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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.

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.

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!

‘Newsle’ : a great tool for communication professionals!


A conversation with a  friend in the communications fraternity made a mention to me about a Newsle, an innovative news/content aggregation tool on people all over the world!

Newsle… check it out.

Picking up from their bio,  Newsle combs the web continuously, analyzing over 1 million articles each day – every major news article and blog post published online, as well as most minor ones. Newsle’s core technology is its disambiguation algorithm, which determines whether an article mentioning “John Smith” is about the right person.

On sign up using your Linkedin or Facebook id, you get to view all your friends, and network connects – with every mention in the news across the globe about them captured in one nice screen short – with their bio, news coverage with their quotes and views, and their twitstream.

In the crowd of a hundred new tools, I am not sure if there is any similar social space akin to Newsle. There may  be.  Yet, what immediately struck a note is how Newsle can be of immense use as a social and global tracker of people you know, you may work with, and people who you want to track.

Yes, i can hear you saying that’s what you do with Google Alerts, yet this appears to be more convenient, and easy to use – scores over Google Alerts on that.

Here are the quick uses that a communication professional can see in Newsle.

  • Track real-time your client organization and the key people.
  • If you are a PR agent for the rich and famous, you can see what is being said about them in the news across the globe.
  • Track competition and its key people, and figure out what PR opportunities are out there for a grab, and how you must hone your agility and ‘think out of the box.
  • Track journalists of your choice, in your country, region and across the globe – to get a real time feed of the kind of story opportunities, for now and for the future.
  • Newsle also has its own list of top trends (of people) in technology, CEO’s, CXO’s, journalists, and a whole lot of people like that! It could help you in people-spotting, and may be trend-forecasting, if you can cut through the maze!

The above are some hints of how Newsle can make life better, for communication professionals!

Go try it out for yourself!

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.

….gosh…. there’s a crisis! where’s PR??


Public Relations Exersise

Public Relations Exersise (Photo credit: Dave W Clarke)

For some reason, the word ‘crisis’ is associated with ‘panic’, and most of today’s organizations tend to immediately get pushed into a panic mode at the distant sight of a crisis. What then happens when there is a real crisis on hand, is anyone’s guess.

There are examples all over of how even the communication savvy leadership/PR team of an organization, gifted with a fair amount of media leverage, gets into a shell and resorts to denial mode when it’s time to speak and write more information, to be virally sent out to every media outlet possible.

The cardinal rule in handling PR in times of a crisis is to get immediately speaking and sending our fact statements to the entire gamut of media houses – including web2.0 and social platforms. The singular intent once the information/details of the crisis is handed out is to deliberately invite media conversations, with the intent of giving more and more details possible.

Never give a remote sense that your organization is shying away from the media – even when the crisis in not your own making, when you shy away, the immediate conclusion is that the organization wants to hide facts.

While there can be well documented papers (by your PR agency or internal communications team) of how to respond when there is a crisis, it’s easy to manage a crisis when some basics are in place.

Just see if these things are in place in your organization, anytime rather always…

  • a designated spokesperson, who will instantly be updated on any crisis that may have hit – he is the points man for all information to be given – facts, details, images, live feed and whatever.
  • Handpicked communication team that swings into action – gets into an auto pilot mode in any mishap – which is connected and networked 24/7/365 to take the crisis PR initiatives. Stay abreast all through the crisis life cycle, and ceaselessly and tirelessly handles all queries from every corner of the globe.
  • a communication mechanism (call it a protocol) which communicates to all the key decision makers and every internal stakeholder in the organization the details and occurrences of any crisis that may have hit, how the consequences will be managed, how internal/external stakeholder interests will be protected, what are the cost consequences and the impact on the organizations’ fiscals et al.
  • a standard template that captures all the finer details of any mishap that may occur, roll it out into the form of a media release, so that the same can be handed to the media fraternity  and follow up questions taken.
  • a mechanism that ensure that all the state authorities are informed of the mishap in the shortest possible time, with as much details as gather-able in the least lead time.
  • a media room which gets activated when such an event happens, where all the journalistic fraternity can report from, with all information fed to them officially, live wire.

    An overload of communications

    An overload of communications (Photo credit: windsordi)

These may sound baby steps – yet, in the crisis management plan, many  times its lack of this basic preparedness that brings in misery to the organization, than the actual crisis itself.

Make sure your organization is set ready in the first steps of managing crises.  As the old adage, being well prepared is half the battle won.

That’s true in managing a crisis too.

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