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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?

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.

‘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!

Who in PR is promising you the moon?


Does you PR advisor tell you this – come what may, we will make sure that we get
your company covered in the media – in a nutshell, call it a “column cm guarantee”?

Nothing can be far from a blatant lie, and honestly, PR never works that way in any
part of the globe.

As a matter fact, if you have a long term PR/communication strategy for your company in mind,
you must quietly stay away from such ‘column space coverage’ guarantors!

Look at the media (and the journalist fraternity) as end consumers of your content. They have their their own creativity constraints – and its in a sense a battle between classy content, the most crucial advertisers (who walk away with a chunk of the col cms), and the editor who wields the wand as to what the reader must see and know!

The same analogy can be drawn to all kinds of media – print, television, online and so on. Add to this, the clutter of competition in your own industry – which is only increasing by the day!

In all this, if someone walks up to you and gives you as assurance of guaranteed coverage, it can be only if you are gullible enough to think that any of us in the PR business wield that influence.

The fact is, none of us, yes, NONE of us have that, and to some extent, it would be an insult to the independent thinking of the media if we imagine such a thing!

While we could be your company’s image advisors, we are just facilitators to friends in the media – sometimes involuntarily pushing information we perceive as useful, and at times offering a helping hand when sought. We are only catering to the content needs of the journalist fraternity, and this is in their own terms.

In all this, we also see how well we could position our client PR needs, and offer some expertise in creating media oriented content, which will be relevant and consumed!

Look at PR advisors as partners in your long term communication strategy execution plan. Not as someone who could just wave a magic wand and get you instant headlines in the next mornings newspapers! And by the way, such a magic wand never exists with any PR advisor!

What should we ask from our PR agency?


Public relations agencies of different hue and size may keep pitching with your organization, to get an opportunity to engage with your communication strategy and execution. And we have always seen that organizations just look for these – does your agency have the scale, size and a national/international presence, and would you be able to reach across all (including social) media, in every nook and corner of the world!

There is nothing wrong, and in fact, it’s important to check on what credentials your prospective agency comes with! Well, at the same time, it is important to bear in mind, that the agency must also have the ability and agility to engage in PR strategy and execution of an organization of your kind.

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

So why not check for the following few, when you think it’s time for a PR agency.       Does the agency have a history of delivering PR value to companies of your kind, and how often have they done it?

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

So, if you are looking at a PR agency to help you in your long term communication plans, ponder over these questions, and make sure that you understand the dynamics of the value promised.

Happy image management. Happy PR’ing!

Is your spokesperson ‘battle’ ready?


The word battle ready might sound ominous, but that is how spokesperson must be always.

There could be a call from anywhere in the globe on something which happened a few minutes ago, and which would have an impact on the company or its fortunes. It’s a viral world and not always does the spokesperson have the luxury of having information by the minute.

But the ability to respond in an appropriate manner to any query from anywhere is one quality which is a must!

The spokesperson does not have a magic wand to all queries, and it is important to admit 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!

But most times, out of a quest to close the issue, and under pressure of the situation, the response is a bit casual. This is a perfect recipe for inviting negative media, and possibly messing up an already fluid situation.

In case the spokesperson needs any coaching in this front, the organization must provide it time and again.

Most organizations tend to have the belief that spokesperson must be suave and possess extra-ordinary skills in communication, particularly verbal. Yes, this is an added advantage. But that is certainly 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, put across in simple language with amazing clarity and miles ahead of a suave and ambiguous, arrogant and just too casual remark.

The term spokesperson, in the present scenario, is a misnomer in a way! The spokesperson or your media representative not just has to speak, but to respond in other media – mails, newsletters, and social networks… an endless list this can be. He must be competent in handling all this – yes with speed, but more than speed in a language that is appropriate and publishable to the world!

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 attitude!

Sometimes, it does happen that the chief executive himself is the spokesperson – this is mostly when there is a larger than life event, or a huge crisis etc. – whatever be the reason, the past shows that the top management, out of their familiarity with the media, take to a casual approach in handling queries – and this sparks of a full blown PR debacle!

It’s important for senior leadership to take to some caution in handling such situations, and to repeat, facts mist not be colored by style and the way it is delivered!

Hope these simple yet powerful tips help your spokesperson to handle PR situation better! And as an organization, make sure the needy training is imparted through PR professionals, if it will help!

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