PR take – never outsource your reputation management!

This might sound banal, but this is a harsh reality that can be re-stated a hundred times – the advent of social media, and its proliferation in our lives, has completely morphed the face of contemporary public relations!

Earlier on, even a couple of years back, we communication professionals worked in our own silos, even cutting off from the ground realities of the organization and the media landscape out there! It was a closed world.

The PR folks determined what can be and must be communicated to the rest of the world – and the tools like media briefings and press conferences came in handy in this one sided communication! Even better, PR enjoyed the luxury of entertaining and enjoying the luxury of selective coverage with ‘cultivated’  media (in my opinion, that’s a huge fail – there is nothing like cultivated media – you only get as much mention as your content-worthiness!)

With the arrival of the social world, those small joys are dead and gone!

It’s a democracy of communication both within and outside the organization – the people in your company, and those in the outside world are more informed, and in no time, by the power of social.

You may shy away from conversation; and you may think you do so for the right reasons! Even as you do that, the tools of the social world are making sure that somewhere out there, there are a hundred other voices cooking up a storm in your reputation tea-cup!  If you are not pro-active in informing first, and creating engagement islets with all your stakeholders, then your reputation management is being unwittingly outsourced by you to the entire world!

If you are in today’s public relations business and doing something akin to the above, you must be crazy. And not that, at stake is your own reputation?! Saner communication professionals will never do that!

Manage 'your' reputation, or someone else will!!

Manage ‘your’ reputation, or someone else will!!

Step forward, communicate first and right, and willingly engage…    when you do that, you own the engagement, or if not own, you are well in control of your reputation!

Own the engagement, and never ever outsource reputation management – willingly or unwillingly!

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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?

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 – urge to jump on to social media?

converseEverybody wants to go social… and most of us in the public relations business have jumped on to the social bandwagon. We are all nudging our clients and prospects to do so.

Social media it appears, is panacea for all the image ailments the world was suffering from.

At least, the thought now is this :  Jump on to the social media jungle and there lies the magic wand to all your public relations and media challenges.

Does your organization think that way?

A sheer presence online is NOT the only ingredient to craft a winning social presence… well, a fact that is conveniently missed by most of us who are turned on by the thought of a social media presence.

The two key ingredients, the CRUCIAL ONES for your organization to have a working and winning social presence are

  • a commitment from the top leadership to a meaningful and credible social presence,
  • more importantly, an openness to conversations – conversations that could shake the belief system of your organization, just in case you always have been a company sans internal and external dialog.

On conversations – today, social media presence/management is not about just having a presence on the twitters and facebooks of the world.

The fundamental social media fallacy is to make an assumption that with the presence, you can keep thrusting your products, services and key people thoughts on the target audience. We all think social is an opportunity for ‘uninterrupted monologue’.

An online presence is just a starting point of the unending social journey. The drivers of this media, the audience and external stakeholders – are there not to just hear to what you say – a whole lot of people are there only to have a dialog, understand better, get their points of view heard, and have their real needs and problems addressed in a jiffy – the world out there needs instant answers and not your sermons on how things are good.

So, if your social presence can take part in such an ongoing 24/7 conversation, and at the same time leverage your products and services for a business goal, then you may have a winner in the long term.

If you are not open, and your company would love a monologue, be assured that you will not gain much in this game.

And now to the even more important one – for this to happen, for you to be a willing party to ongoing conversations in this space, the top leadership of the organization you represent MUST be committed to a long term strategy, that is full of such conversations, filled in with a willingness to meet the needs to those in a discussion with you.

So, are you ready to get to the social bandwagon? Think and engage, else do better things!

Public Relations – right questions to suit your “image” needs – ask!

PR agency - Are you asking such questions?Public relations agencies of different hue and size may keep pitching with your organization, to get an opportunity to engage with your communication strategy/execution.

Invariably, companies ask – does your agency have the scale, size and a regional/national presence, and would you be able to reach across all (including social) media, in every nook and corner of the world!

There is nothing wrong, and in fact, it’s important to check on what credentials your prospective agency comes with! Well, at the same time, it is important to bear in mind, that the agency must also have the ability & agility to engage in PR needed by your organization – the context being of paramount importance.

You may hire the best agency, but think about this – is there a point if their strengths do not sync with your company’s scale and need, what if their capabilities are more specific to large sized corporations, and not for the kind your company is – a niche small organization, yet with its own unique service offerings or qualities.

So why not check for the following few, when you think it’s time to hire the services of a PR agency.

  • Does the agency have a history of delivering PR value to companies of your kind, and how often have they done it?
  • Do they have the agility – not just in the pitch of theirs, but do they seem to fit in your scheme of things – would they find synergy in working with a client like you
  • Do they have the kind of commitment to work with companies like you in the medium and long term, so that you eventually get the real benefit of engaging with an agency. If you are just looking for one off bursts of media coverage, the need to spend time analyzing the agency can be done away with
  • Do they have the de-learning skills for adapting to your specific needs? This is so important. Like it or not, large and global agencies come with a mindset, and even if they are willing to do their best, they may not be of service if your communication needs are vastly different from what is doable by them
  • Do they have an understanding of your specific industry needs, and would they be willing to invest the time and energy in gaining insights into your media visibility need
  • Are they just a plain vanilla release churning agency? Or do they learn in-depth about you, see what works best for you, and showcase that to the world.
  • How much more credibility and enhanced image value can they bring to the table (not just immediately,  but over a period of 2 – 3 years)
  • Are they contemporary? Are they social in the real sense? And are they in the business of facilitating the news crowd-sourcing?
  • In case your needs are very local, do they have an insight into what works in that market/geography of yours? Sometimes an easy exercise in one part of the world, may not be even doable elsewhere. And they must be willing to tell this, straight on your face. Its important that they are transparent and make promises that work.
  • Do they speak of practical and doable communication work? Sometimes large agencies are too good at large scale events, which will fetch some visibility burst; but the value that you derive from such exercise is zilch.

In your long term communication interests, ask these and such other questions; and make sure that you understand the dynamics of the value promised.

How about a reality check of your present PR agency value proposition?

Is it time for Chief Social media officers in our Government?

Every time there is some untoward incident in some corner of the country, or some flare-up which goes out of control (mostly owing to state action or inaction), the social media is the favorite whipping boy of the powers that be, the opposition, and surprisingly, the media which feeds itself from the social media like no one else does,

The latest communal flare up in Muzzafarabad, in Uttar Pradesh, India has come as no exception to this trend.

Social media is the whipping boy in UP riots!

Social media is the whipping boy in UP riots too…

With unanimity, most government officials, including the Home secretary of the state, and many other leaders of the ruling party blamed the social media squarely.

Its surprising that every time some this of this sort happens, no one wishes to see this fact – Social media can only be an amplifier. It cannot substitute the reality of the ground situation.

Not just that – Social media is one great leveler, a real democracy where everyone wields the same power.

So, rather than blame social media, it is much easier for the state/center also to get into it, be in it, and take the so called adversaries and rumor mongers head on – this if done effectively, will counter facts real-time.

Its much easier to wait for issues to get out of hand and then, as a post mortem blame the media conveniently.

In social, the state can drive the conversation too.

 

This is not the first time it has happened. Earlier there were incidents in the southern state of Karnataka, where in rumors led almost to the exodus of North East Indians, and then too, the role of social media came under the lens.

Given the complexity of the Indian polity, and the fact that social media might be a contributor to the menace of rumor mongering, it is only fair that the state/central governments get their act to suggest people representatives and bureaucrats stay active on this media, and address issues real-time.

When this happens, the chance that the state’s point of view is communicated and amplified real-time is very high. Rumors can be quelled, and the peddlers of rumors, if at all any, can be shamed with facts.

This is also an easier route than just deploying resources in monitoring and taking action on those who are seen to be acting against the facts.

With this in mind,  is it time that the Indian government thinks of forming a cadre of “Chief social media officers” with people drawn from the Indian administrative service??

Having a set of elite officers in charge of this fast paced, real-time, and ever changing media, will only  serve disseminating information, quickly, and stay in charge of any conversation that affects peace and tranquility.

Is it time for “Chief social media officers” in India? What say??