Tag Archive: Social Media


Life used to be so easy.

There was Paid Media = Advertising.

There was Earned Media = Public Relations.

And there were the legacy media gatekeepers: Newspapers, Radio and Television.

That’s how the world appeared to communications pros way back in the 1980s.

One employed earned media and/or paid media to deal with or get past the analog media deciders to reach target audiences.

There was B2B. And B2C. And even B2G.

Simple?  Oh, so simple.

As we all know, 20th Century Web 1.0 (websites) and 21st Century Web 2.0 (convergence of social, mobile and cloud) have thrown everything into a tizzy. And some are even talking about Web 3.0 or semantic web. We will leave that for another installment of Almost DailyBrett.

weberas

And now we can add Owned Media to the mix as well.

The neighborhood property values will never be the same.

What the heck is “Owned” Media?

One can spend money to place ads into legacy and/or digital native media: Paid Media.

Or one can choreograph public relations campaigns, hopefully garnering always in-demand third-party validation by means of effective interaction with analog and digital gatekeepers wherever they may be: Earned Media.

(Some used to call this category “Free” media. Practitioners know through painful experience there is absolutely nothing “free” when it comes to media relations).

As the influence of legacy media gatekeepers subsides and the flack-to-media ratio (presently 3.6-to-1) grows more lopsided, more-and-more public relations pros, marketeers and investor relations practitioners are embracing Owned media. These are media channels directly (for the most part) under the control of corporations, governmental agencies, non-profits, NGOs or anyone with a product to sell, a candidate to elect or an idea to spread.

threemedia

Before Almost DailyBrett goes any further, at least partial credit needs to be directed to Advertising & IMC: Principles & Practice, 10th edition by Moriarty, Mitchell and Wells for its role in defining this growing-in-importance owned media category. “Owned media: Media channels controlled by the organization and that are used to carry branded content.”

And just like advertising and public relations, owned media is experiencing the full impact of digital communications revolution, and maybe even more than its siblings, paid and earned media.

Natural Reaction to Growing Paid Media and Earned Media Issues?

Advertising pros are confronted with the dilemma associated with just too much clutter, legacy media declining in importance and influence, and digital native media still undergoing growing pains.

PR, marketing and investor relations practitioners are dealing with the remaining legacy media reporters, editors, correspondents and analysts, who are wondering just how much longer their jobs are going to last. In any event, they are overwhelmed with PR folks pitching them self-serving story ideas.

The digital news aggregators are starting to make a mark for themselves as the Huffington Post drew approximately 85 million worldwide unique monthly desktop visitors this past March, up from about 65 million the previous March. BuzzFeed virtually doubled its online readership from nearly 21 million in March 2013 to 45 million two months ago. Business Insider recorded a gain of 15 million to 17 million in the same time period.

Some of these news aggregators will succeed, famously capitalizing on their first-mover advantage. Others will not. For PR types, they present a new avenue to gain the vaunted third-party acceptance.

Has “disruptive” digital  communications technologies (e.g., Web 1.0 and Web 2.0) changed the rules of the game for paid and earned media pros? Absolutely, but maybe not as much as for owned media. When one contemplates owned media, there is a seemingly unending string of digital ones-and zeroes.

Examples of Owned Media Channels

So what are these owned media news channels — in many cases digital self-publishing – that are allowing us to bypass the legacy and digital native gatekeepers and giving pause to making more advertising expenditures? Here are some examples:

● The organizational website. Websites seem so yesterday and yet they are the digital point-of-entry to the company, non-profit, governmental, agency and political brands. They reflect the basic messages, mission statements, raison d’etre, the look-and-feel of the brand through the careful use of art, fonts, navigation and style. And now they increasingly feature audio and video, and they invite two-way symmetrical communications.

● The 100-million digital essayists (including this one) who compose blogs on a daily basis. Obviously some are more important than others. Companies over the years have become less reticent to the idea of their employees blogging, and with proper controls they are assisting in the promotion of the brand.

blog

● The corporate intranet is now providing for true two-way symmetrical communication between management and rank-and-file employees. For example, Southwest Airlines debuted in 2010 SWALife, a truly interactive portal allowing employees to directly engage in a companywide conversation.

● Social media sites including Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and hashtags, and LinkedIn accounts are at least being regularly monitored (or they should be) and being hosted to create a “buzz” as it applies to the organization.

● YouTube videos and Flickr photo pages are spreading the corporate brand, sometimes on a viral basis, which can be accessed with a few clicks on the mobile device or remaining laptops.

Yep, we have moved from B2B, B2G, B2C to B2C2C with brands rising and falling via word of mouth…the best advertising of all. And guiding these conversations or at least influencing them are organizational owned media.

Owned media is just another example of how our world has changed, digitally and permanently. And it may be the best response to digital communications angst.

http://www.economist.com/news/business/21602714-new-york-times-ponders-bold-changes-needed-digital-age-read-it-and-leap

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_Web

http://www.pearsonhighered.com/educator/product/Advertising-IMC-Principles-and-Practice/9780133506884.page

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2010/07/20/luving-two-way-employee-comms/

 

 

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“The cab driver boasted that his daughter had just graduated. But then he admitted that her journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin had cost $140,000. Since journalism is an ill-paid job that requires no formal qualification, this sounds like a waste of money.” – The Economist, Universities challenged, August 31, 2013

cabdriver

Those are fightin’ words.

Doesn’t The Economist benefit from well-trained and clever journalists?

Should we just shut down all journalism and mass communication schools nationwide, if not worldwide?

Would the last J-school student be kind enough to turn out the lights?

This revealing provocative lead in which the Economist writer shared her/his intimate conversation with a Chicago area cabbie (so much wisdom is imparted in cabs) actually concerned the state of affairs of higher education. Namely, the upcoming federal Department of Education (DOE) ratings system in which colleges and universities conceivably will be judged for federal hand-outs based upon cost, graduation rate and how much students earn in their careers.

And you thought the Bowl Championship Series (BSC) metrics were Byzantine? Thank Darwin we only have to endure this system for one more year. The DOE standards/regulations could be with us into the indefinite future…which could be, forever.

Now that we have clarified the basic premise of the article, let’s go back to the notion that journalism is “ill paid,” that it requires “no formal qualification” and the implication that university journalism schools are a “waste of money.”

Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Considering that I have two journalism-related degrees (one undergraduate and the other post-graduate) and I spent more than three-decades as a reporter (a few years) and as a public relations practitioner (a lot of years) and lately as a college instructor (a few more), I have a problem or two with the gross oversimplification exhibited by The Economist.

There is no doubt that college is damn expensive and not getting cheaper anytime soon. And yes, traditional Gutenbergesque journalism is in trouble. The business model doesn’t work anymore. Having acknowledged the obvious, these conclusions miss a major point: The global desire and yearning for instantaneous-and-accurate information on a 24/7/365 basis has never been greater.

The ability to tell the story, and to tell it well whether it be a reporter/editor, a public relations practitioner or advertising professional is in constant demand and cannot be effectively outsourced or offshored en masse.

The methods for telling, reporting and disseminating the story are changing. The world has moved from analog to digital. The demand for information outstrips the supply, and this trend is accelerating. This is an upward-to-the-right market.

And how will future journalism, public relations, advertising, social media and multi-media professionals learn these information development and dissemination skills? How about these supposedly “waste-of-money” journalism schools?

lecturehall

1.)  Writing effectively will always be in demand, particularly by those who can quickly come to the point, provide insightful analysis, and write professionally and skillfully, employing AP Style.

2.)   Understanding the concept of the inverted pyramid in which the crux of the story is in the lead and all the supporting information flows from there.

3.)   Determining whether a story is newsworthy (or not) for target audiences. Learning how to ask the What? When? Where? Who, Why? And How?, ascertain these answers and transmit a complete-and-clear picture succinctly to news transmitters, whether they are conventional or digital.

4.)   Grasping and using “Big Data” in the form of compelling infographics to quickly and efficiently present useful information to critical audiences.

5.)   Appreciating that social media is not monolithic. There is a distinction between “connections” and “friends” online. Yes, you can digitally self-publish in 140-characters or less. Blogging is alive and well. Social media can be radioactive as digital miscues are eternal.

6.)   Comprehending the societal and technological shift from two-way asymmetrical communication theory (one to the masses) to digitally enabled two-way symmetrical communication theory conversations (message receiver responds publicly to the message sender).

7.)   Gaining the skill sets to generate professional digital photos, audio and video and use state-of-the-art software (e.g., Final Cut Pro) for compelling multimedia pieces.

8.)   Garnering the knowledge of financial communications including relevant SEC disclosure rules and being able to distinguish between fiduciary responsibility and corporate social responsibility.

9.)   Overcoming glossophobia and becoming more confident in delivering presentations, particularly those that are conversational in style and using supporting graphics.

10.)  Securing the confidence to perform instinctively in a crisis communications setting, quickly develop relevant messages and ultimately protect an organization’s reputation and brand.

crisis1

There is little doubt that journalism, public relations, advertising, social media and multi-media educators, graduates and students can add to the Almost DailyBrett list of J-School attributes cited above, including cultural distinctions inherent in international communications.

What’s more important is that when one considers and weighs the skill sets that are being taught and learned, particularly in a rapidly changing technology landscape, the value of a solid journalism education is maybe as valuable as it has ever been.

Society’s insatiable demand for news and information has never been greater.

The Genie is simply not going back into the bottle.

http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21584393-barack-obama-wants-degrees-be-better-value-money-universities-challenged

 

 

ones-zeros2

Almost DailyBrett Editor’s Note: In applying to graduate school three years ago, I was asked to write a “Statement of Purpose” and with it came memories of almost daily meetings with elementary, middle school, high school and college students as the press secretary for California Governor George Deukmejian.

Little did I know at the time that these teaching sessions would eventually lead to a new direction in my life.

As I contemplate making a major directional change in my career, I was reflecting back to one of the responsibilities that did not fit into the position description of a gubernatorial press secretary: meeting, greeting and answering questions from visiting university, community college, high-school, middle-school and elementary-school students.

During my three years as the Press Secretary to California Governor George Deukmejian, I was repeatedly asked to serve as the face of the administration and to encourage students to pursue public service or at least to have a profound interest in their society. Sometimes the questions were tough, many were unfair or off-base, but the students demonstrated that they wanted to learn and they wanted to challenge authority.

As I moved from the public sector into roles with two major industry trade associations, a publicly traded high technology company and to a leadership position in an international public relations firm, I was periodically asked to lecture classes on effective communications. Some of these schools included: UC Berkeley, Oregon State, San Francisco State and just recently Santa Clara University.

At Santa Clara, I lectured both MBA and undergraduate students about how to communicate to Wall Street and investors. I realized in making my presentation and seeing the enthusiasm that I generated that these students were clearly appreciating that the world of financial communications was shifting at a breakneck pace.

This rate of change is not just limited to the financial sphere as digital technology, the ubiquitous ones and zeroes, are making instantaneous communication and lightning-fast responses a never-changing fact of life. We now have the ability to self-publish and to share with the world our deepest thoughts. The Genie is out of the bottle and the bottle is nowhere to be found.

Social media or conversational marketing via digital key strokes is something that Johannes Guttenberg could not even fathom when he invented the printing press in Mainz, Germany. But one thing has been constant since then; technology has made communication faster, more efficient and global in nature.

Many cannot stop talking about and tweeting on Twitter, amassing their connections on LinkedIn.com, watching videos on YouTube or counting friends on Facebook. They are commenting on breaking global events via their blogs or reading what others are saying via cyberspace, bypassing the “traditional media,” particularly the dying pencil “press.”

The hot social media tools of today most likely will not be the hot social media tools by the time I complete the master’s degree program from the University of Oregon in 2012. These new techniques are being written today not on parchment paper, but rather in the form of software code.

Will students and society as a whole be prepared for these new techniques and their implications? What are the responsibilities of self-publishing in the wake of fewer and fewer conventional media outlets? Will the bloggers become the reporters of the 21st century, thus setting new standards for journalism?

Looking back, I have been extremely fortunate in my career. I cut my teeth on the tax revolt in 1978 that shook the foundation of governments throughout the country. I was sitting at the apex of California state government in 1989 when the Loma Prieta Earthquake literally shook the ground, and I was told “The Bay Bridge is in the water.”

I ventured across the ocean to the Land of the Rising Sun to help convince Japan to stop predatory pricing and open its doors to competition. I founded a corporate PR department against the backdrop of Internet mania and a corresponding crash as Americans lost faith in Wall Street and imposed a new way of doing business.

And I was privy to and helped advance a digital technology revolution that contrary to opinion of some pundits is really just getting started.

sacramento

After all of this, I still go back to the Governor’s bill signing room in Sacramento filled with students and their mentors with a particular gleam in their eyes and engaging questions flowing off their tongues. They wanted to learn. They wanted to explore. They wanted to challenge convention. I was more than happy to help them on their quest.

How can I continue this love affair with helping students? Certainly, I do not know it all and never will. Harry Truman didn’t like experts because “… if an expert learned something, he wouldn’t be an expert anymore.”

I am learning something new every day.

So why do I want to pursue a Master’s degree at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication? The answer is that I can leverage my Master’s degree to teach students the art of strategic communications. The truth is not a fungible quality, it is essential. Having said that, we need to manage information and present it in an intelligent way in order to effectively compete in the marketplace of ideas.

Today’s students and tomorrow’s communicators are going to have to compete; there is no way around this fact. Will they succeed or not? The University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication training will greatly improve their chances. I want to coach and mentor these students so they can be tomorrow’s winners.

…if you know what I mean.”

These were the last words of US Secret Service supervisor David Chaney’s career. They were plastered on his Facebook page as the cutline for a photo of him allegedly protecting Alaska Governor Sarah Palin from all enemies foreign and domestic in 2008.

chaneypalin

 

Chaney, 49, is now without a job and his wife and family cannot be thrilled with his behavior or his employment prospects.

So what are the lessons from the U.S. Secret Service scandal that simply will not go away?

One is that engaging in foolish behavior on social media (e.g. swimmer Michael Phelps and his bong pipe) is not just restricted to young Bo-Hoes. The digital-is-eternal mantra applies to all age groups, occupations, economic and education levels and demands that we think before we post. Chaney’s crowing about ogling Palin’s curves and using them as eye candy was included among other posts about his extramarital recreational adventures with scantily clad women attending his high school reunion and belly dancers in Egypt (All published in the New York Post).

If you are asking, “What was he thinking?” Well obviously he wasn’t.

The second lesson is captured in the first two-chapters of the New York Times bestselling book by Chip and Dan Heath, “Made to Stick.” When asking what causes a story, a concept, a tagline to adhere with the public like duct tape, the Heaths responded that an account must be simple and unexpected.

Let’s see: Secret Service guys and Colombian prostitutes? Yes, I can understand this combo without hurting my brain. This tale is quite simple, but it cannot be dismissed as a “boys will be boys” story. What is unexpected about this caper is that it involves the Secret Service with its motto, “Worthy of Trust and Confidence,” the elite protectors of US leaders, even those with ornamental value…such as Palin, campaigning for vice president four years ago.

chaney

Don’t we expect unquestioned integrity from the Secret Service, just as we demand the same from the Navy Seals or the Army’s Delta Force? The whole issue exploded when one agent offered a lady of the evening only $30 for her efforts, when she was expecting $800. Prostitution is legal in Colombia and she immediately complained about non-payment to the gendarmes, which brought investigators to the Hotel Caribe in Cartagena and shortly thereafter the story to computer screens and the remaining newsstands around the world.

Another lesson is this simple and unexpected story has “legs” and we are not talking about Palin’s wheels or those of the sex workers in Colombia. We are talking about embarrassment to the agency and the White House in a political year. We are talking about congressional committees. We are talking about marauding reporters. Simple, unexpected and a growing cast of characters with new news angles virtually every day all lead to a story with legs.

And it continued today as Connecticut Senator Joseph Liebermann summed it up: “The White House advance person knows exactly where the president is going to be at any time. If anybody thinking the worst wanted to attack the president of the United States, one of the ways he might find out the path that he would follow in Cartagena is by compromising White House advance personnel.”

Instead of strictly concentrating on protecting the nation’s chief executive in a historically dangerous country, some of our “wheels up, rings off” heroes were visiting the “Play Room” in Cartagena and bringing their special friends back to their Hotel Caribe rooms. Conceivably the president’s itinerary could have been spread out on hotel tables or even night stands. Think about it: This story could have been worse, much worse.

The advent of social media – blogging, webcasting, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Flickr, Pinterest and many, many more – allows us as communication choreographers to enhance an individual or organizational reputation and brand with unprecedented speed and extent in record time. These same tools can feed the human inclination toward negativity, destroying or severely harming a reputation and/or brand even faster.

Does David Chaney wish that he had never had typed those 12 simple words onto his Facebook page? Think of it, compose 12 words and you are toast.

Does the Secret Service agent with flexible morals wish that he had fully compensated his love rental for the evening instead of insulting her by only offering $30? One would think so.

Has the Secret Service taken a severe hit to its reputation and brand, one that may take literally years, if not decades, to repair? That is clearly the case…if you know what I mean.

http://www.ajc.com/news/nation-world/obama-briefed-as-secret-1423377.html

http://photos.denverpost.com/mediacenter/2012/04/photos-the-image-of-secret-service-agent-david-chaney-and-sarah-palin-is-denver-posts/33845/

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/dirty_little_secret_6QBSk49hscdXUEwqchjxJK

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/OTUS/palin-drawn-secret-service-scandal/story?id=16179857

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/post/the-secret-service-had-the-worst-week-in-washington/2012/04/22/gIQAna6qZT_blog.html?wpisrc=nl_politics

Considering the worldwide infatuation of PR-Marketing types with 24/7/365 digital publishing, a simple reflection-prompting question needs to be posed:

Where does social media fit within the mantra: Message-Candidate-Campaign?

The development of the message? Nope.

The selection of a candidate(s) to deliver the campaign? Nein.

How about as part of the campaign for the candidate to deliver the message? Yep.

Or…?

… As an increasingly effective weapon in the arsenal of a proven communications choreographer.

So maybe the mantra should be amended to read: Message-Candidate-Choreography-Campaign? Hmmm…

My point in raising these questions is to not to rain on the publicity industry’s euphoria about Web 2.0 (e.g. blogging, podcasting, webcasting, micro-social media sites) because I would like to think of myself as an evangelist as well when it comes to digital publishing. Social media is an increasingly vital component of the campaign, but message, candidate and choreography have to come first.

This makes perfect sense because without a message, without a candidate, and without the completion of communications choreography, the waging of a public relations/marketing/branding campaign is impossible.

leeatwater

I first heard “Message-Candidate-Campaign” in that particular order from a presidential campaign address by the late Lee Atwater, running then-Vice President George H.W. Bush’s successful campaign for president in 1988.

Campaign consultants are not warm-and-fuzzy people and certainly Atwater was no exception. He was wickedly smart and two decades later I can’t argue with Message-Candidate-Campaign manifesto, but obviously I have been tempted to amend it.

We can also take the global embrace of social media and put it in the proper context.

The catalyst for any PR offensive is the message. What are the attributes of the product that a company wants to sell? What are the intended societal benefits behind the public service announcement? What are the promises that are being made by the candidate for office?

The answers to these questions and many more are what constitute strategy. Essentially what can the company, product, non-profit, governmental agency and candidate do and what are the selling points? The strategy also includes what is not being said and not being offered because there are always resource limitations.

Now, who is the candidate? Who is the messenger? What is the brand? Essentially who or what is delivering the message?

Next up is the choreography or in this case, communications choreography. Just like someone mapping the movements of dancers or actors on a stage and synchronizing them to a script and/or music, a communications choreographer must ensure that everyone is on the same page. What is the message? Who is the candidate? Who is/are the end audience(s)? What media will be used (conventional? social? Both?). What are the deliverables? What is the timetable? How is success measured?

And now it is time to consider the execution of the campaign, the actual delivery of the message by the candidate following the guidance provided and employing conventional and/or social media to enhance reputation, build brand, advance thought leadership and ultimately win the day.

Every few years, and the pace is rapidly accelerating, there is a new landmark medium of communication (e.g. fax machines, cell phones, PCs, Internet routers/switches, social media, tablets…) and each one indeed changed or is changing the ways that we do business. These innovations have globalized, accelerated and reduced news cycles to about four hours. Social media is now a permanent fixture of the communications landscape.

Having acknowledged this undeniable fact, the message is still paramount…and then comes the candidate, followed by choreography that must require social media and finally, the execution of the campaign.

Message-Candidate-Choreography-Campaign. That’s the new mantra.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Atwater

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choreography

How many times have you heard some frustrated consumer threaten to take a vendor to the Better Business Bureau? http://www.bbb.org/

With all due respect to the triple Bees, you might as well take the complaint to the Vatican, the Kremlin and the White House as well. I have never heard of anyone securing a satisfactory result taking their case to the Better Business Bureau (maybe they can prove me wrong)…but all is not lost.

In our fast-paced lives we literally deal with hundreds of service providers during a course of a given year, some better than others. We are pleasantly surprised by those who produce great results with super bedside manner. We are mildly frustrated and disappointed with those who do not perform well. But what happens in those (hopefully) few cases where we feel that we have been downright wronged?

Well, there are alternatives to contacting the Pope, the Politburo, the President or even Santa Claus. And these alternatives are digital in nature and are becoming increasingly effective.

As we all know there are literally thousands of articles and tutorials of how digital tools can be used to build brand, promote products and ideas, and enhance reputations. There are fewer accounts as to how these very same digits…the ones and zeroes…can be used to warn your fellow consumers to stay clear of a bad actor. Think of it this way, you are providing a needed public service to your fellow consumers in our service-oriented economy.

mcguire

Without rehashing the mind-numbing detail, I went through an absolutely horrendous process in selling my home in California’s East Bay. The proverbial last straw was the agent for the buyer, Tim McGuire of Alain Pinel Real Estate, reneging on a promised $500 reduction in his commission in order to facilitate the deal. This very well may turn out to be the most expensive $500 decision in his life.

I am truly sorry it had to come to this, but I felt compelled to write about this experience last month on Yelp.com, telling the absolute truth about what happened to me. I would not wish the anguish and sleepless nights on anyone. http://www.yelp.com/biz/tim-mcguire—alain-pinel-real-estate-pleasanton. The review was written and uploaded and that was that…or so I thought.

What brought my attention back to this issue was a casual search of the McGuire’s name on Google www.google.com. My Yelp review was the number three item on the first page, right underneath duplicates of his personal website http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&aq=0h&oq=tim&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4ADRA_enUS373US374&q=tim+mcguire+realtor.

Not only was there my less-than-flattering, but absolutely on-target “review,” but his response…and the response that he coaxed from his clients, the buyers. Didn’t Mr. Tim realize that he was generating traffic to my Yelp review and with it more eyeballs to the page? In effect, he was doing a superb job in SEO or Search Engine Optimization, thus raising the profile of my Yelp review in the “eyes” of the Google search engine.

Being me, I decided to help him out by writing a response to his response. And hopefully, he will write a response to my response to his response of my review. And maybe, he can ask his friends, clients, neighbors and family to all write a response to my response to his response to my review? The more, the merrier…right?

Taking it a step further, I even recounted this episode on my Facebook www.facebook.com, Twitter www.twitter.com and LinkedIn.com www.linkedin.com pages and now my Almost DailyBrett blog.

So what is the point here? The point is that good customer service should be the norm. Why? Because if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing right. And if you deliberately commit a wrong and hurt your customer, well that customer has many digital options at her or his disposal. As a service provider in this increasingly interconnected and very small world, you really don’t have that much to lose: just your reputation and hard-earned brand. Be afraid, be very afraid.

pinel

Mark Twain once said something about not getting in fight with those who buy ink by the barrel. If he was around today, he would probably implore Tim McGuire to not get in a fight with those with access to a keyboard, Internet browsers, digital websites and social media. The results may not be so pretty.

Maybe hiding money under the mattress isn’t such a bad idea after all.

One could easily come to that conclusion after reading “Cyberwar: The Threat from the Internet” lead commentary and lengthy analysis in this week’s “Economist” http://www.economist.com/. The cover piece should be required reading for public relations professionals, especially those working for entities managing extremely complex and sensitive digital data (e.g. defense agencies/contractors, stock exchanges, banking institutions, major retailers, hospitals, public utilities, insurers, air traffic controllers…).

cybercrisis

These institutions may even want to seriously consider hiring from what should be a new class of communications professionals with extensive backgrounds in not only crisis management PR, but also with a keen understanding of computation, IT and/or electrical engineering.

Is this just an ill-timed call for another SG&A (selling, general and administrative) expense at a time when we very well could be staring in the face of a double-dip recession? Here’s another question to ponder: How expensive will it be if entire communities are indefinitely deprived of power, denied access to financial resources or discover that their sensitive personal information has been compromised? We can be sure that not all of impacted people in these unfortunate circumstances would have been wise enough to hide sufficient hard-earned cash under the mattress or in the coffee can.

Last February, this blog recounted the State of California’s 1989 response to the massive 6.9 on the Richter Scale Loma Prieta (Bay Area) Earthquake, a more conventional crisis communications incident. https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/the-bay-bridge-is-in-the-water/.

Recently, we read about the recurring Toyota recalls, the seemingly out-of-control NYSE-computers that plunged the market nearly 1,000 points in less than 10 minutes, and of course, the Mother of All Oil spills, BP’s environmental (and public relations) nightmare in the Gulf of Mexico.

In each of these cases and others that are similar, the text-book crisis communications response really boils down to the journalistic who, what, when, why, how and most important what is being done about it. We can measure the Richter scale reading for an earthquake; count the number of Toyotas that were recalled; determine the staggering amount of market capitalization that is lost when the NYSE computers decided to get a mind of their own, and measure (and measure again) the number of gallons per hour of crude that are pouring into the gulf.  More importantly, we can usually respond expeditiously about what happened and what is being done to rectify the problem, even in this age of ever-shrinking news cycles.

We have all read more stories than we care to count about the vast potential of social media in successfully branding an organization. We also know of examples of how these same digital tools can quickly undo even the best marketing and branding campaigns https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2009/09/04/the-power-of-new-media/.This very same Internet has even more potential to promptly wreak havoc on any organization, including entire countries.

According to the Economist, more than nine-tenths of Internet traffic travels by means of undersea fiber-optic cables, some of them bunched up in not-very-nice places including the Red Sea, the Horn of Africa and the Luzon Strait. About 90 percent of the 140 billion e-mails sent daily around the world are spam, and about 16 percent of these are money-making scams. The US government believes that $1 trillion is lost each year to cyber crime.

What happens in a denial-of- service (DDOS) attack impacting thousands, if not millions, of personal financial or medical records, shutting down regional energy grids or making it impossible to simply access money? Who is the culprit? The answer is obviously somebody, some group, some competitor, some adversary, some nation with access to the Internet. One of the first public relations problems associated with a cyber attack is going to be purely diagnostic: What happened? Why did it happen? When did it happen? Who is responsible? What is the extent of the damage?

DDOS

If you have no concrete responses to these questions how can you offer solutions to editors, reporters, analysts, bloggers who are demanding immediate answers? And if you do not have enough credible information to provide intelligent commentary, will journalists allow you to buy time? Or will they turn to others for quick answers to provide copy and fill air time? And what are the agendas of these other “sources?” Are they the same as your agenda? For better or for worse, all voids are going to be filled one way or another.

As we can see through the example of the 2008 compromise of the personal records of 285 million Verizon Communications customers, these cases will surely recur the future. Do they constitute warfare? Corporate espionage? Terrorism? Vandalism?  One thing is certain, large organizations will benefit from those who know not only how to manage information and calmly communicate in the cyber crisis’s’ of the future. They will be crisis comms pros, who will also have a working knowledge base about the digital systems that are vulnerable to attack via the Internet and can describe complex IT systems in plain understandable English or whatever constitutes the vernacular.

And in the case of outright theft or foul play, an organization will need to cooperate directly with law enforcement or in certain cases national security. If the cause is not just sinister intent, but real or perceived lax IT security by your client, then you can be virtually assured that the trial bar will see an opportunity to tap deep pockets on behalf of aggrieved “plaintiffs.” http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2008/06/11/most_data_theft_tied_to_basic_security_flaws/

Whether an organization decides to hire a new breed cyber crisis communications specialist or not, we do know for certain that the Internet-driven world of the 21st Century has brought forth a variety of new digital opportunities and threats that were not even conceivable a mere generation ago. Welcome, regardless of whether you are ready or not or whether you agree or not, to the brand new world of cyber crisis communications.

Almost DailyBrett editor’s note: The following open letter is written to a long-time colleague, who in her own words feels like “fish out of water.” She is presently making the seismic shift from a successful career as a reporter/editor for three regional newspapers to becoming a public relations executive for the first time. Her name, venue and present and past employers will remain confidential, but I will share my humble advice to her on the chance it may help other journalists in making a similar career change.

Even though many of your Fourth Estate colleagues and friends may chide you for abandoning your virtues and taking the plunge to the dark side, keep in mind that most of them are simply envious of your courage and opportunities. Many newspapers will not survive the year, let alone the decade. You have made a proactive change that has the potential of being much more lucrative than if you merely stayed the course.

Keep in mind that not all journalists are cut out to be good public relations “flacks.” Yes, there are the same demands associated with making deadlines, exercising news judgment, getting your facts straight and applying the same journalistic techniques (e.g. adherence to AP style), but that is where the majority of the similarities end.

Now that you have made the switch, here are a few techniques that will hopefully lead to a successful transition to the bright lights of the dark side:

● Your former colleagues at your previous publications are not your friends, especially if they are covering your client. They are now friendly and skeptical (hopefully not cynical) adversaries, but adversaries nonetheless. What you say to them, even in a casual conversation, can be misquoted. You are now a spokesperson for your client, and your client signs your pay check.

● When working with reporters, just assume that everything is “on the record.” Avoid going on “deep background” or the rare instances of employing “off the record” for your conversations. If you assume that everything is “on the record” there will be no misunderstandings and naturally you will be much more disciplined with your words.

● Never be afraid to respond with “I don’t know.” Ask the reporter about her or his deadline and get back as soon as you can with the information that is required in the way that you want to present it. The old joke is: “How many press secretaries does it take to change a light bulb?” The answer is: “I don’t know, but I will find out for you.”

● Only approach reporters to pitch a story that is legitimate news. As a reporter, you inevitably rolled your eyes (if not a stronger reaction) when a flack approached you and wasted your time with a “news story” that didn’t pass the giggle test. The declining number of reporters that remain are inundated with pitches; make every one of your pitches count. One of the toughest parts of your job will be telling your internal clients that their activity is simply not newsworthy.

● As you well know lying is not an option. Having said that, managing information is your job. How a message is developed, how it is presented and when it is made public is what you are being paid to manage. Reporters refer to this technique as “spin control.” I call it managing information for the benefit of your client.

● Your job is 24-7-365. A crisis can occur at any time of day or night. I have taken reporter calls at 1:30 am and before the alarm goes off in the morning. When someone calls and says, “Gee, I hate calling you at home…” you are now on the record. The trick is to be always prepared to respond, while maintaining a healthy work-life balance…easier said than done. I rarely consumed a second beer or glass of wine, particularly during my service as the press secretary to the Governor of California, knowing full well that a genuine crisis could occur at any time of the day or night.

● Crisis communications is not a manual or a three-ring binder (even though key contact information is vital). Instead it is who, what, where, why and how are you going to make it right. Remember when it comes to bad news (and there will be bad news), you can make the disclosure or let someone else (an adversary, competitor, enemy) make it for you. This choice should be easy: manage or be managed.

● Looking at a financial statement, PR should not be seen as “SG&A” or Selling, General and Administrative (an expense) unless you want an unsympathetic Finance Department to zero out or greatly reduce your department. Instead, you need to demonstrate ROI so that your role is seen as positively contributing to the top line (revenues) and contributing to the expansion of gross margin and ultimately the bottom line. The key here is to document everything that you are doing for your client. Aligning your department with Sales, Marketing and in the case of publicly traded companies, the CFO, IR and Legal, is battle-tested job protection.

● Don’t be trapped into just using conventional tools to do your job. Pitching reporters, writing contributed articles, researching editorial calendars and issuing news releases still are effective in the second decade of the 21st Century. The thinning of the journalistic ranks means that self-publishing and using digital tools (e.g. blogging, podcasting, webcasting, social media) are absolutely critical to establishing thought leadership in your field. It is your job to convince management of this truth.

● Don’t allow the perception of your success or failure be dependent on the local paper that your superiors read every morning. You need to feed this 300-pound gorilla, but at the same time the trade publications, bloggers in your company’s field and of course your own self-publishing need to receive equal, if not greater attention.

● You would be wise to remind management that an organization’s most valuable asset is not bricks and mortar, fancy machines, but those women and men who leave each night and hopefully come back in the morning. Naturally, the focus is on customers and shareholders…and this is justified…but employees are just as important, if not more important, to the bottom line.

You have been honest about your feelings when you described yourself as a “fish out of water.” This is normal. Look at it another way: This is an important reset in your life that employs all of your professional skills in a different way. You respect your employer. They have a great story to tell. Go out and tell that story in the best way possible and let the chips fall as they may. This is an exciting time of your life and a challenging new opportunity.

Embrace the spirit of Carpe Diem and seize the day.

 

Quick: What is the first impression that comes to mind when you hear the word or see the name or logo of…

● Starbucks? Good coffee

● BMW? Upscale cars

● Fed-Ex? Overnight

● Intel? “Inside”

● Microsoft? Bill Gates

● Apple? Steve Jobs

● Oracle? Larry Ellison

● Exxon Mobil? Valdez

● Goldman Sachs? SEC suit

● BP? The “Oil Spill”

Now let’s ask another question: What is more vital to your client: brand management or crisis communications?

From my humble standpoint, the answer is both. They go hand-in-hand. If you employ conventional communications (e.g. message development, reporter pitches, briefings, advertising, events) and digital tools (social media, blogging, podcasting, webcasting) to build brand, then it follows that these same methods can destroy the best branding, literally in seconds.

Think of it this way, if the stock market can plunge 1,000 points in five minutes, then any carefully crafted brand can be obliterated just as fast in this age of instantaneous global communications and programmed machines.

The video of BP’s gushing oil leak quickly found its way onto YouTube as well as a wide variety of conventional broadcast media. Besides the usual conventional media coverage, the SEC’s suit against Goldman http://www.sec.gov/news/press/2010/2010-59.htm became an instant entry on the Wikipedia.org encyclopedia, the Wall Street Journal website as well as the online sites of major media organizations around the world.

So what does this question mean to executives in corporate suites, the leadership of trade associations and NGOs, political campaign managers, the administration of major universities or any other organization concerned about reputation and legacy? It means that when a brand-management firm is selected to build and enhance brand and top-of-mind recognition then that very same firm should also be adept at crisis management to instantaneously defend and protect the brand or at least to mitigate and contain the damage.

Brand formation and enhancement is a process that never ends and must be skillfully nurtured over the course of years, such as the “Intel Inside” campaign. The results are that PC and server-buying consumers are willing to shell out a premium to purchase a device with that Intel chip inside. But keep in mind that not everything has been perfect for the Intel brand as the company had to rally in 1994 (some may say belatedly) to combat the infamous Pentium flaw. This was a classic crisis communications exercise with all hands on deck. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_Corporation

We should contemplate that this escapade occurred prior to the true social media age, even though Internet usage was rapidly increasing. Could Intel have maintained its brand image as successfully in the face of the same Pentium flaw in this environment? Probably, but the company would have been required to respond in an even quicker fashion.

Crisis management is now, more-than-ever, a 24-7-365 gig. In the social-media age, successful brand defenses can be literally measured in minutes, not in days and weeks. Erroneous and nefarious Wikipedia entries need to be challenged quickly. Misleading media reports need to be immediately contested. Damaging blog posts need to be instantly rebutted.

Not all crisis communications efforts will be successful and not all positive brands will endure (e.g. If oil keeps leaking for 40 days and counting…). Nonetheless, the BP crisis communications team is in full battle station mode. http://www.bp.com/bodycopyarticle.do?categoryId=1&contentId=7052055

It is an open question whether the company’s reputation will ever be restored. Exxon will always be tied to the Valdez, even though that spill occurred more than two decades ago.

In most cases the best built and nurtured brands can be protected and enhanced, not only through brand management, but also by maintaining always present and alert crisis response teams, schooled in both conventional and digital media communications skills.

You really can’t separate brand building from crisis management.

“With iPods and iPads; and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — (laughter) — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.  So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it’s putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy.” – Barack Obama, Hampton University Commencement, May 9, 2010. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-hampton-university-commencement

The good news for the Leader of the Free World is that he has a 12-year-old daughter (Malia) and a nine-year-old daughter (Sasha) to provide in-(White) house tech support when it comes to using iPods, Xboxes and PlayStations.

Senior public relations practitioners may not be so lucky. Which brings up an interesting question, why are so many in our profession so reluctant about and so resistant to social media, including blogging and podcasting? Deep down is there an inner Luddite that makes many of us resistant to technological change? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite

The Economist www.economist.com in its latest iteration has a fascinating commentary, “Don’t Shoot the Messenger” that says that distrust of new technology goes back to the days of Socrates (469 BC to 399 BC) and his fear of writing, which would “create forgetfulness in the learner’s souls.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socrates

During my decade working with engineers at LSI Logic www.lsi.com, I asked them one-by-one why they chose to become technologists (as opposed to journalists and PR hacks). The answer usually went back to the family radio or television. Future senior communicators listened to and/or watched these devices. The future geeks in turn took them apart and checked out the vacuum tubes, the dials, the knobs, the wires and then tried to put them back together again…sometimes successful, sometimes not.

Certainly there are communicators who have been quick to embrace social media and digital tools with gusto. They have more than talked-the-talk, they have become evangelists about blogging, podcasting, webcasting, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, Ding, Dang and whatever is next.

And yet there are timid souls in our ranks (you know who you are) that our desperately clinging to and only relying on (gasp) 20th Century approaches to all PR issues. Consider that they…

● Insist on staging pre-briefings followed by actual on-site briefings with the dwindling number of business and trade reporters and editors, despite the downward trajectory of their readership and the ascension of digital media.

● Devote full-time employees to writing abstracts and contributed articles, drafting “white papers” and op-eds for submittal to publications in decline, thus producing a lower ROI with each cycle.

● Sift through the ed-cals or editorial calendars and then try to devise a pitch that somehow, someway comes reasonably close (at least passing the “giggle test”) to the journalist’s topic. In this case, who is setting the agenda: the journalist or the company?

● Write “press releases,” hold “press conferences” and even invite conventional and digital media to surf their “press” page on their websites. Gee, why don’t they exhume Johannes Gutenberg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Gutenberg to make a presentation of his new invention, the printing press, at the next “press” conference?

● Devise a myriad of excuses for not embracing the blogosphere, and not just the self-publishing of conversational marketing pieces that bolster brand and spread the message, but even monitoring what bloggers are actually writing about a given company or its industry.

● Demonstrate a total disinterest in preparing Wikipedia.org copy about their company, association, organization etc., either leaving a blank canvass in its place or allowing others to take a shot at depositioning their employers.

I can fully appreciate that some may take issue with my prose when it comes to exposing the inner Luddite. Having said that, there is one point that can be made with impunity: More and more publicly traded and privately held companies, trade associations, universities and colleges, non-profits and others will sooner or later spend countless hours figuring out how to make money and/or spread their influence via digital tools. They will also be increasingly interested in harnessing these same technologies to build brand and to get out the good news. This will not be the time or the place for Inner Luddites.

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