Archive for February, 2012

Social Media…Enter At Your Own Risk

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Crisis: any event that is, or expected to lead to, an unstable and dangerous situation affecting an individual, group, community or whole society. Crisis is deemed to be negative changes … especially when they occur abruptly, with little or no warning.

Many PR pros shudder at the mention of “crisis management.” Whether it’s a product recall, an embarrassing misstep by an executive, or a poor decision made by the leadership of a group or company, a crisis must be handled very, very carefully as it can impact a huge group of people, shareholders or political groups. If you don’t believe me, think back to the Tylenol scare, and the
recalls by Honda and Toyota.

Recently the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® cut funds to Planned Parenthood which generated an outcry from abortion rights advocates blaming “political pressure” and praise from an anti-abortion group. This announcement created quite a storm of heated blog postings, interviews and written opinions, some attacking the Komen Foundation and some attacking right-wing activities.

Putting politics aside, there are a few core PR issues to examine in this debacle that are highlighted in these comments from other blog posts.

Mistake #1: Why didn’t Komen/Planned Parenthood hash this out beforehand?

Yet the two organizations had been in talks for weeks beforehand!  In other words, there were plenty of red flags raised along the way to know things could get touchy.  Lesson: have a crisis plan ready; this could get ugly. PR Squared blog

Mistake #2: Who controls the story?

Komen has let its opponents, and Planned Parenthood, control the story. Seemingly caught completely off-guard by the backlash, their entire strategy has been defense, and pretty poorly executed defense at that. Forbes

As Komen for the Cure Foundation found out the hard way, in this digital age of instant communication one does not define itself, but is subject to the definition placed upon it by others. O’Dwyer’s

Mistake #3: Ignore it and it will go away.

What matters is they’re sticking their heads in the sand and pretending no one is upset by the decision by deleting the negative comments from their Facebook wall. Spin Sucks blog

Mistake #4: Backtracking

After the self-induced PR disaster, the breast cancer organization wants everybody to “pause, slow down and reflect on how grants can most effectively and directly be administered without controversies that hurt the cause of women.” It should have done that in the first place. Rather than dishing out the self-serving apology, Komen should have just said, “Sorry. We made a mistake in cutting funding to Planned Parenthood. It won’t happen again. Thank you for your support.” O’Dwyer’s

Mistake #5: Who planned this?

The story of how Komen got consumers seeing red, rather than pink, says a lot about how social-media wildfire can singe even the most fireproof of brands. But it also demonstrates how inconsistent communications can fan the flames, and illustrates how quickly sponsors can become engulfed in controversy. AdAge blog

What’s most interesting to me is how social media, such as blogs, Twitter and Facebook, not only fanned the flames of outrage, but shared the messages with such a vast audience. Whether it’s blogging from Tahrir Square in Egypt during the Arab Spring or congratulating fellow New York Giants fans after their Super Bowl win, the ability to communicate on a global basis is truly amazing.

So the question is…how have you and your clients adopted social media as part of your planning or campaign process?



The Evolving Role of Social Media In Business & Society

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012


Social media may well go down as one of the more significant inventions in history. It probably too soon to tell, but it may well be on the same scale as the invention of the Guttenberg press which democratized the sharing of information. Look at the Arab Spring in 2011 which, via Twitter and other social sites, helped people in countries like Egypt and Libya share video images and commentary from countries that rarely, if ever, show public displays of dissent.

Companies of all shapes and sizes now use tools like Twitter and Facebook to connect with customers and streamline how their companies operate. While the benefits of social media have been hard to measure, companies are beginning to see tangible results by using social media. I just read a research paper titled “When Social Meets Business Real Work Gets Done” that talks about the importance of “socializing marketing and sales assets to reduce search costs and redundant work.” The paper, authored by Andrew McAfee, a principal research scientist at the MIT Sloan Center for Digital Business and the AIIM Task Force on Social Business and Innovation, goes on to say that “more than 60 percent of firms who did invest in collaborative frameworks achieved big gains in knowledge sharing and communication accuracy between marketing and sales.”

Another example of the importance of social media came just last week. Citizens were able to send in questions for the President to answer following the recent State of the Union address via social media site Quora. A special page was set up to live-stream video of President Obama’s address and asked users to submit and follow questions about economic and domestic policies. How often do average citizens get to connect in a one-on-one fashion with the leader of the free world?

Yet social media has also opened a Pandora’s box of other issues.

Is private information shared via a social media outlet considered public news? For example, the recent death of Penn State’s head football coach, Joe Paterno, was erroneously reported on a student-run website called Onward State. While news organizations love to get the first to report the news, it’s critical to actually get the news right. This is an obvious goal of any news site but with instant access to information comes the responsibility of news sites and other organizations to be held accountable. In the case of the snafu by Onward State, the Associated Press cited the need for “conditions of accuracy” when the editors decided not to run the story of Coach Paterno’s death since it couldn’t get proper confirmation.

For PR pros the continued growth of and reliance on social media as a way to broadly share information has created an interesting dilemma. Some editors want to be contacted via phone calls and e-mails (in other words the traditional means of communicating). Other editors are social media proponents. Regardless of the method to contact others or share information, PR folks like us need to remember some of the core principles of media relations and journalism. In other words, get your facts straight and your story right!

To me the best use of social media for our tech clients is two-fold: create a dialogue with customers that builds brand awareness and preference, and address crisis management issues quickly to eliminate rumors and innuendo. What about you? How have you adopted social media as part of your ongoing PR campaigns?

Ping blog