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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.

Is your campus hiring, ‘social’ empowered?


We only keep hearing of how campus recruiters – companies chasing talent – have used the power of twitter to build their company brands, and also create loads of visibility for their campus recruitment initiatives.

Now, in 2013, its imminent that colleges use twitter to showcase their talent to the outside world – it’s important not just for the sake of doing it – but to position the campus, college/university and its students as great prospective employees.

Twitter and other social media are one of the ways colleges can make sure that they stand out – with the proliferation of science and professional colleges/universities in a country like India, and the reduced intake expected in the much sought after information technology/IT enabled services businesses, organizations no longer would want to visit campuses all and sundry.  HR and hiring managers responsible for campus initiatives will only be choosier, and only be willing to look at institutes where the ‘ employ-ability’ factor is relatively very high.

So, it’s time that campuses, placement, coordinators and students took a plunge into how they can effectively use twitter to position their ‘brand’ as a place with students with diverse employ-ability skills, and hold great promise to organizations of the future, and the HR/hiring managers.

Campus hiring managers can look at even rolling out highlights of the student profile in various lines of study, tweet their placement brochure to all the targeted and top organizations, and exchange information on specifics of the skills looked for, the number of students with the targeted ‘employable skills’ and so on. The extent to which information can be showcased is only limited by the bouquet of skills sought for.

English: Infographic on how Social Media are b...

English: Infographic on how Social Media are being used, and how everything is changed by them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Individual student accomplishments which are unique and note-worthy, case studies and research papers by the students, pod-casts where students showcase their unique skills and abilities… there are a host of variations that can go out through the twitter handle,

And with the power of student social networks, this kind of talent broadcast will give a great branding opportunity for the campus, its programs, and the talent they churn out.

With a little thought, mixed with the power of student innovation, this is one of the ways that campus branding initiatives will fetch long term positioning and talent visibility – drawing organizations like butterfly takes to flowers with honey.

So, is your campus brand (campus hiring program) on twitter and social media?

Does your campus program have the power of social?

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.

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’??

Media briefings… some greatly useful notes for communicators


Communication professionals in any organization constantly have to face the media, on a litany of ongoing issues. They could be at any level – be it the Corp Comm executive, right up-to the CEO. Media briefings are regular pressers are just a couple of communication tools that have yet retained the charm, despite the arrival of a barrage of social media tools, which are at the disposal of any right thinking public relations professional.

If one looks around, its it such media briefings and pressers that communication professional are at the risk of exposing themselves and in turn make their organizations image vulnerable – not by mistakes in facts, but by failing to address questions in the right manner.

More so, in times when crisis hits at the heart of an organizations PR armor. Under pressure, its very natural that the communications professional however well equipped, reacts to the situation, as the media event goes astray by the volley questions lobbed in by the media. Faced with this barrage, even the best communicators wilt under pressure, reacting with their emotion laden language – all leading to a perfect recipe for an ‘image disaster’.

Yet, such situations can be better handled, more deftly, and to the complete ‘image advantage’ of their organization.

  • Lay down ground rules – At the beginning of the presser, make sure you lay the ground rules – state it  in clear terms that the intent of the briefing is to address such and such specific issue, and any question shall be around that issue only. Any query that does not pertain to the issue on hand would be taken to be answered later.
  • Better, begin with a written statement – The simple step of circulating a well written media note, detailing the views and facts on the topic would serve well as a pre-cursor in setting the agenda for the right kind of questions. Make sure the facts that need to be taken to the media are mentioned with utmost clarity, and mention that questions can be around the statement. By making such a statement, you also possibly tend to take the steam away for any digressions that are planned by some members of the media fraternity.
  • Plan for complementary statements – You have in hand a written statement; but if there are some questions that can be responded to with more facts, it would be a great idea to respond verbally, and also tell the media that these responses will be typed and circulated at the end of the presser. This can be easily done with the help of the communications team; and not just that, a complementary press note at the end of the press conference is a great way to re-iterate fact, highlight your responses, and way to ensure there are no map – territory distortions at the end of the day.
  • Maintain a friendly and cool demeanor – this may sound way too basic, yet a whole lot of media face offs go astray only for this precise reason. One provocative question, and the communicator loses his cool, making a completely unintended gesture or remark – and however the presser be well armed with facts, this one spar hijacks the image of the organization. The best way to handle any unfriendly question is just a broad smile, or stating can we take it later, or I would come to back to you as soon as I can provide this information. And if the media persists with the same uncomfortable question, the communicator must persist with the positive demeanor, a simple smile, and the planned response – one of the three above. With this, in a matter of few minutes, the questions will move on.
  • Avoid a “we know all” trap – Its often suggested that communication professional while addressing the media, must know all – yes, you must  be armed with a whole lot of facts on a situation. However, that is so different from displaying or exhibiting a know all demeanor in front of the media. That demeanor, mostly leads to a tinge of arrogance, and arrogance is the last thing you need in your PR weaponry. And it is such arrogance that tends to color the most accurate facts with the yellow of distortion. So, it is in your interest and organisation’s interest that you always maintain “I don’t have all the answers, but will endeavor to get them soon” demeanor right through. In fact make it a SOP for your media interactions, and the benefits are immense.

These 5 simple practices will serve to better your image management in a big way. They may sound simple, yet it is these that most of us as communicators or PR professional fail to inculcate in our PR armor, and also educate our spokesperson.

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