Everyday PR

Showing Social Media Responsibility

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a humorous, but realistic, article by Bill Keller of The New York Times about his and his daughter’s experience with social media.  One had a great experience, and the other’s was pretty useless.  Feedback from the article was consistent – people agreed with the uselessness of some social media.As previously noted, my experience with social media was self taught and one of survival.  If I’m to properly counsel clients on the right messaging at the right time to the right audiences via the right medium, I needed to participate in social media as their tools can serve as the ideal complement to a public relations strategy. 

While I’ve found a lot of users apparently have too much time on their hands, I know firsthand the power of blogging.  In 2009, I wrote about my experience on a mission trip to Moldova to work at a government-run orphanage.  A year later, a soldier and his wife wanted to adopt an Eastern European child; in doing their research, they stumbled onto my blog posts, contacted me for details, and ultimately welcomed a little girl to their family. Social media responsibility.

Most recently, ChildFund International engaged in a Facebook “Like” campaign to unite sponsors with their child in person halfway across the globe. You don’t even have to be a sponsor to as you could win a four-day escorted trip to Asia, Africa and the Americas. Cool, huh?  There’s still time to participate as the campaign doesn’t end until Thursday, so definitely check it out here.

Mr. Keller’s article was based on his authentic experience written with a tongue-in-cheek tone.  ChildFund International’s social media participation also is real, and it’s a great example of social media responsibility.

Let me know if you have other examples of social media responsibility.

Traits of a Good Crisis Manager

When I worked in corporate America, I had many sleepless nights waiting to see the first headlines of the day as my employer was often the subject of less-than-flattering news.  By the time I got to the office, senior executives were running around like their head was on fire - like that would be helpful.  Sadly, managing the crisis du jour often was determined by what the media said or didn’t say on the morning news, which became exhausting. After a few of these, I finally realized what a bad crisis management strategy that was and changed my ways.

A crisis means some will run around as of their head is on fire. Sadly, they can't help themselves.

 Today’s crisis situations can change by the hour.  A politician is caught doing something stupid; a company unexpectedly files for bankruptcy;  a community leader is busted; a natural disaster strikes; the list of potential crises is endless.  Recent research shows that the traits of a good crisis manager just happen to coincide with the traits of a good leader, not a surprising thought for PR war horses like myself, but perhaps a heads up for those making decisions about leadership positions.

Fortune recently published an article called What Makes an Ideal Crisis Manager?  that cites Justin Menkes, author of the recently published book Better Under Pressure.  He concludes that the people who are going to thrive in the future “are those who can use the pressure (of a crisis) to excel and who have translated very difficult circumstances into opportunity.”  Hmmm….

Per the article, the three key characteristics of a good leader and crisis manager are:

Realistic optimism. Exceptional leaders demonstrate an ability to understand the actual circumstances of a crisis and see a chance to excel. 

*  Finding order in chaos. This combines calmness, clarity of thought and a drive to fix the situation. It requires practice to stay clear-eyed and fearless when the world is tipping. It also requires zeal to solve a puzzle by engaging your staff.

*  Subservience to purpose or corporate goals.  The commitment to the higher calling or the greater good can make a huge difference.  By encouraging a team to come together around some important goal, it cultivates tenacity and encourages collaboration.

Some execs will still run around with their head on fire as they can’t help themselves, which makes a crisis communications plan all the more important.  However, those managers who prove themselves to be exceptions to the rule by working well under pressure will survive – and thrive.

Are there other traits of a good crisis manager and leader?

Liar, Liar, Career Now Over

UPDATE:   Congressman Weiner resigned yesterday following a painful weeks-long media shelf life of his online antics.  He gets two Virtual Cups of Joe for finally halting the ongoing distraction that ended his career – for now.

June 10, 2011 – Anthony Weiner.  I actually liked listening to him before Weinergate.  I thought he was informed, personable and often reasonable.  Now his career is in question because of technology, the second biggest cause of the fall of morality in this country (the first being the free sex, drugs and rock-n-roll in the 60s), in my humble opinion.  Sorry, but no virtual Cup of Joe for you, Mr. Congressman, for sending before thinking.

The virtual Cup of Joe Award from EveryDayPR spotlights our pick of the week for a public relations performance –  good, bad or ugly.  If you’d like to make a nomination, contact shart@hartpr.com or www.Twitter.com/susanhartpr.

Can your brand be controlled in social media?

For the best article on brand management and how to protect your brand in today’s world of social media that I’ve seen in awhile, read here.

“Duh” Research Has PR Application

To quote Nuke Laloosh, the dim and trim rookie pitcher played by Tim Robbins in Bull Durham, “winning is like, you know, better than losing.”  Well duh.

Crash had to repeatedly train Nuke on the right pitches before any winning results.

The same reaction applies to “duh” research – you know those kind of studies that confirm the obvious like rain makes things wet.  While such a grasp of reality is hardly remarkable, the human behavior behind the methodology is pretty revealing.  Apparently we need to be hit on the head with repeated trials, studies and lab experiments to even begin to think about affecting change. 

When renowned sleep expert Dr. Charles Czeisler repeatedly concluded after three decades of studies that too little sleep causes doctors to make mistakes, no radical changes were even considered until 2008.  Only then did the Institute of Medicine issue guidelines calling for limiting interns’ and residents’ shifts to 16 consecutive hours – as if that’s a comforting change of policy, but I digress.

The point is that it takes a lot, and I mean A LOT, to affect change and influence behavior in people, the ultimate goal of any professional public relations practitioner.  The operative word here is “behavior”. Consumers must be hit on the head over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over to have the slightest chance of causing them to act in the manner that you want. 

While this says a lot about people, public relations professionals need to be even more attune to this reality and work with their companies and clients to help them differentiate and be relevant in a society overflowing with information, messages and choices.  “Duh” research also confirms that short-term tactics - like a newspaper story or an irregular customer communication - don’t influence human behavior on any significant or consistent level. Plus, they distract from the original organizational focus and mission. 

Starbucks CEO  Howard Schultz, author of Onward, painstakingly describes what happens when and why shortsightedness happens, usually for financial reasons like quick revenue or increase in share price.  The path of recovery is so much more painful than if they had just stayed on point, on plan and on message.  When decision makers invest the necessary time upfront time to developing a timeless message platform that’s in keeping with their mission, an effective PR strategy can be built on that foundation to ensure that the right messages are going to the right audiences at the right time via the right medium. At the same time, financial objectives also are much easier to meet.

Nuke’s right – winning is better than losing.  But we all lose every time we don’t stick to our focus, our mission and our message.


Know Your Audience like the USDA

Kudos to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for doing something right, not exactly its image in recent months.  This week, the federal agency released a new food pyramid in the shape of a plate, ideally representing the healthy types and portions of food, complete with glass of milk as the beverage.  This is a good thing; it appears that research was done, detailed plans were made, and execution of a timed announcement garnered lots of press. 

Led by First Lady Michele Obama, the website seems pretty self explanatory, if not dumbed down, but – for good or bad –  this falls in the “know your audience” category. And seriously, the previous food pyramid was just too dang complicated as if designed by people less familiar with the reality that families often make dinner choices on the fly, working single parents are more prolific today, and many children are left to their own devices to come up with a balanced meal.  I don’t care if the new campaign costs a few million dollars, the cost for good health is priceless.

Three virtual Cups of Joe, although we’ll substitute with low or no-fat milk, to the team behind the new food pyramid.  It’s government money well spent, and that’s not something I can often say.

The virtual Cup of Joe Award from EveryDayPR spotlights our pick of the week for a public relations performance –  good, bad or ugly.  If you’d like to make a nomination, contact shart@hartpr.com or www.Twitter.com/susanhartpr.

The price of social media

A man after my own heart, Bill Keller of The New York Times questions the relational price we’re paying for social media.  Read his entertaining, and spot on, feature here.

Susan Hart

Susan Hart, APR, is an independent public relations consultant with 25+ years of experience. Beginning as a journalist, she represents clients in health care, financial, technology and real estate. Accredited by the Public Relations Society of America, she serves as Co-Chair of the Ethics Committee for her local PRSA Chapter.

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