Archive for the ‘public relations’ Category

5 Take-Aways on Social Media and Politics

Discussion around my recent post on some alleged unethical social media use during Toronto’s mayoral election got me thinking around some broader topics that have emerged recently.

Without further ado, here are five thoughts on themes I’ve seen recently.

1. People who try to tie social media success or failure alone to campaign results are nuts

I’ve said it many times, communications is evolving away from silos and towards integrated campaigns. As this continues, we’ll see fewer and fewer stand-alone “social media” successes and more and more multi-channel successes – for example, owned properties supported by earned media, paid ads and social channels.

People who continue to produce analyses of whether social media drove the success of a candidate, or whether better social media would have improved the odds of a candidate, are missing the bigger picture. We should be looking at the overall communications approaches of campaigns, and how they communicate the selling points of candidates and parties.

Take-away: Consider the bigger picture rather than analyzing artificial silos.

2. Buzz is very different to mobilization

The volume of online chatter about a candidate may say something about candidates, but is very, very different to activating those people to take action. The fact that people are discussing something doesn’t mean they are going to do anything about it. That’s especially the case when the online discussion is passive – that is, that it’s happening about offline activities but isn’t backed-up with online engagement or a call to action.

Take-away: Share of voice is only one metric. Look at other metrics alongside it, and analyse those metrics to provide useful insights and recommendations.

3. Social media doesn’t reach everyone

…and neither does the Globe and Mail. Neither does cable news. That’s why organizations – political and non-political – need to adopt communications approaches that integrate multiple media to reach people, multiple times, with consistent, simple and compelling content.

Take-away: Bring marketing, media and PR together to create integrated plans for optimum results.

4. Crises CAN emerge online

Crisis communications is a fascinating topic nowadays. There are plenty of scenarios where a situation can emerge online and translate into a critical election issue. For that reason it’s critical that organizations monitor online channels – and not just about themselves, but about their key issues – on an ongoing basis to identify issues early and provide additional time to mitigate them.

Take-away: Monitor before issues emerge, rather than after they hit, to create additional opportunities for issues management.

5. Communications can only solve so much

You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. Communications can’t solve everything. If your policies are poor, good communications won’t help. If your product or service is poor, or your customer service is awful, good communications is likely to draw more peoples’ attention to that.

Yes, poor communications can ruin even the best policies – the best policy in the world is no use in a campaign if no-one understands it or knows about it – but communications can only do so much.

Take-away: Make sure the underlying fundamentals are good before pointing the finger at communications.

The Biggest Challenge Digital Communicators Face

Let’s chat about the biggest challenge I think digital communicators on the agency side face nowadays.

  • It’s not measurement
  • It’s not integrating channels in their programs
  • It’s not thinking strategically while selecting tactics

Don’t get me wrong – all of these are significant and important challenges. However, there’s a bigger one that over-arches all of them:

When we go into organizations and explain the way communications is shifting, we’re often telling people that the way they’ve communicated their whole career, and the way they see things working, is changing.

We’re telling people that their comfort zone is no longer in the right place.

Take the video interview I posted the other day, for example. When Sylvain Perron asked me what trends I see growing over the next while, I replied with two broad trends:

  1. Increased integration and decreased silos
  2. A shift from campaigns to long-term engagement

Each of these runs counter to the way that many people think.

Silo-busting

Senior marketing decision makers have often spent their whole careers thinking in terms of public relations (sometimes corporate and marcom), advertising, internal communications and, more recently, digital communications. They’re seen as discrete channels, often with their own AORs.

Nowadays, we’re moving to a place where the various channels overlap significantly, as shown in the graphic above (hat tip to David Armano).

This means both additional work to coordinate multiple agency partners, but also a need for much tighter integration between tactics, and as that happens the roles of different media are shifting (Forrester’s Sean Corcoran wrote about this late last year).

Shifting from campaigns to engagement

Many marketers have spent many years operating using a campaign model. These are characterized by large spikes in activity which drive spikes in attention from target audiences.

This model is a recipe for wasted resources in today’s communications environment.

In a system where we’re able to foster, curate and engage communities of interest around common goals, the approach of making a big splash then disappearing is highly inefficient. Not only do you drop back from that initial level of engagement, you also risk creating social media scorched earth as you do so.

Take campaign-based Facebook pages, for example.

Creating a one-shot Facebook page then deleting it is like spending thousands of dollars on a campaign that builds your email list, only to then take that email list and burn it when the campaign is done.

Instead, ongoing community engagement paired with regular spikes in activity can provide ongoing awareness and a platform from which to build with more major initiatives, while fostering brand advocates within that community.

Again, a shift.

This can be a hard shift to accept for people who are used to operating differently.

Tips to face the challenge

So how can we deal with this sensitively? Here are four tips:

  1. Be clear that this is an evolution. People aren’t doing things wrong; they just need to adjust to operate within this evolving media environment
  2. Educate your clients. Provide basic training, but also regular ongoing insights into trends, tools and useful pointers that can help busy clients to stay on-top of rapidly evolving trends.
  3. Recognize that things won’t change overnight. Many clients will continue to operate with discrete channels for campaigns. That means you may need to work closely with other agencies to develop plans.
  4. Help clients to coordinate. Agencies are all competing for a slice of the digital pie. That’s fine from a broader sense, but once you’re working on a campaign it’s important that that all ends and that agencies collaborate to ensure campaigns integrate. Work with your clients to help to structure roles and responsibilities within their agency team.
  5. Remember – while we may understand and be on-board with these changes, not everyone is as excited. Change can be scary until you have a handle on what’s going on. As consultants, it’s our job to give the best advice we can and to help our clients work through this transition.

So, what do you think? What other tips would you offer? Share them in the comments.

Digital Communications Conversations Continue To Evolve

The maturation of the conversation about social media-driven PR continues.

As the “digital communications” industry (read: somewhere in the intersection of owned, earned and paid media) grows beyond the niche and towards the mainstream, the conversation at the leading end of the industry is shifting more and more from the “why” to the “how”.

Brian Solis published a great post yesterday, touching on a couple of important topics at the heart of the evolution of social media-focused communications from shiny objects to a serious business tool:

  • The continued focus of the metrics conversation on conversion as an endpoint
  • The definition of “influencers” from a client perspective

Conversion

More and more people are honing in on the importance of driving towards tangible, credible metrics. Conversions are key within that bracket. What you define as a conversion may vary depending on context, but in general the term will focus you in on sales, memberships, opt-in contacts (leads) and the like.

Why do conversions matter? Because they’re metrics that can lead to financial results (or could actually measure that themselves in the case of sales).

Folks like KD Paine, Olivier Blanchard and Rob Clark, who are neck-deep in the topic, figured this stuff out a while back but we’re slowly seeing more people hone in on it. Meanwhile, they’re focusing on how to prove value over “what you should do” and “why you should do it.”

As Chris Brogan put in a well-timed post on social media metrics today, “The social media metric that I think does matter and that is difficult to fully qualify is sentiment: the positive or negative mentions of a brand, product, service, whatever.” While unlike him I choose not to “poo-poo” measuring things like retweets, page views etc, I completely agree that in general they’re at best a proxy towards measuring more useful results, and at worst a cop-out from people unsure how to measure final results or afraid what it would show.

Influencers

Research continues to highlight the importance of context over quantity when it comes to influence. As Solis puts it:

“Brands seeking reach, presence, and connectivity must look beyond popularity and focus on aligning with the influential beacons who serve as the hubs for contextual networks or nicheworks.”

This is becoming more and more important as the early adopters who have built large followings become the focus of more and more attention from marketers – not only will the returns be greater from focusing on niche influencers in terms of success ratio; those people have more credibility within those communities.

Simply put, while I’m likely to check out a new business contact management tool if Brogan recommends it, if he suddenly recommended a lawnmower (for example), I’m much less likely to listen than if he were a credible and regular voice on that topic. That’s not a slight on him, but a reflection of the credibility that people can build up in a community that cares about their niche – that’s why sites like Pulse of the Tweeters help to drive things forward a notch.

So, the conversations on social graphs and content topics continue to converge.

Follow these trends; they’re important ones for anyone working in the digital communications space.

Interview: Aaron Goldman – Everything I Know about Marketing I Learned From Google

Aaron Goldman is the author of Everything I Know about Marketing I Learned From Google (affiliate link). Before declaring free agency earlier this week, Aaron was the founder and principal at Connectual, where he put lessons learned from Google to good use in digital marketing consulting and matchmaking.

As part of a blog tour celebrating the book launch, I took the opportunity to put a few questions to Aaron about his views on Google’s approach to marketing, and how its own social media activities have contributed to its success. You can find more information about the book at GoogleyLessons.com. I’m working my way through a review copy of the book right now; look for a review on here in the next couple of weeks.

With all of the companies taking innovative approaches to marketing nowadays, why did you choose to write about Google?

5 main reasons:

1. It’s a company I know intimately. I worked closely with Google during my 5-ish years at Resolution Media, helping brands manage paid and organic search as well as serving on Google’s agency advisory council.

2. Google’s ubiquitous. Everyone knows Google. Everyone uses Google. So it’s a company that people are familiar with.

3. Google is incredibly successful. Innovation and success don’t always go hand in hand. In Google’s case, they do. That makes it a company that many businesses look up to and aspire to be.

4. Google has a mystique and intrigue about it. People want to peek under the hood and see what makes the Googleplex tick.

5. People don’t usually think about Google as a company that does much marketing. Most folks think Google just had a great product and benefited from word of mouth. But, just because you don’t see Google ads all over your TV, doesn’t mean it’s not marketing. A lot of Google’s marketing doesn’t have media dollars attached to it.

All that said, many of the “Googley Lessons” in my book aren’t necessarily about Google’s marketing. They’re basic tenants that Google does well in other facets of its business that marketers can learn from — things like, “Relevancy Rules.”

If there’s one key insight marketers should take from your book, what would it be?

Marketing is more than just advertising.

I know I’m preaching to the choir here as this is a battle you PR pros often have to fight all the time when brands dump time and money into paid media when they could be getting better results with a little more focus on earned media.

Your book mentions the importance of data. PR has long suffered as a discipline that struggles with data and measurement. What can we as PR practitioners learn from Google’s approach to using data?

The lessons in chapters 8, 9, and 10 of my book are Test Everything, Track Everything, and Let the Data Decide.

Google is always testing. At one point, it tested 41 different shades of blue for its toolbar.

Of course, without tracking, testing is useless. Google has a bunch of great tools that marketers can use to track their efforts.

And Google doesn’t rely on intuition or gut feels. It lets the data decide the winner in each of these tests.

PR pros would be wise to take Google’s approach to continual tweaking and optimization. What worked yesterday will not work tomorrow.

And, while tracking is certainly not as easy in PR as in advertising and media, there are plenty of ways to measure impact. The key of course, is to measure actual impact — not impressions.

Now, every brand will define “impact” differently based on corporate goals but I can guarantee you no company has a goal to get 1 million Facebook likes or 1,000 retweets.

What impact did these social media indicators have on brand awareness, preference, and sales?

You feature insights from numerous marketing luminaries in your book, among them Avinash Kaushik, Google’s analytics evangelist. How do you see web analytics fitting into the modern marketing system?

Web analytics is one of the ways to do the tracking and measurement I just preached about.

And Avinash will be the first to tell you how important it is to focus on the right metrics.

When I interviewed him, Avinash told me that marketers put far too much emphasis on “input” or “acquisition” metrics like page rank or clicks. As he put it, “true glory” comes from “output” or “behavioral” metrics like bounce rate and average order value.

Going forward, the role of analytics will only increase as marketers create data-driven cultures.

How do you think Google’s social media communications activities – its numerous blogs and its Twitter presence, for example – have fed into its success?

I think Google’s social media strategy has made the company more approachable.

3 of Google’s core values are openness, transparency, and authenticity.

By having a blog and Twitter account for just about every business unit and product, Google is able to engage people in a “non-corporate” way.

Google doesn’t just use these channels to beat its chest and blast out promotional messages. It shares works-in-progress, product bugs and fixes, behind-the-scenes stories, etc.

This gives people a warm and fuzzy about Google that they just don’t get from, say, Apple. Can you imagine Apple blogging about products still in development or tweeting about product bugs?

Of course, this speaks to the difference in cultures between Google and Apple. Google is all about launch, test, fail, improve. Apple would never launch without full testing and QA.

Social media as a channel is ripe for the Google approach. If you wait to polish every single message and interaction, you’ll have missed the window of opportunity to engage a customer or potential customer — not to mention come off as unauthentic and insincere.

When Agencies Can’t Be Transparent

When approaching clients on objectives to begin social media, agencies focus on three overarching areas: consumer trust, brand engagement and transparency. Is this the approach of all agencies? No, but it can be a starting point to figure out specific end goals. Transparency can come in a few forms: the form of humanizing the brand; the form of understanding the consumer and responding; or the form of disclosing sensitive information.

But, what happens when you can’t be transparent?

The agency / client dynamic is one that varies, dependent on the brand. Agencies can be completely different than in-house PR. Some utilize their agency as a partner; while others utilize their agency as a tool. The difference lies in the fact that there is trust and disclosure with a partner, and often times, they are brought into high level discussions.

Think of your own Twitter stream. Think of what you do behind the scenes at work. Is that knowledge the same as the impression you relay on social mediums? Brands operate in the same way. There are instances and circumstances where their hands are tied. It’s not just public relations involved in social media, but the C-Suite, Legal team, customer service and more. All groups have opinions, regulations and people to answer to.

Those circumstances are never relayed, with only the facts conveyed. In crisis communications exercises in journalism school, we were taught to share only important and straight to the point facts with the public. Why, then, do we throw stones at companies and critique their responses? Should we further investigate the how of the situation, instead of jumping to the ‘Why’ so quickly?

Agencies have the double edge sword – they have pressure from their own higher-ups to execute the scenario correctly, while also answering to a client. In this world where consumers want brands to be as open as possible, it’s quite true that expectations can be set too high when an actual business comes into play. When an actual crisis happens, many tend to focus on one key area without exploring others.

Is there a point where you step back and realize the client has to make the decision, and go with it? Or do you continue to bridge your case? Is it fair to throw stones when we don’t know the situation?

Let’s discuss.

Photo credit: W Promote

This guest post was written by Lauren Fernandez, Agency Community Manager for Radian6. She blogs at LAF, is on Twitter @cubanalaf and has an insane love for the Green Bay Packers.

Writing – Critical For Communicators, But It’s Not Everything

Liam Fitzpatrick wrote a  controversial post earlier this month, saying that he thought writing skills are over-rated for communicators:

“To be honest I don’t think being a good writer matters – I’ve met plenty of great comms people who couldn’t write to save their lives and I know a few fantastic writers who I’d never trust to give communications advice.”

Shel Holtz,  David Murray and Reuben Bronee took Fitzpatrick to task, leading to two follow-up posts where he clarified and reasserted his view that other skills are more important for professional communicators. As Shel wrote:

I would never hire someone to manage communication who can’t write, nor would I hire anyone into a front-line communication job who couldn’t tell a story in words.”

This back-and-forth (which continued in the comments on those posts) got me thinking over the last few days.

So, what’s my take?

Writing is CRITICAL

Writing is an absolutely central skill for communicators. From my perspective, this applies from entry-level communicators right through to senior, experienced professionals. Frankly, it’s an important skill in many jobs  - many people outside the communications function need to communicate their ideas simply and persuasively – but for communicators, it’s critical.

At the entry level, there are few skill deficiencies that will hold you back more surely than good writing. Later on, while the type of writing you undertake may change as you rise through the ranks (more reports and proposals, and fewer news releases, for example), the importance remains throughout. What’s more, at a senior level you need to be able to review other peoples’ writing and help them to improve. That’s hard to do if your own writing skills are lacking.

Other skills are critical, too

If you’ve ever studied management theory, you may be familiar with Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory – essentially, it states that certain factors (“hygiene factors”) need to be present in jobs for people to be motivated, without actually motivating people themselves. So, without a good salary (for example) people will be de-motivated; however a good salary won’t actually motivate people more – it just needs to be present to allow other motivators to work.

Good writing skills are the equivalent of a “hygiene factor” in communicators’ careers. Without them, people are much less likely to succeed. However, they don’t make a successful communicator by themselves – there are many other important skills that are required – strategic planning, time management, inter-personal communications, math (sorry – it’s true), media relations and others come to mind, for example.

So, my perspective can be boiled down to this:

Writing is an essential skill for communicators. However, they also require skills far above and beyond this to be truly successful in the long term.

What do you think? Where does writing rank on your list of communications skills?

The Challenge – And Risk – Of Ad Agencies’ Growing Interest In Social Media

Too much has already been written about the recent Old Spice foray into social media. However, one aspect of the campaign has escaped most commentary – the firm – Wieden + Kennedy – is an ad agency. Not a PR agency, or a social media agency. An ad agency.

On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal ran an interesting story on the growing interest of ad agencies in the social media space. As they put it,

“As more and more advertising dollars flow into social media, some Madison Avenue firms are seeking to grab a piece of the action.”

The story cites several examples of ad agencies who are making a move to grow this side of their business. As they do so, they are moving into direct competition with the PR firms and social media agencies who, until recently, they have partnered with on client projects.

Many public relations folks have harped on the idea that PR agencies are best placed to serve clients’ social media needs because of their focus on relationships and conversations as part of their core business. If nothing else, Isaiah Mustafah’s wonderful social media tour de force last week proved that ad agencies can get it right online, with a combination of creativity, comedy and captivating two-way interaction. Meanwhile, however, the pragmatists among us have been observing the blurring of the lines for quite some time. I’ve argued, for example, that PR agencies can learn a lot from ad agencies including:

  1. How to better scale programs;
  2. How to plan and execute more creatively;
  3. That measurement is critical;
  4. How to effectively target their key audiences;
  5. How to better target messages.

Four challenges to PR firms from ad agencies

Public relations agencies – even those who have been working in the space for several years now – can’t ignore this evolution. The increasing attention of ad agencies raises several critical challenges from a PR and broader communications standpoint:

  1. Advertising agencies typically command bigger budgets for programs. That’s nothing new and PR people have long gnashed their teeth about that fact. However, when social media is brought into the mix, the larger budgets mean that ad agencies have more visibility, more flexibility and the potential for more creativity than PR agencies may enjoy thanks, not to their credentials or ability (though I’m not slighting them), but due to the source of their funding.
  2. Ad agencies have access to the marketing function, which often controls communications in general within organizations. That means that they will often have a shorter route to the top and, linked to the above point, may have greater influence with clients.
  3. Ad agencies are built around strong creative teams. They have the creative chops that can rival those of any PR agency.
  4. Control of the marketing side of communications means that advertising agencies have access to other assets that PR agencies may not have – graphics, logos, actors (once again, see Old Spice)

Risks if PR and ad agencies don’t work together

So, the stage is set for quite the tug of war. Trouble is, I suspect that no-one will win if a tug of war is what happens. In fact, a battle like this may hurt both sides as agencies wrestle over the grey area in client relationships. The risks of not learning from each other, and from not learning to place nicely together, are several:

  1. Fragmented social media efforts: A lack of cooperation between advertising and PR agencies, or between marketing and corporate communications functions, can lead to each doing their own thing in social media. That leads to fragmented, siloed failures as organizations roll out poorly coordinated, ineffective campaigns. As Forrester Research analyst Sean Corcoran outlined in December 2009, the different forms of media each have their own pros and cons. I suggested earlier this year that organizations need to effectively coordinate the various media channels and their complementary characteristics to  make them work together and to obtain optimal results.
  2. Sub-optimal results reduce future budgets: Siloed campaigns lead to sub-optimal results, as the weaknesses of each channel remain present without being offset by other channels. That leads to a reluctance from companies to invest in unproven technologies and techniques, leading to lower budgets for these programs in the future. Traditional approaches, which are losing efficacy over time, will continue to deliver similarly sub-optimal results in the long-term. Companies run a risk of a downward spiral with no end winner.
  3. Short-term spikes less effective: Ad agencies excel at generating attention around ideas, but can sometimes struggle more with long-term efforts – this is where the PR agencies’ focus on long-term relationships comes in, as they can plug the gaps in the timelines with sustaining tactics. Old Spice’s re-branding effort, which even has my girlfriend suggesting I try the product, will fail if it simply stops now. If that happens no-one beyond award judges will remember it in a few months. To really entrench their efforts, the agencies involved need to support the initial spike in attention with tactics that will maintain that velocity over the long term.

Conclusion

Agencies need to agree to work together to integrate their communications approaches. It can be tough – the bottom line is that their business objectives often conflict with each other. However, neither is usually “the bad guy” and it can work. If that doesn’t happen, clients need to establish a framework that ensures agencies work with each other, rather than against each other, with cooperation established as a key criteria when evaluating agency performance. For that to happen, companies need to resolve their own internal conflicts between marketing and public relations. Good agencies can help clients make that happen.

What do you think? Have you experienced this blurring of the traditional lines between agencies? How well do you think agencies can hope to work together, given their conflicting objectives?

A Dark Future For Journalism – The Editorial/Ad Wall Is Down

Several weeks ago we received a presentation from a major Canadian newspaper publisher entitled “New Approach to Media Relations for PR Consultants.” In it, the presenter outlined a new process available for PR folks pitching their clients’ work. While I couldn’t attend at the time, I obtained a copy of the deck and got a thorough debrief from the people who were in the room. I’m glad I did, as what I learned horrified me.

Worried businessmanI waited for a while before writing this post, as I let the implications of what I learned sink in and decide if I was over-reacting. I found myself back where I started, though – in a state of something approaching despair about the state of the mainstream media and what it means for public relations as we know it.

The bottom line: the newspaper publisher was directly pitching us the promise of editorial coverage paired with advertising. Quoting their presentation:

“We can help your clients marry their PR message with their Advertising message to strengthen their brand.”

The Old Media Relations Process

As it stands, you can simplify the basic existing process down to three steps once an initiative is underway (yes, this is dramatically over-simplified but it covers the basics):

  1. Develop a news release or pitch
  2. Send the release over the wire/pitch it to journalists
  3. Hope for the best

The Emerging Process

The new approach to media relations, according to the publisher:

  1. Call your “friendly” contact and tell them about:
    • The product
    • The key message
    • Target audience
    • Target markets
  2. Provide publisher with:
    • Editorial themes to complement your key message
    • When you want it in market
    • Where you want it in market
  3. “Open the newspaper(s) and view the editorial content inspired by you and your client with their brand ad exclusively displayed on that page.”

Sounds like a PR person’s dream, right? It might be, if it weren’t for six words in that last bullet. Six words which undermine the entire premise of earned media:

“…with their brand ad exclusively displayed…”

That’s right – they’ll even guarantee exclusivity for your brand on a page, as your ads will make up the rest of the page.

What this means

I get it. The benefits are clear for both sides here. For newspapers, they gain additional revenue while requiring fewer resources to produce the editorial content required to fill their publication.
From an agency perspective, the benefits again are clear - they get the one thing they've always lacked with earned media: control. Control over the message, over the content, over the target audience for coverage. What’s more, they get exclusivity on the page – jackpot.

On the flip side, it seems the church and state divide in media – the editorial/advertising divide – has completely crumbled. Buy ads in their papers, and they’ll even consider your target audience when they write what they still insist is “100% editorial.” My ethical alarm bells are sounding loud and clear here.

An end to credibility?

While only a naive person would suggest that the advertising/editorial line was ever completely steadfast, the credibility that came with independent coverage is what lent “earned media” its title and its value – you had to earn your coverage.

While the presenter insisted that this was only the case for certain sections of their publications, and that the front section was separate to this, it’s a very slippery slope when these companies are desperate for revenue.

This also raises the question of influence on other sections of the paper. Will an editor really run a positively-toned, on-message story for an advertiser against an investigative or negatively-toned piece in another section?

All of these questions further undermine the credibility of the publication. With credibility gone, where does this leave traditional earned media?

(Photo: Shutterstock)

Seven Reasons Your Company Needs To Prepare For Crises

Does your company have a communications plan for when it gets hit by a crisis?

Chances are, you don’t. Time and time again I’ve seen organizations plow ahead with communications programs that focus on generating proactive results, but do little to prepare for the flip side.

In the last few days we’ve seen another example of activism in social media, as Facebook users slammed Nestle for its environmental and business practices in the developing world. It’s yet another demonstration of the fact that if your organization is doing something that could be seen to be unethical, people now have a voice with which to respond.

If you’re not yet convinced of the need to prepare for an event such as this, consider the following:

1. At some point, your company WILL do something that upsets people.

It’s inevitable. At some point, you will do something that won’t make everyone happy – whether it’s raising prices, laying off staff, recalling a product or something else. It’s going to happen. While that doesn’t guarantee the kind of backlash that Nestle received, the chances of people voicing their concerns online is constantly rising as adoption of these tools increases.

2. It doesn’t matter if you’re using social media.

In Nestle’s case, their own property got hijacked. However, McNeil wasn’t using social media tools when the Motrin issue hit last year. While your social media properties may provide a lightning rod for criticism (which has pros and cons), not having them doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

3. You can’t plan reactively.

It’s too late to plan for a crisis when the crisis is already happening. It didn’t work in the old traditional media world, and it certainly doesn’t happen in the world of social media, where things move many times faster.

4. It’s easier than ever for people to organize.

Recent Canadian examples like the prorogation of the Canadian Parliament and the proposed introduction of a new Canadian Copyright Act have shown it’s becoming easier and easier for people to self-organize around issues that matter to them.

5. Slacktivism still gets attention.

Slacktivism is a term most people hadn’t heard of a year or two ago. It essentially means the act of doing something nominal in support of a cause (signing an online petition; joining a Facebook page, etc) which makes the person feel good but does little to further the cause. The flip side of “slacktivism,” though, is that right now it still gets media attention. While that may change over time as the novelty wears off, do you want to take that chance?

6. Control is a myth.

I’ve been saying this in presentations for a long time now – you don’t control the message. A news release issued six hours after a crisis breaks is no longer sufficient – you need to be prepared to monitor in real time and respond quickly if necessary. If you’re not prepared for when another party advances their agenda, you’ll be off-balance when it matters most.

7. Mistakes make the crisis worse.

Nestle compounded the problem with abrupt responses from their rep on their Facebook. Mistakes like that can sabotage any chance of calming the storm early. Having a plan, and practicing it, is critical – that’s why governments do things like emergency simulations (difference is their mistakes may cost lives), and why you should do them too.

Given all of these reasons, why would you NOT have a crisis communications plan?

(Image: Shutterstock)

Evolving the Social Media Marketing Ecosystem

In January this year I put forward my thoughts on the social media marketing ecosystem in which we operate in 2010. It looked like this:

While this relatively complex model is great to help shape the thinking of organizations wrestling with a plethora of products, it’s also a little complex for organizations without those massive resources. These organizations, which comprise the majority of the market, just don’t have the staff, resources or time to deal with such a complex set of properties.

So, I went back to the drawing board – not to re-think the model, but to boil it down to one simple enough for the majority of people to digest. The result: a simplified model of the social media marketing ecosystem:

All of the complex dynamics within the original system are still accounted for within this simplified diagram, but the framework as a whole is much easier to digest.

In addition to earned, paid and owned media (summarized as “company website” and properties on other sites), this model has an additional sphere on top of Sean Corcoran’s framework, on top of which the original ecosystem model was developed – social networks. This raises the question – should Corcoran’s model have an additional row? What might it look like? (thanks to Joe Thornley for prompting this line of thinking)

It’s a tough call. For one thing, the “social media” row might look a lot like the other rows in many ways; borrowing aspects from owned and earned media in particular. For another, any definition of the role of social media is surely going to be controversial.

I’m a glutton for punishment though, so I put together a starting point – Corcoran’s model, revised with a new row for social media.:

Does social media deserve its own row here, or does its rapid evolution over the past few years simply mean it is intertwined among the other media types in today’s communications environment?

What do you think?