Category Archives: social

Of papal resignation, PR & Communication!


English: Emblem of Vatican City Italiano: Embl...

English: Emblem of Vatican City Italiano: Emblema della Ciattà del Vaticano Македонски: Амблем на Ватикан {| cellspacing=”0″ style=”min-width:40em; color:#000; background:#ddd; border:1px solid #bbb; margin:.1em;” class=”layouttemplate” | style=”width:1.2em;height:1.2em;padding:.2em” | 20px |link=|center | style=”font-size:.85em; padding:.2em; vertical-align:middle” |This vector image was created with Inkscape. |} Emblem of Vatican City.svg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pope Benedict has expressed his intent to move on, owing to palpable health reasons – and going by the looks of the visuals widely aired by television channels, it appears to be true. 

Late on Monday night, the Vatican has released the text of the Pope’s speech informing a close door meeting of his decision – read it here http://bbc.in/YT31jU
 
Yet, the Vatican authorities, and more-so, the communication advisers at Vatican seem to have missed a golden opportunity in seizing the moment – from a PR and communication angle!
 
Even hours after the news broke, the communications team of Vatican did not come up with a formal statement, may me with a mention of the events that led to the pope’s decision.
 
The highest religious authority of catholic Christians in the world is wanting to move on from his role, and surprisingly, his communications or pr team does not back it up with a statement of facts, and may be a succession plan with a timeline.
 
Even worse, in the news broadcast on BBC news aired this morning, a communications adviser to the pope was seen as saying that “people missed the hints thrown in by the pope in an address a couple of months back” 
 
Communication advisers are meant to simplify the messages and send it to the target audience, and not act as soothsayers or those who just dissect comments – that was the role of external communication pro’s and not the least of a Vatican communications adviser.
 
If people have to read between the line of what Pope’s say time and again, then that would be only a recipe to more confusion and a clear lack of communications authority at the papal seat.
 
It was only a few weeks back that the Pope chose to join the social media bandwagon by coming on to twitter – an acknowledgement of the changing times by none other than himself! http://bit.ly/YT4pDa
 
Yet, the team of communicators at the Vatican left the media, the believers, and people of the world guessing on the ifs and buts.
 
The Vatican’s communications team have proved that they are redundant?!

Community public relations – Managing crisis


Carpet bombing tactical aid

Carpet bombing tactical aid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you are in India, or even elsewhere in the globe, you would have sure heard of Koodamkulam, which sometime back was the epicentre of brewing trouble, with the protests by the local populace snowballing into a mass movement. While what and who is propelling and catalyzing this people aggression (and any such community driven flare up anywhere) are complex questions, the only savior in such occasions can be a very pro-active communication/PR strategy by the authorities, and all PR professionals involved in containing any such ‘citizen movement’.

While the in-situ circumstances can differ from place to place and country to country, there is some amount of standardization in the communication strategy that can be followed with rigor. These are essentially aimed at not muddying the situation in the run up to the final citizen flare-up and also in the course of any such agitation.

  1. Communications committee – This committee shall draw people from all the stakeholders and various interest groups – a judicious blend of experts to with the kind of plant/industry, with equal representation by the locals, who perceive them as the affected community.
  2. Isolate the non-stake holders – Any agitation or public movement gets precipitated and turns rudderless when people who are not connected with the local interests move in to garner some political mileage, and in turn hijack the entire local movement. A prudent strategy would be to keep watch for such vested interests in any public agitation. In handling such agitations, isolating the non-stakeholders by consistent means of ‘direct’ engagement with the locals is the key. The goal must be to earn trust, address the genuine concerns, and get all the fringe elements out of the game.
  3. Form locals committees – It’s never too late to completely involve every bit of the local community, when the situation looks like it might spiral out of hand, even remotely. The authorities and communicators must use every tool in the communications armor to reach out to the locals. Communicate to them that the authorities are willing to address every single concern/fear that may be in the mind of every one, who thinks he or she may be affected. This must be a sustained exercise, with no timelines, and the intent must be to understand what exactly are the perceived fears that loom large in the minds of the people in that area. Those which are well founded must be answered with facts, and those ill founded and planted by miscreants can be quashed to the dustbin.
  4. Unleash a carpet-bombing local PR campaign – This might sound too aggressive – yet, in situations of public agitations, there is no rescue other than to communicate more and more. A crisis in the best time to speak out must be the PR mantra – while the opposite in reality causes incalculable harm to success of any well laid communication strategy. Make use of not just the national media in that place, but make sure every local reach to communicate is made use of – vernacular media, local radio, community radio, billboards, leaflets – just every possible tool to reach door-to-door in the region. Remember – if the fringe can manage a perception that there is a massive opposition to the plant or public amenity, the authorities can plan a turnaround in that perception with a well planned and executed strategy.

This is a broad communication template – a  combination of all these above will make sure that a space is created for a people centric dialog, which would lead to a solution to any citizen agitation.

Earning trust, end of the day, is the result of a sustained PR effort, with a conscience.

@twitter handle – are you in the 30 minute response league?


English: jacket cover of Dominate your market ...

English: jacket cover of Dominate your market with Twitter – UK edition (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does you company have a dedicated and real time twitter handle for service to your customers? Be it for your product or service or promotion?

Well, if your answer is yes, then you are in a special 23% league! Yes. As per a survey by simplymeasuredthat’s the percentage of companies which have a service-handle on twitter!

But whats the point if you have a handle, and take eons to respond to your customers? Today, with social media at the touch of a mobile screen 24/7, every minute of delay in your response is adding up to the dissonance in the customer’s mind.

In the same survey, not many of those 23% companies responded to the tweets coming in, within 30 minutes!

And that is a big big fail!

So, have a service twitter handle only if you man it real-time and 24/7/365.

Else, don’t have one. Period.

Does your organisation have the soc-med ecosystem to pass the 30 minute response test?

If you say YES, you are in the 30-minute response league.

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!

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!

Agility ‘myopia’ – will your social media plan ever help?


Social Media Cafe

Social Media Cafe (Photo credit: Cristiano Betta)

Organizations’ round the world are slowly adopting to the brutal embrace of the social media.  The word brutal might sound crude, yet, that is only to signify the powerful impact the medium has on how contemporary business is done, and how customers across every business are gathering real-time information of your products, services and people!

As a matter of fact, it will not be an exaggeration to say that your customer knows better than you, or your product/service or people, more that you; not just that, the customer gets to know it faster that you.

Once the customer gets to know – by virtue of your brick and mortar touch points – they could be your product performance, your people response, or your service credential, he gets online and shares this knowledge to the world – by a blog, a podcast, a tweet or a face-book post…  any tool that comes in handy to him at the click of a mouse.

Speed or call it ‘agility’, is the mantra. And your organization being ready to embrace the power of social also means that you are willing to engage in conversations real-time, round the clock, and round the year!

Most organizations miss this point – they have a social media plan, yet, the system is steeped in old world bureaucracy – the social team, or the team that is meant to respond real-time is a victim to the rigor of seeking approvals from the higher ups – who are completely myopic to the power of agility in social media. When the need is to swiftly respond, they engage in internal debates on the how and when, and sometimes the tangible benefits/losses and the ‘budgetary’ impact of the actions to be taken.

Little do these agility-myopic people realize that there is a negative spiral out there swallowing the reputation of the organization, one bite a second (or is it faster?!). In this age and world of 24/7 social, your hard-built reputation is at stake, every minute you are embroiled in useless bureaucracy!

Social media is not for the agility myopic – if your organization has a well made social play-book, yet does not have the culture of agility or is not willing to swiftly embrace the ‘agility culture’, then there is one way out – throw the social play book in the dustbin, and get back to business as usual.

May sound rude, yet, that’s the harsh reality – the social space is NOT for those with agility myopia!

Social Media… Who wants to be a champion?


ESA/ESOC goes Social Media _10

ESA/ESOC goes Social Media _10 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Circa 2012, social media has well indeed arrived in full force, and there is no way that you or your organization can continue to look away or turn a blind eye to. Unless offcourse, you suffer from a monumental myopia to what value a social presence can mean for you, your company and its brands.

This has propelled the need for social media champions in these organizations, big and small, to wake up to the need for someone who can lead and spearhead the social media initiatives’ – welcome the social media “executive champion”.

But wait, there are some key facts (factors) you must weigh before you are prompted to take the plunge to usher in your organization and brand to the whole new ‘social’ world – the world of likes, fans, followers, re-tweets and so on.

Behind all the buzz and socmed jargon like above, there is a whole lot of ‘back-end’ preparedness that is really needed before you take the first step.

So, what are some of those ‘musts’ if you need to be a social media champion for your organization or brand?

  • Does the organization, which wants you to be a social media proponent (okay, champion), cede all the authority in you, to facilitate the creation/execution of a long term social media plan? And along with the authority, does it also trust you with all the resources that would be needed to put the social media face in place?
  • More importantly, do you think you possess the relevant knowledge and bouquet of skills which will be needed to eventually make the social media plan a workable, and to some extent measurable (the board always loves to ask – where are the results to see) one? Social media is a dynamo and keeps evolving by the minute, in some nook and corner of this animal called internet – one can never be ready with all the know-how, but must be willing to look around for emerging trends, and what works and what does not – across the globe, across platforms: are you willing to be always on that learning curve?
  • Do you have the ability and agility to sell a ‘vision’ (social media vision) to your internal customers – your big bosses, the CEO, the board, and the stakeholders? And to do that, you must have the insight and prowess as to how, where, why and when of the social media plan. Do you?
  • Social is free is the biggest assumption, out there – which is patently false. This premise leads to too much internal strife once the plan is kick started – yes, platforms may be free, but the team in your organization which will work in delivering the social media plan will have to be paid – and paid well at that. Social media calls for tremendous long term investments in time and money – and once the organization decides to make that investment, then it’s obvious that they want to measure the results as well. So, right at the word go, you must have the wisdom and vision to decide the goals on social media, the investments, and how the final or intermittent measurement will be done. Do you have the ability to do that?
  • Can you seamlessly work hand in hand with all the cross functional leadership of your company – be it with HR, marketing, finance, supply chain and the board/CXO of the organization, with the larger interest of a successful and workable social media presence? This will need the ability to possess the leadership skills and ‘moral’ authority to counsel, in case there happens to  be teething issues – which will be almost always there.
  • You are the social media champion – more of the driving force behind the scenes. There will be a host of people, who will be executing these plans from the front, on the ground – these will be a group of social media savvy professionals, who will need all the support needed; and also the counsel and intervention when there are goof-ups and crises due to errors of judgment. In the social media world, there is nothing like a perfect plan or even near perfect execution- some unexpected tweet or post or comment, unintended may be, will erupt in a big way – it’s your sagely presence and ability to lead in crises that will be the day saver. Think you are that kind of a person who will not wilt under pressure?

Thinking of some or all of the above even when you want or are wanted to don the mantle of a ‘social media champion’ will be the baby steps in your success out there.

So, ready to champion ‘social’??

Collaboration and co-creation… here’s how it’s happening.


JOURNALISTS

JOURNALISTS (Photo credit: drinksmachine)

As a practitioner of public relations, you would agree that change is sweeping the way we operate, strategize and execute the plans for customers, both in the online (call it digital if that entices you!) and offline world as well.

The one word that can describe how we ought to change as communication professionals is collaborate and co-create. The ability to really do that in the communications business increases manifold, when one looks at the various audiences in the value circle and stakeholders, who have their interests and stake. Be it the client for whom the communication plan is strategized and executed, the journalists, the television newsroom, the social media – each of them are consumers of what you have to offer, and indeed look at how much value they derive from what you state and do.

Gone are the days when you sat in the corner room for communications, and kept churning out releases on all and sundry that you or your client thought was ‘news-worthy’ or ‘noise-worthy’.  Amongst other changes, the tectonic shift is occurring at the room and mind of the primary consumer of the communication plan – the journalist or columnist or blogger, as the case may be.

One such example I stumbled upon, and is worth enough illustrating the shift of world Jeff Vance.  Take a look at his online home and you will  see examples of how much value is created by a contemporary journalist, and how much value is sought – true and supreme examples of co-creation and collaboration.

His site features the stories intended, for which he sought inputs (PR pitches) – examples like “Is VMware’s cloud strategy viable?” and yet another story for CIO magazine. In these he even gives the timeline for the inputs and what the story angle was to be. All a good and ‘relevant’ hungry PR professional needed to do was to see how his clients or stakeholders can bring in a perspective to these stories. The site also serves to educate the PR community by inviting them for a Webinar, which was about “How to reach the press in the age or information overload?”

In essence, staying relevant and contemporary is more and more now about how you are willing to collaborate in a manner thing could add tremendous value in every step of the communication value chain – with journalists as the vital link. This is just one of the hundreds of examples that could be strewn out there in the online world. To amply illustrate to the PR community what is needed to reach the target audience in a better way, and thus stay relevant.

So, do you have more examples of co-creation and collaboration? Sharing them will make a difference to the world of PR.

Lets collaborate and co-create, more and more OR…. just perish.

Social playbook – you thought it was all about PR or branding??


When was the last time you thought that a communication plan or social media action play book created for your organization (or the client if you happen to be an agency) could be to do with anything other than branding, public relations, buzz, and may be HR/employer branding?

The probability of this is very high – and it’s quite but natural for communication professional to work in a silo – a silo or PR or employer branding et al.

Well, those days are gone, and if there is such a play-book you proffer to your leadership, you are taking the first step in being a social media myopic.

The proliferation of social media across the different levels in your organization is complete, and you are well aware of this. By the same logic the proliferation of social media is as much complete in the external world – a world that encompasses your prospective employees, the next COO you are out to hire from out there, your product/service consumer, your media consumers (aren’t our journo friends consumers of what we communicate, and channels to a larger audience? J), your lenders (banks), your vendors and so on and on – just about every constituent you can imagine to be of present or future consequence.

Yet, how often does a play book you and me make cater to such a varied and dynamic constituency? If social was all about some buzz in the online world, then your playbook can be as you wish. But social is all about engagement, and at some point measurement of what the social media plan has delivered in value to the organization – and how much the plan has impacted the entire universe of constituents’ (call them stakeholders if you wish)

True, it will be impossible to make such a comprehensive play book. But what is important is to make sure that the kind of message that is sent out there is not just plain breast-beating to build an employer brand, but also to cultivate an image of a credible and competitive player in the space your organization is in.

Revisit your social plan now – do you see the kind of silo-isation as mentioned in the first part? Or can you see that you are factoring and attempting to engage the entire universe of constituents in your plan?

Revisit and Rewrite your social book today if need be. Not today, right now! 

Followers DON’T matter! Engagement DOES….Yes!!


Out there, you will have a hundred social media experts knocking at your door, armed with flashy presentations – aimed at bedazzling you, and indeed luring you to sign up their services to get more followers to your socmed accounts, or more visitors to your website.

Let me tell you a simple, but most forgotten fact – In the omnipresent and connected world – the number of followers or visitors matters the least!

What matters is how engaged are the handful of followers or visitors who are clued on to your work or brand. And how much they perceive that your brand might be of some value to them, now, little later or much later – somewhere in that distant time horizon.

If that is not to be, your hundreds or even thousands of followers may be of sheer cosmetic value, serving just to pamper your ego – the make believe world that you will win with so many 1000s of followers.

The easiest I can illustrate this folly is the retail business in that real world out there (thanks to a handful of my friends in the retail space). Out there, footfalls and actual sales may well have no connect at all. Footfalls are just a baby step – the consumer who comes in has to see tangible value or a great service. The footfall is miles and miles away from the tangible sale – and the interregnum ought to be filled with value, engagement, content, customer support, choice, USP… almost all those terms you will come across in the blue book of marketing.

Every click towards your social media platforms has to lead to content, engagement, and a valued conversation. Much more worthy for the visitor that what he invests in clicking and browsing through your social-omni-presence.

Does your presence out there in the social media world lead to such a kind of engagement? Value? Dialogue?

If the answer is in the affirmative, you are ready to call the bluff of a whole lot of social media strategists!

Are you ready! And Are you there??

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