PR + Social media – Do your doctors treat a soc-med sneeze in time?!

If your brand catches a cold in the social media world, leave it unattended and chances are it turns out to a life-threatening disease.

Yes, a sneeze or cold could be common in real-life, but for your brand or organization – a cold is the best time the doctors in your organization attended to your brand buzz. Only thing, the doctors here are your very own social media managers – right up to your CEO!

It’s no more sheer paranoia to keep chanting about an impending social media crises, for the organization. To be ready to handle any social media crisis that will dent the reputation is now widely discussed and advised all over.

Do you have the right social-media doctors in place?

Do you have the right social-media doctors in place?

Just look around your Google or Bing search bar for social media disasters – and there are a few, in which the brand almost got killed, at least ephemerally. You had one guy resorting to a purchased/promoted tweet to express his frustration at a large global airline. As mentioned in the opening lines, the airline chose to delay attending to a social media sneeze, and its brand caught a severe flu.

It is not being prepared to handle such an event or online burst that is wanting – rather, it’s the vision or wherewithal to see a cropping up social media crisis for the organization and the ability to act post that, which is an impediment to effective crisis management.

So, what are some of the signs of such a social sneeze like? How do you know that a social media reputation hit, brewing in out there?!

  • Is there any unusual buzz around your brand (product, service, or people within your team) in the online space? Do you see some strange mentions about any of these, which have not been noticed earlier? This is something which is a pointer that you must take cognizance of the social media buzz, and probe to what may have triggered this. Yes, there is a possibility that this could be positive buzz. But, the cardinal rule in social media reputation management is this – unusual buzz tends to be more inclined on the negative side. A service issue or a misdemeanor by someone in your global team is more likely to generate a discussion or post, that something good.
  • Has there been an event that has occurred somewhere, where you foresee a lot of buzz? Could be a part failure or lack of retail-end availability of your offering. Or just anything like that. Its imperative that you watch out the social media buzz in that region with alacrity. When you know that there could a negative buzz coming in, its easy to deploy the necessary people and tools, and take up and address queries, and have a social-response hierarchy in place – effectively dousing the negative buzz, before it flames your reputation.
  • Has someone in your senior team, be it even your CEO or someone in the top echelons of the organization erred in the manner in which some issue has been communicated to the media, or even in an one of one interview, which has been quoted out of context, and is beginning to set a negative reputation spiral? Good reputation managers, backed by their real-time experience can see the coming in such situations. In such cases, it’s easy to be prepared with an effective response, and even post it to all media, and in all social destinations, and then also handle individual queries on a case by case basis, as the situation or kind of media demands.

These are just three illustrations that give the reputation manager or social media commander a feel of what could be coming in, and how it must be handled effectively to ward off an evil strike at the reputation base of the organization.

Logically, these can be extended to more permutations and combinations across geographies and various social destinations to serve as reputation hit forecasts.

Hope this helps you get that social media sneeze attended to swiftly. But, are your doctors in place?

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PR Measurement – Context is the key!

How many times has someone walked up to your organization with this as a pitch – hey, look, you are working with xyzee agency, and I see that you are not getting optimal coverage across platforms : and to seemingly substantiate the claim presents the easy tool in the PR weaponry – the competitive news track?

The tendency of any management or internal communications team is to jump at the prospect of having more column cms’ and more clipping and mentions in prime time television media! At the quest of measurement of PR, the crucial parameter – context – is given a miss.

In PR, context, above all else, matters!

Stories about your organization or about your product, services or people, are not the media’s making… they are always your making – what PR does is to amplify the talking points, at the appropriate time, in the right context. And when the mention or coverage is apt enough, that is a winning communication that some pointless ‘friendly journo’ spiel on your product, which most in your target audience will attach little value to.

Both in the practice of PR (which now effectively is trans-media story telling), and in PR outcome measurement, CONTEXT is the thing to look for. Keep asking, if the media or social-mention of your brand or people, is in the right context in the right form/media.

Good to remember this – one column inch in the right place may be more relevant for your communications program, which a ten plus column inches in a media that does not anyway matter.

So, when someone comes in with a pitch which only speaks the language of quantity (measurement), ask you, whether it will impact to the power of context.

Remember, context is the most relevant and powerful PR measure mantra! and all else is bullshit, loads and loads of that…..!

Public Relations – Online activism!

My country, India, has seen a spur of online activism in the recent few years, thanks to the growing disillusionment of the much touted urban middle class, and a perceived failure of the present country administration on a whole range of issues – from corruption, which has swept the carpet under the polity to law and order – where my sisters do not feel safe to step out late evenings, right at the heart of my national capital.

Online activism - just about anywhere?

Some notable examples of recent online activism

  • The movement, India against corruption which sprung into existence thanks to the moral leadership of Anna Hazare, has used online tools in a big way, to spread the message across, gather people, and consolidate views and crowd source protest ideas. On twitter, they have mad e of numerous handles, the primary one being @janlokpal, and successfully built opinions.
  • In the protests against the recent moral assault and subsequent death of Delhi girl Nirbaya,  by a gang of rogues on a moving bus, many groups and individuals used the social media to spread their angst against the establishment and the police, protesting consistent inaction. Some notable handles in this episode were activist @tajinderbagga who was the target of police action, and a girl activist who was arrested for joining the protests.
  • Online activists crowd sourced strong protest against a Gurgaon hotel hosting a singing even of notable Punjabi singer Honey Singh, whose lyrics provoked anger for their lewd views on women, in the light of events after the death of brave girl Nirbhaya.

(just to illustrate a few; twitter handles selective and not exhaustive)

The increasing spread of information through social media, and a large number of concerted online and offline activists spreading information to garner support for any cause that affects the common man is a new trend that is catching up swiftly in India and neighboring countries as well.

The establishment and the stakeholders who are the target of such activism, either out of compliance and deference to the views of people, or out of the fear that a cascading effect of the information on them from online to offline to the houses to the streets, will impact the credibility – are partly giving in to some demands as a result of online activism.

While the measurement of the effects of online activism will be a bit farfetched as of now, the day is not far when social media mavens will also find out means by which the on the ground impact of such efforts can be quantified and the impact measured.

While in India, online activism has only sprung into action only in more recent times, globally, the trend is in place at least for the past decade, and is only increasing/bound to increase by the day as the social media has proven to be a platform for swift dissemination of real time breaking news and events, and in many countries where democracy is nonexistent or in peril, where mobile devices in the hands of the affected, disgruntled and victimized, are the only means by which they make messages go viral – and for the global media to take note.

There’s also a raging debate that’s been going on since a while on whether online activism is really a cause for worry across the globe – questioning the likely effect isolated groups can have on ground realities.  Malcolm Gladwell’s article in The Newyorker of Oct 4, 2010http://nyr.kr/ap4hO1 stirred a social hornets’ nest, inviting a flurry of responses to the statement “ Social media can’t provide what social change has always required”.

Amongst the many interesting debates as a reply to Gladwells story, Erum Haider from neighboring Pakistan made very relevant and sort of ‘local’ responses to why social activism will make an impact and will stay on, and gain more power if used appropriately, for the right causes too. http://bit.ly/arngfb

With a fair amount of confidence, and the emerging nature of polity and demography in this part of the globe, one can say, with a fair amount of confidence that ‘social activism’ is indeed here to stay, and gain more strength as the clock ticks.

If you are a social media maven, ‘social media activism’ making J must be in your armor as well.

By the way, is it in the things to watch for in 2013 in your trend-watching list?

You can also see a brief history of online activism here http://on.mash.to/qYMYUU  

Public Relations – Is it fair to name/shame clients + media?

In the past few days I have seen some posts in the social media, wherein public relations/communication professionals have given vent to their feelings on issues of impact with respect to the media and some of their clients as well.

Interestingly, I did also see a group in Facebook, formed by public relations professionals. The intent of this group, is to enlighten the PR fraternity of clients and some friends in the media who make some unreasonable demand or don’t keep up their commitments.

The advent of social is making such things a lot easier, propelling us to ‘do’ before we ‘think’….

Media and Client blacklist - Fairplay?

No one denies any of us the right to express our feelings, particularly when a lot of hard work and professional contribution is at stake.

But, is not naming/shaming specific clients or friends in the media (may be a handful of them in the vast media universe, where), taking expression of freedom too far?

Think of this situation – as PR counsels, we continue to promise a whole lot of media deliverables to our client – both existing and prospective.

Some of it is accomplished by us, while a lot is yet missed – but there is no doubt in the kind of efforts we put in, in making sure we communicate our client position to the media at large.

Fact is, even the media works on a whole lot of extraneous factors, and the fierce competition for what is relevant to the consumer! So, even assuming that our media friends did file a story with our inputs, the editor may find it redundant to take.

What if some of our clients gang up together and decide to take on our reputation, for no mistake of any of us? That would be grossly unfair we would think, and defend our duties to the hilt.

By the same logic, should’nt we leave this naming business just to word of mouth, which is by far the best tool in marketing.

Think of this – did you feel good when one in the PR fraternity was shamed big time by a rare public post by “Cleartrip”?

You thought what cleartrip did was right? You'll take that??

Forget the details, the fact is none of us would want to be bashed in public, while as a community, we work on a handful of external factors.

The same ought to apply to the media and client as well.

Except offcourse when it comes to issues of ethics and corruption – even which are  best handled by word of mouth.

So, would you yet think to name and shame if fair? Not sure….?!