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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Back to the Basics, Social Media

“Did I Do That?” 2nd Annual Social Media Awards: Runner-up, Elizabeth Lauten

As a public relations spokesperson, one must act with an abundance of caution in both their personal and professional lives. It’s simply a prerequisite for the job. In the political realm, the most scrutinized arena in our society, the age old adage think before you speak is something that the wise live by and the foolish wish they had.

Elizabeth Lauten, the communications director for Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.) would fall in the latter category of those who did not heed that sage advice. She resigned last month after causing quite the stir with the following Facebook post that criticized Malia and Sasha Obama’s appearance at the annual White House turkey pardon ceremony.

td4_elizaMs. Lauten, really??? Using someone’s children to throw a political punch?

These type of incidents make me wonder how in the world these people got as far as they did. A Communications Director for a US congressman is not an easy job. It requires thick skin, light feet and the ability to artfully position the congressman and your party in a favorable light under some really tough circumstances. This kind of blunder betrays the most basic fundamentals of public relations and the understanding that as a spokesperson, everything you do and say will reflect on the people you work for.

And this wasn’t Ms. Lauten’s first social media gaffe either. In August she posted a tweet about “shagging” from Mr. Fincher’s official Twitter account.

“God I love this song. And beach music. AND shagging #pandora,” Ms. Lauten tweeted in reference to an Embers playlist on Pandora radio.

She later deleted the tweet and apologized for the accident, clarifying that “shagging” is a dance term, not a sexual reference.

“It had nothing to do with Stephen Fincher. I don’t think he knows what Pandora is; he certainly doesn’t have it,” Ms. Lauter said, according to Politico.

In response to her attack on the Obama teens, Lauten posted the following apology on Facebook:

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Too little, too late. Not only the post make you and your party look like bullies willing to stoop so low as to bash someone’s children in order to get a cheap shot in, it also cost you a job, and probably won’t make it easy for you to find a new one.

 Ms. Lauten’s resolution for 2015: Think before you post.
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Uncategorized

“Did I Do That?” 2nd Annual Social Media Awards: # 3, DiGiorno’s

Domestic violence has made its way to the forefront of the American psyche over the past few months. Incidents like NFL player, Ray Rice, knocking out his girlfriend in an elevator and the supposed coverup that ensued, have garnered an enormous amount of attention and resulted in a seemingly renewed cultural awareness of the issue. Why the public had to be galvanized by the media is another question entirely.

Anyway, domestic violence is obviously a very sensitive issue. One that affects millions of men and women worldwide in the most horrific of ways. There are hundreds of organizations and support groups to help those that face it. The support has even made its way to social media – specifically Twitter – where victims share their stories using hashtags with others who will understand plight and can hopefully find the help they need to remove themselves from their situations.

One such way victims of abuse can engage with one another is through the hashtag #WhyIStayed. This #, which was trending heavily around the time of the Ray Rice fiasco, allows victims to share their heartbreaking stories of desperation.

On September 8th, after Ray Rice had been terminated by the Baltimore Ravens for the altercation with this wife, and just days before we found out just how grizzly and callous the crime was, DiGiorno’s had a fail of Epic proportions when they decided to tie into the #WhyIStayed hastag before knowing why it was trending. The “Oh S*$T!” moment they must have had as comments like the one below started to come in was one for the ages, I’m sure.

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DiGiorno’s quickly issued the following apology:

digiorno-whyistayed-tweet-hed-2014The apology is almost as offensive as the original post. This is a blatant example of carelessness – a brand shamelessly hijacking a trending topic to get attention without an iota of strategy. Yes, social moves fast, and it’s hard to plan for sometimes, but at least take a few seconds to think it through before posting something.

Hijacking a hashtag with nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction and lust for attention never goes well – *ahem Entenmanns. It’s a bit baffling to me, all the time, detail and effort that goes into building a brand, and then someone says, “Hey. let’s just jump on this social thing. Everyone’s doing it.” If you are going to do it, do it with care.

Better luck next year.

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“Did I Do That?” 2nd Annual Social Media Awards: #4, Volvo

The loss of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 was one of the worst flight disasters in recent memory. Not because of how many lives were taken, or the way in which it was lost, but because it was just that – lost. We still don’t have the answers to explained what happened to the 239 people who were on board the airplane that day.

Shortly after the flight went missing, automaker Volvo learned entered itself into the realm of the absurd when they posted the following post to micro blogging service Sina Weibo – China’s version of Twitter:

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“The rescue operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane is in full swing. Passenger safety is also a top priority at Volvo Cars, let’s pray together for the 239 lives that were on board of the plane. Bless them, and may a miracle occur.”

Wow.. Just WOW!

Hopefully this post was made by one terribly misguided soul, because the thought that more than one person actually approved this is all the more horrifying. This is PR 101, people: never use a tragedy to promote a product! It might not even be in the textbook – it’s so obvious and commonsensical that if you thought otherwise you should never, ever, try your hand at anything resembling public relations.

Volvo quickly blamed the faux paux on an international agency before issuing the following statement:

“Volvo Car Group would like to apologies for the offense caused by a recent online statement that mentioned the tragic disappearance of flight MH370,” it said. “That statement did not properly reflect the deep concern that all our employees feel as the search for the missing plane continues. Our thoughts are with the families of those involved.”

I think it’s safe to say that the agency responsible for this no longer has Volvo on their roster. Here’s to a more prosperous 2015!

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“Did I Do That?” 2nd Annual Social Media Awards: #5, American Apparel

American Apparel is no stranger to controversy. Their ads have been knocked for years for bordering on the edge of pornography, and most recently, the company voted to oust chairman and CEO Dov Charney after a long tenure of misconduct, including refusing to participate in mandatory sexual harassment training and using severance packages to quiet former employees.

You’d think that AA would have it’s antennas on full alert these days in order to avoid any additional negative press, right? Well maybe they did – everyone except for one unfortunate “international social media” employee that is – who posted the following picture to the American Apparel Tumblr account back in July:

AA Fail

AA Fail

Apparently the post, which was the tagged “#Smoke” and “#Clouds”, was supposed to represent fireworks for the 4th of July Holiday. Unfortunately, the employee passed over the millions of stock images of fireworks for a photo that shows the Jan. 28, 1986 explosion of the Challenger shuttle, which killed all seven people aboard.

One astute commenter corrected the cringe-worthy post rather bluntly:

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American Apparel was quick to respond to the onslaught that ensued, flattening their probably long gone social employee under the bus without hesitation:

“The image was re-blogged in error by one of our international social media employees who was born after the tragedy and was unaware of the event,” American Apparel posted. “We sincerely regret the insensitivity of that selection and the post has been deleted.”

The Challenger disaster was one many will never forget. Hopefully AA doesn’t forget this brain lapse either and has a better 2015. But really, how about owning up to the mistake as a brand, guys? SMH.

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Social Media, Strategy & Tactics, Tools

Content: The difference between success & failure

Being a startup isn’t easy. No %&$* Sherlock…

But really, taking an idea and shaping it over and over until it becomes something that vaguely resembles a business is an incredibly hard and maybe even masochistic thing to do. And to make things even more challenging, coming up with the service and identifying an audience to sell it to is only the first step on the long and windy road towards success. Once you’ve done all this, you must now distinguish yourself in the marketplace.

Unfortunately, the “If you build it they will come” philosophy couldn’t be further from the truth for the startup community. Unless you are one of the rare – once in a generation industry disruptors – chances are you will be engaged in a constant battle for customers with dozens of competitors who have similar business models to your own. If this sounds like you, fear not, there is a secret weapon that can immediately help you rise above the fray: Content.

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It’s true, content is King. It gives your business a voice, perspective and a story. Each piece of content that you generate – from a blog post or a Tweet, to a byline article – tells your customers and prospects why they should be doing business with you. But like anything else, developing content needs to be done thoughtfully and strategically.

Here are three keys to remember when creating content:

Make it Shareable:

Normally this is where people talk about the importance of knowing what sort of content plays better on different channels, i.e. Facebook vs Pinterest. But this is not what I mean. By making it shareable I mean using what I like to call the “worth-a-damn radar”. Don’t spend 3 hours creating a piece of content that may have been topical three years ago but today has the sharability of a toothbrush. Being helpful is the number one way to get shares. Have a solution to a problem that many of your customers are facing? Maybe a unique perspective on a well-read topic? If so, you’ll probably hear the “worth-a-damn” meter start to buzz. But if you’re simply regurgitating old news or ideas, the only sound you’ll here is the tick of the clock as you continue to waste time – something no startup can afford.

Make it Arresting:

We are bombarded by an enormous amount of content and messages each and every day, but remember only a few. Those that do “break through” contain something arresting that allowed them to be deposited in our memory banks instead of sailing into oblivion hoping to latch onto another unsuspecting prospect. Using imagery, video, or any type of multimedia increases the chances that your content will actually be consumed by those you intended it for. Another way to make content arresting is by using catchy headlines (Five Tips to Writing Better Headlines).  This is not earth shattering, but too often I see good content that looks boring, and therefore doesn’t get consumed.

Make it Your Own:

We all have unique voices, and your company should have one too. These are brand basics. And if you don’t build a brand, you run the risk of becoming a commodity. Today’s customer wants to do business with a company that has a personality. It may take time to find your voice, but once you do, you will have a consistent way to tell your mission, values and philosophy. This is what separates you from the guy around the block who has a very similar offering, but no voice. Again, this takes time and practice, but is well worth the effort.

Use content to your advantage wherever you can. Start a blog, build a website, engage on social media. Today’s customer has the advantage of having a never-ending list of companies to do business with. Take back your advantage by using content to distinguish yourself.

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Uncategorized

The News Release Gets an “Extreme Makeover”!

In a release from the Government of Canada, their press office announces that they are retiring the traditional news release format in favour of a more digital-friendly product that makes the key messages of announcements clearer, quick facts more accessible and integrates more effectively with social media channels.” The Canadian flacks promise that the new format will provide Two or three paragraphs of short, crisp text will allow [media & stakeholders] to scan quickly for the key messages of the announcement.”

An example of this new format can be seen here.

First off, I don’t think that this is earth-shattering by any means. Communicators should have learned to craft easily digestible, digitally optimized and shareable NRs long ago. I do think, however, that this is a particularly good example to follow for those who haven’t. Maybe even a benchmark.

I really like what the Canadian Gov.’s press office has done here. They’ve made the news release more reader friendly and maybe more importantly, they’ve made it easier for members of the media to do their jobs. By boiling down the release and eliminating all the unnecessary language and superfluous inserts, they’ve created something that the reader can digest in a under a couple of minutes. The headline, news, key facts, quotes and related links are called out separately and bulleted, giving us everything we need in as clear and concise a way as possible.

This format is also more effective for internal use. As noted in the article, the way it’s drafted makes it easier for those manning the social profiles to create Tweets and posts from the NR. No longer do your comms. folks need to comb through a dense few pages of prose to determine what should end up going out on your social channels. Half of the work has already been done!

I get annoyed, selfishly maybe, when folks argue that the written word is dying, citing things like trends in visualization and character constraints on social profiles. Seeing something like what the Canadian Government’s office has done gives me hope. The written word is far from dead – it simply needs to be adapted to a more concise, direct format. To the ignorant, this may seem as a sign that the wordsmith will go the way of the Dodo. I say that’s far from the truth! It’s easy to string a bunch of long-winded words together and trick the reader into believing you are an authority on something. The challenge, and where the skill really lies, is writing effectively in a condensed format.

What do you think? How does this change the PR game?

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