all. Common sense? Sure! But how many companies have well-thought-out, current crisis response plans in place today?  Quick: Whose responsibility is it to manage your social media channels? Do you know who the influential bloggers are in your industry? Which ones can you reach out to for help and which ones will turn on you? How will you respond to conversations and questions on Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere? Who does what and how?

This isn’t something John suggests in his article, but consider running your communications team and your organization through drills. You know, like fire drills. Create a mock crisis scenario and test your company’s response to it via traditional media, social web, internal communications, HR, IT, customer service, etc. Observe, find out what works and what doesn’t, note how disruptive (if at all) responding to a crisis is to the organization (as this is good to know) and conduct a post exercise debrief to help everyone absorb all of the lessons learned. Then make the necessary changes and repeat until you are satisfied that your crisis management procedure is tip-top.

Drafting a document that clearly outlines crisis management procedures for your organization – defining roles, steps to be taken, channels, tactics, timelines, etc. – will be extremely helpful in the event of a real emergency. Best practices in this area may warrant recruiting representatives of all departments and forming a crisis response committe that meets regularly to review crisis response planning, division of roles, internal training, and interdepartmental collaboration. (Companies that place the full burden of crisis management – digital or otherwise – on their PR departments usually find out pretty quickly that a PR department alone cannot handle most crises on its own. Companies that plan for crises, however, rarely have to worry about them when they do occur.

Why is this relevant to Brands? Because some day, your taco or soft drink might make someone sick. Your car may have faulty wiring that will cause injuries and deaths. Your delicious nougat chocolate bar or seasoned potato chips might cause unexpected allergic reactions in children. Your dog food will kill thousands of family pets. Your laptop batteries will explode and start house fires. Your yard chairs will collapse without warning. Your medication will turn out to cause severe internal tissue damage when taken with alcohol. Your product will become the principal target of environmentalists. Your CFO will be arrested in Argentina with tens of millions of your investors’ dollars. Your principal supplier will be featured on 60 Minutes for operating illegal sweat shops in thirteen countries.

The impact of these types of situations on a brand, your brand, can be severe. Not having a plan in place (and a solid plan at that) puts you in a terribly vulnerable position, and could sink even the most respected company’s image. (Think back to Tylenol scare in the 80’s, Nike’s sweat shop allegations in the 90’s, and Taco Bell’s decision to remove certain food items from their menu when e-coli and salmonella outbreaks in the US threatened to undermine the public’s faith in their food’s safety.) So take another look at these four steps, and put together a crisis response plan that involves digital media and the social web. The benefits may not be immediate, but someday, you will be glad you took the time to do it.

For John’s full article, go here.

Have a great Tuesday, everyone. 🙂

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A reading from the book of Brian:

As we’ve learned over the last several years, markets are defined by conversations and those discussions reveal everything about perception and awareness. We must, at some level, continually listen to, and identify, and join relevant discussions, even at the risk of creating less original content on our host platforms. Yes, that’s right. Participation isn’t only defined by producing content. It’s also about supporting and responding to the thoughts and work of others.

Through participation, we earn relationships and hopefully build authority by contributing helpful advice, information and insight. We also learn more about the subjects in which we’re interested, creating a deeper understanding of the dynamics associated with not only the subject matter, but also the community view and reaction to it. In the process, we establish and cultivate our online brand, reputation, and associated expertise that is only fortified through every new piece of content we publish and every comment we share.

If you aren’t already familiar with Brian Solis and his Pr 2.0 blog, go check it out. Subscribe to the RSS and add it PR 2.0 to your blogroll. Fantastic insights in every post.

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In a nutshell.

Hat tip to Francois Gossieaux, who grabbed the baton from Digital Demystified.


Update: Spike over at Brains on Fire just pointed out that the original source is Marty Neumeier’s ZAG.

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Oh no they didn’t.

“At 36lbs, 33″ long and 9″ wide at the front element, calling this lens a ‘tele’ is like calling King Kong a monkey.”

At $99,000 a pop, I doubt that B&H is going to sell many. And since there are only a few dozen of these lenses in existence, that point is moot.

What I see here isn’t a monster lens, but a brilliant bit of self promotion by B&H.

Well played, sirs. Well played indeed.

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I am always amazed when well-funded and intelligently managed militant organizations on either side of the political, religious, corporate or socioeconomic aisle attempt to thwart the success of a movie, song, book or work of art by giving it more free publicity than it could have ever hoped for… and by doing so, end up ensuring its success.

Where would Madonna be without the legion of pro-family boycotters banding against her? How many of us would have ever heard of the Chocolate Jesus without the noise made by the folks who were so offended by that otherwise insignificant piece of art that they had to tell all the world about it? It goes on and on and on.

The latest installment in the boycott-to-fame saga: The Catholic League vs. New Line’s The Golden Compass. Here is the CL’s official stance on the matter (from their website):

“New Line Cinema and Scholastic Entertainment have paired to produce ‘The Golden Compass,’ a children’s fantasy that is based on the first book of a trilogy by militant English atheist Philip Pullman. The trilogy, His Dark Materials, was written to promote atheism and denigrate Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism. The target audience is children and adolescents. Each book becomes progressively more aggressive in its denigration of Christianity and promotion of atheism: The Subtle Knife is more provocative than The Golden Compass and The Amber Spyglass is the most in-your-face assault on Christian sensibilities of the three volumes.

“Atheism for kids. That is what Philip Pullman sells. It is his hope that ‘The Golden Compass,’ which stars Nicole Kidman and opens December 7, will entice parents to buy his trilogy as a Christmas gift. It is our hope that the film fails to meet box office expectations and that his books attract few buyers. We are doing much more than hoping—we are conducting a nationwide two-month protest of Pullman’s work and the film. To that end, we have prepared a booklet, ‘The Golden Compass: Agenda Unmasked,’ that tears the mask off the movie.

“It is not our position that the movie will strike Christian parents as troubling. Then why the protest? Even though the film is based on the least offensive of the three books, and even though it is clear that the producers are watering down the most despicable elements—so as to make money and not anger Christians—the fact remains that the movie is bait for the books. To be specific, if unsuspecting Christian parents take their children to see the movie, they may very well find it engaging and then buy Pullman’s books for Christmas. That’s the problem.

“We are fighting a deceitful stealth campaign on the part of the film’s producers. Our goal is to educate Christians so that they know exactly what the film’s pernicious agenda really is.”
Oh please.

Being that I am Catholic myself (hey, nobody’s perfect) I am being bombarded by some of my peers and local Catholic organizations with pro-Catholic/anti-Golden Compass propaganda every single day. That is all these people are talking about. I am getting emails, newsletters, petitions… Seriously. It’s getting old.

As if there weren’t enough other things that the Catholic League could be focusing its attention on – like war, famine, child abuse, corporate fraud, violence against women, poverty, out-of-control Sith lords, whatever the hell is going on with Michael Jackson’s nose… or the Devil, even. He’s still around, right? Causing all sorts of mischief and whatnot? Wouldn’t any of these things be worthier of the Catholic League’s energy and focus than New Line’s release of The Golden Compass?


You would think.

But I digress.

If the Catholic League is really bent on thwarting the success of The Golden Compass‘ release in the US, they are going about it in the worst possible way. Let me explain:

Before Bill Donohue and his army of politically charged minions (none of whom have seen the movie, by the way) decided to start this gi-normous publicity campaign for… err… against The Golden Compass, I wasn’t all that interested in the movie or the books. I figured “oh, this must be another C.S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia/Harry Potter/Eragon/Lord of the Rings derivative dealio. Whatever.”

I might have been convinced by the family unit to go spend $10 to see it on the big screen, but that would have been it.

Maybe.

But now, thanks to the Catholic League’s unavoidable barrage of warnings against the story’s allegedly venomous anti-Catholic message and pernicious atheist agenda, I have grown curious about not only the movie… but the books as well. I mean really. How dangerous can this fictional yarn be to stir militant Catholics so?

CL President Bill Donohue should feel pretty proud of himself: Thanks to the holy media blitzkrieg he has unleashed upon the United States population, I am now the proud owner of all three books in the trilogy, and have officially started reading The Golden Compass. (It’s actually pretty damn good, and not at all a children’s book – not in the sense that Harry Potter is a children’s book anyway.)

Apparently, I am not alone, as three other parents (accompanied by kids ages 6-15) were in my local B&N’s checkout line to buy at least one of the books this past Sunday when I was there.

I look forward to thumbing my nose at the picket lines protesting the movie at the local multiplex next week when I go see it.

(Please don’t excommunicate me! Pretty please?)

The result of the Catholic League’s brouhaha/boycott/bonehead campaign:

– More attention towards the movie’s release than a two-week volley of primetime TV ads and judiciously placed banner ads – all for free.
– More interest in the source material (the book) that the movie is based on.
– Most likely a significant boost in revenue for both the movie and books compared to a scenario in which the Catholic League had just kept its big clumsy mouth shut.
– And last but not least, a renewed personal interest in the very tasty Nicole Kidman.

(Yes Madam Kidman.)

For an organization so terrified of a series of books that (in its collective mind at least) criticizes the Catholic Church through a fictitious religious dictatorship that exists in an alternate dimension, I just can’t help but wonder if constantly pointing out to every human being within reach of a radio, TV or newspaper that the books’ depiction of that scheming, corrupt, evil theocracy is in fact a direct attack on the Vatican is a good idea. Seems to me that in terms of PR, this sort of strategy actually makes things worse. Not only does it establish a clear link between the fictitious Magisterium and the real Catholic Church, but also firmly cements this connection in western pop culture for the next century or two.

Doh!!!

I could be wrong, but a smarter course of action – if my goal were to try and distance the real Catholic Church’s image from the fictitious Magisterium’s evil ways – would have simply been to say something like: “The books are fiction. They are set in a fantasy world of alternate realities populated by magical creatures and talking bears. The Magisterium obviously has little in common with the Catholic Church or any Catholic institutions: We don’t torture children. Our priests don’t own pet monkeys. You aren’t likely to find Nicole Kidman lookalikes running any Catholic after-school programs. What else is there to say?”

Boycott fantasies aside, making a mountain out of a molehill does exactly that: It takes a tiny little molehill no one cared about and turns it into a mountain no one can miss.

If I were New Line Cinema, I would be writing Bill Donohue and his organization a big fat thank-you check for all the free publicity. (Well… not exactly free. The Catholic League’s 23-page anti-Gold Compass booklet is available for just $5. Hmmm…. The plot thickens.)

As for the rest of you, next time you find yourself wanting to boycott or protest a political speech, an art collection, the construction of a foreign-owned superstore in your backyard or the release of a controversial new product, give some serious thought to the effect that your protest is likely to have on the success of the thing you are speaking against.

Not always, but sometimes, quietly dismissing something works better than attracting a lot of undue attention to it.

… Unless of course, your real agenda has more to do with exploiting every possible media opportunity to raise money and recruit members than actually doing anything.

Have a great Wednesday, everyone. 😉

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From the daily ad biz blog:

Traditional advertising is not the place to be these days. Not only is it losing relevance, it is also not the best tool to accomplish a myriad of business goals. Generate engagement with core consumers, build loyalty, drive interaction rates, these are just a few of the things that traditional advertising, especially TV, just doesn’t do well in comparison to other marketing disciplines. It’s not dead by any means, but it’s not the universal answer either.

AdPulp posted this article about Nike that gives further support to my argument, in case you don’t a take a no-name blogger at his word.

Advertising has ceased to be the go-to answer when it comes to marketing questions. With that in mind, how much longer until other agencies begin to drive the brand, be they online, promotions or PR?

And you know that PR is just itching to do it and get us back for years of condescention.

Well, yeah.

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Hey, at&t: Were your PR people all on vacation today?

This morning, tech websites and marketing blogs were abuzz with outrage over this portion of at&t’s latest terms of service:

“AT&T may immediately terminate or suspend all or a portion of your Service, any Member ID, electronic mail address, IP address, Universal Resource Locator or domain name used by you, without notice, for conduct that AT&T believes (a) violates the Acceptable Use Policy; (b) constitutes a violation of any law, regulation or tariff (including, without limitation, copyright and intellectual property laws) or a violation of these TOS, or any applicable policies or guidelines, or (c) tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T, or its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries.”

A whole lot of folks mistakenly took this as at&t threatening to cut your service if you talked trash about them. (It got picked up by several major news networks in the same context as well.) Within hours, there was talk of boycotts. at&t looked well on its way to having to deal with a damaging PR disaster (for starters).

For the better part of the day, I also wondered what at&t was thinking, taking such a totalitarian censorship stance. (Even Apple wouldn’t be bold enough to take things this far.) I spent the better part of the hour I wasted sort of watching episode 2 of The Bionic Woman thinking about clever analogies to at&t‘s alleged Guestapo tactics. I imagined Volkswagen barring drivers from ever buying one of their cars again if they caught them complaining about their cars on their blog or facebook or myspace. I imagined Apple doing the same thing with its products. Delta airlines putting you on a no-flight list for emailing friends about a bad experience with their airline. Starbucks banning you from from their stores for getting caught recommending Lava Java to co-workers.

“Please step away from the counter and slowly place the scone on the ground, sir.”

No company would do this… except maybe this guy.

So I started doing a bit of research on the subject, because… at&t trying to control what customers say about them in this way didn’t make much sense. It didn’t take me long to find this on the Ars Technica blog:

An AT&T spokesperson tells Ars Technica that the company has no interest in engaging in censorship but stopped short of saying that AT&T could not in fact exercise its ability to do so.

“AT&T respects its subscribers’ rights to voice their opinions and concerns over any matter they wish. However, we retain the right to disassociate ourselves from web sites and messages explicitly advocating violence, or any message that poses a threat to children (e.g. child pornography or exploitation). We do not terminate customer service solely because a customer speaks negatively about AT&T.”

Well, duh. Too bad at&t‘s PR peeps didn’t unleash holy jihad on the scuttlebutt sooner. It’s way too late on the East Coast now, and the story is still- as I write this post – gaining traction across middle America.

Evidently, today’s events indicated that at&t‘s PR machine either doesn’t have internet access, or didn’t have a crisis plan in place for when stuff like this happens.

The term “asleep at the wheel” comes to mind… and that isn’t good.

Tssssk.

Even though this will blow over in a few days at the most, it is good to know that a) somebody is keeping tabs on potential corporate shenanigans (even if sometimes they jump the gun a little bit), and that b) outrage over the possibility of a corporation’s abuse of power still spreads across all media so quickly. (We haven’t become completely complacent after all.)

Have a great Thursday, everyone. 🙂

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