Category Archives: information integrity

Just social media crises, or crisis for social media as well?


twitter logo map 09

twitter logo map 09 (Photo credit: The Next Web)

If you are a student of social media, its pleasure and pain points – by now you would be well aware of the ‘attacks’ or ‘hacks’ on the twitter accounts of prominent brands like @burgerking and @jeep.

You can read about the @bugerking part of the story here http://mashable.com/2013/02/18/burger-king-twitter-account-hacked  at @mashable

Online attacks of such nature are not completely surprising, given that the cyber world is getting to another place for brands to fight and fist it out. This is a world where every countries are resorting to cyber-warefare, so why blame the poor brands and their online army who try out the best to bring down competition. (Fact is, such attacks on brand online properties will only see an upswing now on).

Yet, what came as a huge surprise was 140-character powerhouse twitters statement after these attacks on the likes of @burgerking and @jeep.

In a statement published at twitter’s blog, users of the platform were advised on how to keep their passwords secure, and the kind of computers one should etc. You may see the statement here http://blog.twitter.com/2013/02/a-friendly-reminder-about-password.html

Given the un-swerving loyalty of millions of users and thousands of brands across the globe to its platform, @twitter could have done well in also stating facts about how such attacks happen at the first place, and more than that, what preventive measures it plans to have in place to protect its users.

In addressing any crisis, it’s useful to caution the stakeholders and help such situations/incidents from recurring.

But, another cardinal rule in crisis management/communication is to be forthcoming & clear as to what went wrong in specific cases – a simple statement of facts and events leading to a crisis, and added to that assurance that incidents of similar nature will not recur.

It’s about being loud and clear that everything needed to protect the ‘information integrity’ of users will be done.

As of this moment, @twitter has missed the opportunity to win this battle post the hack of accounts like @burgerking and @jeep

Brands are all geared to watch for and handle social media crisis, and battle them. But the question also is what if social media platforms themselves become crisis-points?

Of terror, color and communication!


Hyderabad, Charminar

Hyderabad, Charminar (Photo credit: Arian Zwegers)

Yet again, there has been a terror strike in the capital city of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh – Hyderabad.

As always, the ruling government and its leaders have in their ‘usual’ language condemned the act of terror with the usual vocabulary meant for such occasions – a dastardly act, an act of terror, an attack on the Indian democracy etc.

For those who observe such incidents – now happening with an alarming regularity  in India – it’s a sad and tragic sense of deja vu, that comes to haunt this country and its people again, and always.

Terrorism by the extremist elements who are against resolution of their grievances through democratic ways and means, is no less a grave problem that faces a country like India, given its history, and geo-political fit.

But more than that, what may continue to inspire such elements in continuing their thirst for blood and such inhuman acts is not just the actions by those in power.

It is equally inspired (with hesitation, one could use the world emboldened) by the confusion in communication or communication strategy by those who hold power.

The moment the unequivocal message from the ruling class is – we will not tolerate (the words in their truest sense) such acts, by whomsoever doing this – there will be a strong deterrent by the terror outfits – making them think that their ‘jehadi’ acts will not work.

Contrary to that, the communication strategy by the government is being carefully ambiguous – more keen to assuage the feeling of some sections of the society where some of these elements may belong to.

Add  to that, the new tendency of the rulers to use colors to depict the kind of terror – red, blue, green and what not.  Lack of assertiveness and conviction in articulating – with the message “irrespective of who, belonging to where” attack people in the name of religion, had clearly given more courage to such attackers, their supporters, the communities in question, and whoever give those people safe haven.

Terrorism breeds in a climate where the right words – not just verbal condemnation and routine drab statements – are used by the government and state/central administration.

Add to this the coloring attempts based on vote bank convenience – if your terror is of a certain color, then there are a hundred other factors to be seen before the right punishment is meted out…  and you keep making a perennial cocktail in which innocents lose life, and the perpetrators continue to do so at will.

In handling terrorism, and the terror elements, the choice of words matter as much as the deeds, by those holding office.

Here is a simple yet powerful example – post 9/11, President Bush said “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.. we will hunt them down, in whichever corner of the world they may be”.

In contrast, immediately after the attacks yesterday evening in Hyderabad, India, Dr Singh Indian PM said “”The guilty will not go unpunished.”

Its so much different from “the guilty, whomsoever, will be punished quickly.” What plays in the choice of words is not the conviction to act, but what fallout usage of tough words will cause.

To take terror and its roots head on, the country and its administration first need to communicate with power and conviction.

The right actions by all concerned will be a natural fall-out.

Ambiguity in whether to really deal with such acts (color depending) will be a good recipe for empowering rogue elements.

In public relations measurement, keep ‘context’, as a mantra!


Veracity with Tenacity: VVV Public Relations F...

Veracity with Tenacity: VVV Public Relations Firm Offers Guerrilla Marketing Revelations & White Hat Black PR To Take Down Corrupt Corporations With Truth (Photo credit: watchingfrogsboil)

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.

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!

Social media – Is there a crisis brewing somewhere out there?


#bdi Social Reputation Management Conference N...

#bdi Social Reputation Management Conference NYC March 2010 (Photo credit: ShashiBellamkonda)

Its become sort of fanciful or on the other extreme paranoia to keep chanting about an impending social media crisis, 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.

Yet, sometimes, it is not being prepared to handle of face 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 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 has 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.

Here 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.

Executive leadership, art of communicating, & “Reputation”!


English: President Barack Obama and Vice Presi...

English: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with BP executives in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, June 16, 2010, to discuss the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Pictured, from left, are BP CEO Tony Hayward, BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, BP General Counsel Rupert Bondy, BP Managing Director Robert Dudley, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Attorney General Eric Holder, Biden, Obama, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a person on the communications learning curve ever, I am a great fan of Steve Farnsworth’s @Steveology blog, and a student alike.

I found this post “3 Things Executives Can Do To Be More Quoted In The News” a very informative one in the context of every top manager/leader being communicators for the organization!

By now, the world of communicators is too familiar with the reputation disaster the erstwhile BP CEO Tony Hayward was, in his now famous (rather infamous) “I’d like my life back” comment to the humongous disaster, the oil spill was.

The cardinal rule for any CEO/CXO who is in the line of sight of the media is to be always “battle ready”. This might indeed sound ominous, yet it’s the closest to reality and the best communications mantra!

Picture this – there could be a call from anywhere in the globe on something which has just been just happened a few minutes ago (hours and day response time are dead and gone forever – another rule to remember!). Any of these calls, if not responded to swiftly, can a long term ‘reputation impact’ on your company and its fortunes.

Add to the events per se that may impact your company, the buzz in the social media universe – someone cooks up a rumor, or goes by sheer hearsay, and tweets or posts a few words that could go viral in minutes, or hours – the ‘reputation’ consequences will impact you and your company too!

One quality that will keep your reputation index in good stead is this – your ability to respond in an appropriate manner to any query from any corner of the world!

The CEO may not have a magic wand to all queries, and it is important to admit and realize that – the best answer when confronted with an uncomfortable or ill-informed query is very simple – give me a while and we will come to you with the facts!

What happens in real-life is, on many such occasions, just the opposite – out of a quest to close the issue, and under pressure of the situation, the response is wee bit casual.

This is a perfect recipe for inviting negative media and negative soc-med, and  you are possibly and un-alterably messing up an already fluid situation.

If you think that an expert coaching intervention is needed to handle such events with the media, do ask your board or your organization, and tell them that it is a reputation imperative. Most organizations tend to have the belief that the CEO spokesperson must be suave and possess extra-ordinary skills in communication! This can be a huge advantage but not a pre-requisite at all.

In fact, track some PR crises and how suave spokesperson handled them – you will see that the over-confidence that comes out of being suave and flamboyant brings in a tinge of arrogance – a perfect recipe for many a media disasters!

Facts and truth, yes, nothing but truth – put across in simple language with amazing clarity and miles ahead of a suave and ambiguous, arrogant and just too casual remark.

Many PR careers have been shunted by usage of inappropriate language, unintended it may be – someone somewhere leaks it out when things go out of the hand! The mantra ought to be state the facts and only facts, in a language that can be scrutinized anytime later.

While speed of response is a paramount criterion, it never can be at the cost of language that reflects an unprofessional and casual attitude! Make sure that facts are not colored by style and the tone and tenor of the spoken or written language!

Executive leaders must endeavor to be masters in the art of communicating to the media. And get to being masters one event or crisis at a time – sans making any costly ‘reputation’ screw-ups.

Wild ‘out-sourcing’ of “reputation”, or ‘owned’ engagement?


English: Reputation management graphic that br...

English: Reputation management graphic that breaks down the elements of reputation management and how they fit together. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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, and the PR folk 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!

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!

On the ‘when’ or ‘why’ of news-jacking!?


News Anchor

News Anchor (Photo credit: ed100)

Well, this sounds so familiar by now – news jacking, as an armor in your public relations strategy is here to stay. And not just stay – the only way you will be able to make a significant value addition to your brand is to use news-jack. That will happen if your are real-time new-jacking ready!

By now there is also a raging debate on the merits and de-merits of news-jacking.  The answer to that debate is this – you must news-jack at the right time, in the right place, in the right context. There are no two ways about it.

This earlier post in this blog also dwelved on whether brands must news-jack piggyback on a major disaster like Super-storm Sandy.  There are a handful of global brands that jumped into the news-jacking bandwagon in the aftermath of Sandy.

This post is a nice illustration of how some brands really reaped the windfall gains of news jacking in a positive brand-lift context.

While there can be a long debate on the when and how of new jacking as a PR tool, brands must look at news jacking if it has the following impact for them-

  • Will it show the brand, products and services in good light, in the context of the event?
  • Does the consumer see the brand has something beneficial to offer – either by way of information or services, or tangible/intangible product benefit?
  • Will news jacking in the given situation serve brand-lift in the short and long term?
  • Will news jacking stand the test of ethics in business and also stand any legal test, that may come to the fore by any stakeholders?
  • Would all the stakeholders in the product/service be happy with the technique used to news.

As a PR professional, and an avid news jacker, ask yourself these quick questions when you embark in your next news jacking sojourn!

News-jacking…. right or wrong?


Hurricane Sandy Aftermath

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath (Photo credit: FlightDreamz2012)

In the armor of public relations professionals all across the globe, news-jacking has indeed arrived.

By now there are a handful of examples, as to how the alert and agile communications professionals can plug in his brand with any real-time news to get a viral visibility – in a sense, an exponential brand visibility which no other conventional tool in the PR armor can ever bring in. This lucid post by PR thought leader David Meerman Scott informs about the what, where, how and when of news-jacking. For any aspiring news-jacker, Davids latest book on the subject is a must read.

To quote from a popular post – you news-jack on virality… that’s what any smart communications pro does – take something that’s already gone viral, and piggyback on its success by creating your own awesome spin on it. There are several companies out there who have done it — and done it well.

Move on now to the debate on what is right and wrong in news jacking. Some of the most popular brands in the US have now started to gain a tangible brand-lift by news-jacking the presidential elections. But, what is beginning to generate a debate now on the virtues and vices of news-jacking is Hurricane Sandy, that has battered the east coast of USA, causing huge damage to people and property.

Brands – as diverse as from careers to cosmetics, and essential supply services lost no time in jumping into the news-jacking band-wagon!

But is it right for brands to look at promoting themselves, by plugging them in the visibility that a monstrous disaster like Sandy gets in the social world? The answer for this can be – yes, only when your brand is placed well to serve the essentials for the people who have been tormented by the storm. And no, if your brand intention is to just exploit the visibility, but has nothing to do with the aftermath of the event!

Extending that, its fine if you are a utility or essential service provider for your brand to be plugged in. But if you are a hair-do company, or a cosmetic (like the one suggesting to spend your home time trying a new product of theirs!), then news-jacking will be a fail in the long run.  What are your views? You think a hair do company must news-jack Hurricane Sandy?

Social media.. do you need a specialist?


Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Although the word social media is being used in a broad sense, the question is more in the context of the 140 character powerhouse of information, Twitter!

Globally, and closer home too, celebrities and the common man alike have taken to tweeting as not just a habit, but a must do. The same can be extended to posts and views across the social space.

In the case of celebrities, even just a few tweets gets them thousands of followers. Along with that comes loads of scrutiny both by the media, and their followers/critics.

Celebrities use their status sometimes to a great advantage; at the same time, some of them tend to shoot them in their own legs by their over enthusiasm, and also in their bit of recklessness or call it packed emotions. In a nation of a billion views on any topic in the universe that is India, such reckless tweets land the celebrities into controversies, and at times land them in litigation.

There are a whole bunch of celebrities who use ghost tweeters, with their views on issues be known, and the actual time and line of tweeting is decided by the tweeter who happens to be a specialist in communication. In such cases, the specialist adds in a sense of context, and takes care to see that the sensitivities are not hurt, in issues of import.

Such specialized intervention and management ought to be seen in the light of the power of social to amplify, interpret, at times misinterpret what is said – all this in the speed of light (or call in the speed of the net!)

While there can be questions on whether such a tendency to specialist manage or agency manage social media is right, ethical, and stands for authenticity, there can be no doubt that when there is so much rapt attention to every single tweet and word in the tweet uttered (or feed/post in any social post), a specialist intervention in managing such social media could be handy.

As communications outreach professional, what are your thoughts to share?

How about some ‘information integrity’??!!


All our press releases

All our press releases (Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn)

What puts off journalist friends most, when you churn out information on behalf of a client, in the form of a press kit or a media release is this – factual errors.

Might sound so rudimentary, but as a matter of fact such errors creep in while we battle with deadlines, or with over-enthusiasm to send out the release so that we help the journo meet the deadline?

It’s the journalist’s responsibility to check the facts in any story – that said, if you are representing a client, you are the custodian of the facts mentioned in any media information that disseminates from your end.

Factual errors are not the big ones like the client concealing the facts or misrepresenting reality, in a crisis situation. Simple errors like getting the name of the person/product spelt wrong, getting the timeline of events wrong, or just spelling the CEO’s surname wrong – such errors come easily to the notice of the consumer – the reader of the viewer of the news, when and if it finally gets there.

And if it does, at stake is the credibility of the journalist, the media house, and your own client. In most cases, such mistakes creep in, in minor details which we tend to take for granted.

As a PR pro, make sure that the eye for detail is in play, every time, with every client. When you claim to manage reputation of clients, the least expected from you is to ensure information integrity.

To err in information is a big fail in the world of PR and reputation management!

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