Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Remember that Amazing Tweet? Of Course You Didn’t…

December 29th, 2010

In the most recent issue of Wired, Clive Thompson offers a smart analysis on how long-form content is superior to much-hyped online buzz communications.  To support his argument, he cites a study showing that the most popular blog posts average 1,600 word count.

More importantly, Thompson puts things into perspective and explains that when we’re bombarded with multi-platform bite-sized communications, the missives are intended to be digested quickly.  But, for true, valued consumption, long-form content consistently wins because it engages readers for thoughtful analysis.  That’s something you can’t squeeze into 140 characters or less.

Praecere advises clients that while digital strategy is an important PR consideration, digital platform stability is never guaranteed.  Today’s Twitter could easily be tomorrow’s AOL.  The-next-big-thing in social media is always lurking around the corner, so instead of stressing about how to condense communications and media outreach, concentrate more on flattering the public with fun and interesting content.

After all, you’ll always remember a moving speech or essay… can you say the same about a random Tweet of Facebook status update?

No matter what, in PR, content will always trump the platform.

What’s the Price of Social Media? If You Have to Ask…

December 10th, 2010

As much as social media gets hyped as the ongoing, forever-happily-ever-after next big thing, this blog has soul-searched and been willing to criticize the grandeur often associated with the relevant platforms.  We have preached over and over that communication channels are always second to content – and that will never change in the public relations industry.

So it should come as no surprise that we’re not particularly impressed with the latest viral Facebook fad, where site users changed their profile pictures to their favorite childhood cartoon character.  To promote advocacy efforts on child abuse.  That’s it.

Er… What?!?  Ok, let’s pick this social media disaster apart:

Who’s in charge? When your business or organization launches a social media campaign, you must communicate very clearly who’s running the show.  If you can’t get this basic point across, the train’s gonna run off the rails.  We think this might be the online HQ… or is it this?

What’s the big idea? We ask this to learn more about the social media campaign, and also in the “hey, who’s that in my chair” sort of way.  Aside from making people reminisce for a few moments about childhood nostalgia, what exactly is the connection between a cartoon character and ending child abuse?  We can’t think of a single answer that passes the smell test, and that indicates the premise of the campaign is flawed.

Where’s the call to action? In other words, what are the next steps campaign organizers want users to take?  Wait… you mean there aren’t any, beyond admiring your new profile pic?  A successful social media advocacy campaign must encourage users to take some specific action that furthers the advocacy angle.

Is this even real? At this point, the whole thing gets so absurd that we wonder if it’s a hoax.  Apparently we’re not alone.  When a vast number of people think your social media campaign is a joke, that gives the effort the kiss of death.

This debacle should serve as a lesson to future social media campaigns – vet the basics and determine the value of what you’re asking for from the public.

Crisis PR Corner: foursquare Checks in to Apology Mode the Right Way

October 6th, 2010

The latest social media darling, foursquare, ran into trouble this week when its entire site went down for more than a dozen hours over two days.  All the big social networks have faced outages, so it’s certainly a common problem such sites will inevitably face.  What separates foursquare from the herd, though, is the very savvy way the site handled its crisis public relations.  To understand this, we’ll analyze fourquare’s apology and highlight the key quotes.

“We’re really sorry.” WHAT?  A big media-related company actually apologizing for its actions, instead of blaming its fans and users for its problems?  Yes, believe it with foursquare.  The smartest crisis PR step toward redemption is to apologize for your faults, and to do so in simple and clear terms.

“What happened.” With the toughest part of crisis PR out of the way, foursquare next gives a technical, but digestible, explanation of the database error that caused the site’s malfunction.  Sometimes an organization uses their explanation to hit stakeholders over the head, thinking that getting all high-and-mighty with technical smarts will distract everyone until the fire is extinguished.  That’s almost always a bad move, and smacks of arrogance.  In this case, foursquare takes time and care to give a straight-forward explanation of the error, which humanizes the site’s operators and makes the reader think, “hey, this could happen to anyone.”

“What we’ll be doing differently.” Don’t you love the nice titles in the foursquare apology?  Serves as good guideposts to get the reader through to the most important points.  The apology and explanation are only part of the crisis public relations drill; you also have to explain how things will change going forward.  This reassures skeptical foursquare users and anyone else with a stake in the site’s success.  And, setting up independent feeds and sites to keep users updated on status alerts shows discipline in the re-engineering process.

Because of this very well written apology, foursquare will continue to set the standard compared to other location-based competition.  And, judging from the overwhelming positive foursquare user comments to the blog post apology, the site earned tremendous goodwill and will live to see another day.  Bravo to the foursquare PR team!

Social Media 3.0: The “Next Big Thing” Just Might Be the “Great Tune Out”

August 30th, 2010

(Where is that “dislike” button when we want it?)

Everyone in PR is on a non-stop sugar high for the “next big thing” in social media.  We are curious as practitioners, and clients are equally curious on how to maximize business and outreach opportunities.

As with any discipline, the clues to the PR industry’s future could be in the past.  When we look at common forms of 1-to-1 marketing communications, we quickly see their pros and cons.  And, with each con comes a certain marketplace (or state) reaction.

Personal solicitation.  Pros: In person, face-to-face, about as direct as it gets.  Emotion and gestures significantly enhance the communication, and help the communicator gauge the recipient’s reaction and calibrate accordingly.  Cons: Um… when was the last time someone knocked on your door on a weekend morning?  Unless the recipient sought out the communication, solicitation is about as annoying and jarring as it gets.

Mail.  Pros: Targeted mailings can hone in on demographics and appeal directly to the likely customer base.  Low-cost production tools and software allow for slick material presentation.  Cons: Like solicitation, mail can be very annoying.  Using (wasting?) all that paper runs contrary to the common business drive to be eco-friendly.  Privacy concerns are real with stolen mail, such as credit card solicitations.

Phone.  Pros: Similar to personal solicitation, the caller can follow a script with options that directly address the recipient’s questions.  Cons: The advent of the government-mandated do-not-call registry speaks for itself.  Calls always seem to come when you get home after a long day at work, doubling your blood pressure.

Now, take a step back from the pros/cons.  If you think about it, each time these innovations in marketing/publicity appeared or became evident, they were heralded as the “new” way of communication, which everyone would be eager to embrace.  Yet as time wore on, each fell out of favor in that regard.  The communications tactics became associated with duplicity, insensitivity, and utter disregard for personal preference or privacy.

Fast-forward to today, and the hot tactic in public relations is… SocialMedia24/7In your face.  “Speak directly to stakeholders.”

As much as our industry extols social media as the most important PR trend, the problem with social media is that it too can overreach.  Indeed, with new technologies sprouting up that help people block social media feeds, it’s legitimate to ask whether social media risks being branded as the next big ANNOYING thing.  Even if users opt-in to your social media messaging, that doesn’t mean they’re thrilled with complete bombardment of everything and anything your company is doing.

Here’s a simple way to look at it.  Everyone on Facebook, Twitter, etc. likely has a friend whose inane status updates (“brushing my teeth” … “turning on the TV” … “wonders if it’s all worth it” … “boy it’s raining!”) have pushed that person to the block/unfollow wasteland.  Similarly, if your business has daily social media updates like “cleaning the floors” or “we love Mondays” or “high power bill, AGAIN!” then you’re likely overextending yourself.

The solution is to publish worthwhile content, thus not posting just for the hell of it.  This is a fact of life: when we’re wooing a client, customer, love interest, whoever – nothing speaks more than smart, substantive communications.  Your social media strategy should not be everything-and-the-kitchen-sink.  Target your promotions, updates, and messaging so that followers get excited when they read about your activity, instead of reflexively clicking “block this user.”

Take time to craft a metric-driven public relations strategy that leverages social media when relevant, but appreciate the fact that content is always king.

Hey JetBlue, What’s the ETA on Smart Social Media Strategy?

August 10th, 2010

Ah, JetBlue… Love your TVs and blue chips, but your social media strategy needs a serious overhaul.

As the new meme-to-be, the entire Steven Slater ordeal has had many twists and turns in its initial 24 hours, with only more anticipated to come.  So let’s examine the basics of the media narrative, as it currently stands: verbally abusive JetBlue passenger, disgruntled employee, terrible economy, people stickin’ it to the man, beer, jumping out of planes, and jail.

JetBlue, this is quite a news mess on your hands.  So… why is your social media strategy on the skids?  It’s quite telling that this is the most recent post on the JetBlue Facebook page:

Here’s a better social media strategy (one that some firms would gladly charge you tens of thousands of dollars for): ditch the typical lame Facebook content, and use social media to control the media narrative.

People are speaking about your company, so instead of talking about hot dogs in Chicago, address the Steven Slater issue head on and make it positive.  How about asking your 300,000+ FB fans what are their tips for unwinding and reducing stress during the hectic travel season?  Pick one tip to showcase each week, and award that person with a free round trip ticket.  Everyone loves contests!  Plus this re-engages the online community and helps it grow like never before.

The social media lesson here: The best PR agencies are vigilant – they always look for opportunities to grow and expand your brand, even when everyone thinks it’s a disaster.

Social Media Musts for Travel Businesses and Destinations

July 27th, 2010

Amazing what a difference a few months make!  After getting beat up the last several quarters, major airlines are posting big profit gains.  Of course, much of this comes from annoying fees and charges (Spirit Air remains full-speed ahead on this front), but that being said, people are traveling and spending dollars – great for the economy and new travel-related business opportunities.

As a travel destination – whether you’re a hotel, restaurant, or attraction – here are some basic social media tips to help expand your PR capabilities:

Partner with the big kids.  When it comes to positive publicity, why do the heavy lifting when other companies and organizations have already done that for you?  Partner with major locations and sites in your business area, and spread the cost of promotion across these entities.

Hit the playground.  Add your business as a venue to foursquare and create unique savings, giveaways, or other rewards for potential clients and customers.  As of now, foursquare remains in its infancy compared to other social network platforms, so its potential should only grow along with its popularity.  Keep your eyes on this one, it will likely take interesting turns in the future.

Facebook promotions.  Though it seems a bit clunky now compared to the clean, simple aesthetic of foursquare, your business absolutely must have a Facebook page.  And remember, don’t get tunnel vision on simply accumulating “likes” for your page.  That raw number is meaningless if you aren’t empowering site users to champion your business on their own.  Engage in interesting dialogue with these users and you’ll get tremendous mileage from the interaction.  This is just one way to leverage your new army of fans.

Blog at least every couple weeks.  Don’t just sit back and smile at the witty blog entry you wrote about the upcoming city festival, concert, or whatever else is about to put your area in the spotlight.  Write and publish to your business blog frequently, as it communicates to customers and clients that you care about your business’s image, down to all the small details.  Also, take advantage of basic search engine optimization tactics to make your blog (and by extension your business’s website) the go-to source for relevant travel-related inquiries.

MySpace Misses Huge PR Opportunity During the Facebook Privacy Disaster

May 21st, 2010

In the wake of Facebook’s current privacy debacle, many online commentators have been urging MySpace to make a bid to attract disaffected Facebook users.  Don’t hold your breath.  The stigma of the MySpace brand – due to its convoluted, screeching user profiles – is such that to grab any market share, the site would need a major jaw-dropping marketing and  PR campaign.  Instead, the site posted a simple, single statement on the issue.

Talk about missed opportunity!  This blog has previously echoed the famous military strategy of Napoleon: “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” But that excellent advice has nothing to with seizing the goldmine of business waiting in front of you – indeed, business that you once had!

The PR tactical considerations are almost endless, and it leaves one to wonder:

Why hasn’t MySpace … done a massive social media blitz to lampoon the privacy problems Facebook has had since its inception?

Why hasn’t MySpace … produced a video showing the ease of its privacy options compared to Facebook, and then push that video to go viral?

Why hasn’t MySpace … engaged tech reporters and key influencers in the privacy debate to educate them about the site’s simple and user-friendly privacy policy?

Why hasn’t MySpace … partnered with critics, academics and business leaders to establish thought leadership and lead a much-needed global discussion on evolving online privacy standards?

Why hasn’t MySpace … mined its existing database of dormant accountholder emails and sent them a nice, friendly note asking them to revisit a “new and improved” site?

Customers don’t just leave one business for another without understanding why the alternative is more attractive.  MySpace apparently is assuming that Facebook users automatically know about the latest version of its offerings.  Big error.

DC PR Firm Dispatch: How Mexico and Thailand Should Respond to Strife

March 16th, 2010

Simultaneous strife currently strains two countries on almost opposite sides of the world.  In Mexico, the tragic toll from drug cartel violence took a sad turn recently when an American consulate worker and her husband were killed in an ambush in Juárez.  In Thailand, nearly 100,000 protestors supporting ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra have been rallying for days against the current government.

A world apart, but the burdens are the same, socially and most certainly economically.  The violence in Mexico has caused tremendous job loss and a 7% economic contraction last year alone.  Thailand is barely getting over the hangover of its last round of political instability, when mass protests forced its international airport closed and stranded thousands of travelers for days.

Now, both countries are highly popular holiday destinations (#8 for Mexico and #17 for Thailand, globally), but these states of affairs are hardly welcoming to vacationers.  So pretend you run the communications arm for the nation.  You need to keep commerce flowing, and you don’t want foreigners scared to visit.  Therefore, consider these public relations tactics:

Explain the truth – people often simply want to know just that.  What does your government’s official website say?  How about your embassy and consulate websites globally?  Any statement placed on these sites would be picked up by the press immediately.  As with most highly-charged media narratives, the truth is often far more complicated than what’s actually broadcast.  Travelers hate to guess what’s going to happen next when planning trips to exotic destinations, so give them the honest play-by-play, and if things aren’t so bad in certain destinations then let them know.

Make it “official” via social media.  It goes without saying that Facebook, Twitter and other social media can go a long way to amplifying what your official government sites are saying.

Be prepared for the worst.  Even if your government’s honest explanation of the situation on the ground helps alleviate some concerns, you have no way of knowing what may come next.  (Um, hepatitis, anyone?)  Therefore, keep your eyes on the ball and make sure to have planned responses and statements ready.

When things improve, make sure people know.  Everyone likes to hear about improvements and success.  When your country gets a situation under control make sure to publicize the improvements to help build confidence.

Welcome to the Blog Aesthetic

November 13th, 2009

Welcome to the inaugural post of The Blog Æsthetic!  As the official blog of Praecere Public Relations, Æsthetic will offer regular commentary on the most intrepid and cutting edge trends in public affairs.

The philosophy behind the Praecere approach is to make the client be present in any issues-based debate.  The name Praecere is derived from the Latin word “præsens” which means “being there” and where we get the word “present” – as in “I am here, and I am ready to listen and speak.”  People and organizations often desire to be part of high-profile issues conversations, whether they are focused on health care, technology, foreign policy or any other hot issue of the day.  The question is, how can we join these conversations when just trying to understand the issues is overwhelming enough?

As we gravitate toward social media as the dominant form of gathering and processing news and information, we must embrace the reality that traditional methods of media exposure and publicity continue their march toward obsolescence.  Even more troubling are reports of declining press accuracy.  Therefore, those with a stake in issues debates must ensure that their perspective – being for/against an issue – is both captured and portrayed accurately in media reports.

So how can you make sure your voice is heard?  And that your words aren’t taken out of context?  We can devote much discussion to publicity tactics and methods, the good, bad and ugly.  And as this blog develops, with your feedback we intend to explore the subject matter thoroughly.  We encourage you to follow Æsthetic as the conversation develops, and want you to be our partner in analyzing these trends in public affairs.