Back to the Basics, Social Media

The Winner of the 2014 BuzzWell PR “Did I Do That?” Social Media Awards is…

There’s a level of irony somewhere in the fact that the winner of this year’s award – an award represented by the loveable and aloof character of a popular 80-90’s family sitcom – was himself the star of the show that paved the way for sitcoms like Family Matters.

On November 10th, Bill Cosby (his social team)  posted a photo of himself on Twitter inviting the Internet to meme him.


Good idea, right? Memes are all the rage these days… the kids love ’em. And with such a loveable character like Cosby, this kind of stunt could only magnify his already popular persona. Unfortunately for Cosby, this coincided with the resurgence of rape allegations against the 77-year-old actor thanks in part to comedian, Hannibal Buress, who had been touring with a new standup act that dedicated a portion of the skit to the allegations. Buress actually prompted those who couldn’t fathom Cosby would commit such horrid acts to see it for themselves, saying “If you didn’t know about it, when you leave here, Google ‘Bill Cosby rape.’ It’s not funny”.

Suffice to say, asking the internet, which had started to become abuzz with chatter relating to the alleged crimes, to go ahead and create their memes was a really, reallllly terrible idea. Cosby’s short-sighted PR folks probably expected the memes to be wholesome interpretations of Cosby’s goofy humor. Wrong. This is what they got instead:

resize“Fans” used the web tool to highlight past accusations against Cosby, and lots of them. Just as with #Imametsfanbecause back in September, yet another social media campaign backfired in spectacular fashion.

So what was the science used to determine the award should go to Cosby and his PR? It was a calculation of sheer stupidity X cluelessness.

In order to be an effective PR person you have to know your client. Whether they are a person or an institution, you must know their past present and the direction in which they wish to go. You are tasked to promote and protect their reputation amidst any confluence of events that might jeopardize it.

This instance, like so many others, could have been avoided entirely if just a little brain power was applied. Case in point: the allegations against Cosby are not new, they’ve been around for years, surfacing here and there, only to fade away under Cosby’s indelible role as one of America’s most loveable dads. As Cosby’s PR team, you should know this and avoid any action that may trigger the scandal to become newsworthy again. What they did was just the opposite.

So, for excising zero intelligence and ignoring all the basics of PR, congratulations to Cosby and team on taking this year’s top spot.


2015 might be a rough one for Bill. And for his social team, this sums it up perfectly:


Maybe you can form a group with all the other nominees and go on a redemption tour to educate budding PR pros on exactly what NOT to do.

Back to the Basics, Social Media, Strategy & Tactics, Uncategorized

Word Usage & What it Says About Reaching the Sexes

As communicators, we need to be flexible in the way we address our diverse sets of audiences. The range of folks we wish to reach is often times very wide and even the most subtle of differences can have a big affect on how we tailor our message. One not so subtle difference, but one that has continued to baffle the most expert of communicators for eons, is gender.

I’m reading a fascinating book by James W. Pennebaker called the “Secret Life of Pronouns” that analyzes the words we use and what they say about us, in astonishing detail. Man this book is thought provoking. A definite recommend for any communications pro or lover of words in general. For this post, I want to take a quick look at a chart from the book that lays out some of the differences between men and women and the words they use. In doing so, I hope to get the wheels turning for us to start thinking about more effective ways to reach these wildly different audiences by speaking a language that is most familiar to them.

Pennebaker and his students, through their language analysis programs, came up with this breakdown of the main differences in word pattern amongst the different sexes:


On the surface, some of these may seem obvious. Men, for example, use more swear words – duh! And women, who tend to be more self-aware and conscientious of others, use more personal pronouns (I, we, me, us, etc.). But some of the less obvious differences strike me as keys to successfully targeting and reaching these two audiences. Bare in mind, these may be oversimplifications our purely supposition on my part, but I do think there is something here.

Ladies first, of course. I was raised by women, so I’m inclined to think that given my personal circumstances I am a better communicator with women then most men. It only makes sense. However, not being one myself, I’m sure there is still a lot I could learn.

The first area I found particularly interesting for women in the chart above was the fact that they tend to use more “Hedge Phrases”. They are more likely to use “I think” or “I believe”, as Pennebaker says, because they are more aware and considerate of different perspectives and opinions. This, to me, seemed like a very important difference between women and their male counterparts. Do women respond better to a less authoritarian or one sided way of communication? Should we be more considerate of different views and opinions when communicating with women? If so, how? I dare not make assertions or try to formulate answers to these questions. I will leave it up to you, the reader, to decide. 😉

The area that interested me the most for men was less of a revelation and more of a reminder of what men respond to when communicating with them. Numbers. With experience working for major financial companies, where news and messaging is often related to quantities and figures, this was glaring to me. My takeaway: Use numbers instead of  pronouns like “a lot” when communicating with your male audience. This is even more important to keep in mind in the the condensed world of social media. Numbers are way more effective and arresting in social media then pronouns. I’d even take it a step further and say that, wherever possible, use digits in place of words.

Analyze the above chart and think about what it says about the tailoring you need to do when communicating your message, whatever it may be, to these very different audiences. What else do you think this chart says about the differences in communicating to men and women? Do you think it holds weight?

Back to the Basics, Social Media, Strategy & Tactics, Uncategorized

The Basic Human Need That Brands Need to Respect

Your brand needs to be human. We see that everywhere these days. We are told that we need to put a human face on our brand and speak to our customers in a human way. I agree with this. I’d be foolish not to. A long time ago the business had the upper hand; there were less of them and they were in higher demand. Today it seems like there are as many “businesses” as people. Because of this we can be more selective. We, the customer have the upper hand. Couple that with our evolution as a society and it’s now acceptable and possible to choose to do business with companies that embody some of our most cherished, detailed beliefs and attributes that makes us who we are as individuals. Looking to buy clothes made out of hemp, from a company that gives a percentage of their proceeds to homeless children and is also an advocate for LGTB rights? I’m sure you can find them.  The fact is that we have the luxury of being able to be ultra choosy today so we do business with those whose human persona most closely reflects ours. But why do we want our businesses to be human? What is the reason, at it’s most basic level? I think the answer lies within here:


Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is the theory of human motivation. What drives us and makes us who we are. In someway or another all of the main sections in the pyramid account for why we want our brands to be human.  But there’s one that I think trumps them all. One, that if we focus on and understand, can make us more effective when communicating with our customers. ESTEEM: The need to feel respected. The typical human desire to be accepted and valued by others. As a species we crave respect. We are motivated and driven by the respect of others which in turn affects our self-esteem or self-respect.

Too often I see brands equating the need to be human to being “social” or trying to hard to reach millennials. As a millennial myself, this comes off as forced and cheesy. Viral videos with weird premises and played-out humor may work for some, but I think this is just a blip on the radar. There will be a time when social media and the viral phenomenon become so mainstream that another shift will be needed to reach the customer. This means that we need to latch on to the basics. What is more basic then a primal human need? Something that will always be there, no matter what the new hot social platform or advertising style is. ESTEEM. The need for a customer, rather, the individual, to feel respected. A muscly man with an erudite way of speaking in the most off the wall situations may sell deodorant to some.  I switched from a brand that uses these over the top tactics after seeing ads for another that does not use aluminum in their products. The ad was simple but the communication was impactful. What it said told me that they value me and my health. That shows respect. That creates a loyal customer.

So how do we cater to this most basic and powerful need to be respected. That my friends, is another post for another day!