When Your PR Problem is Your PR Agency

Image representing Wikipedia as depicted in Cr...

A friend of mine got a job in the PR department of a large corporation, one that prides itself on the veracity of its products. It wasn’t long before s/he was pressured to “fix” information on Wikipedia that the company felt reflected poorly on its management. This is a “PR Fail.” Here’s why:

What critics and skeptics fail to realize is that Wikipedia is self-policing, with published policies and standards  – in particular regarding Conflicts of Interest (COI) — and about 100,000 regular editors who add or review. Try to game the system? You’ll succeed short-term but, eventually, you’ll be found out. The latest case in point: PR firm Bell Pottinger.

One of the largest lobbying firms in the UK, Bell Pottinger is under scrutiny for allegedly editing entries about its clients, violating Wikipedia’s COI (see article links, below). Worse, it apparently sees this as “business as usual”, stating:

I can’t see any bad headlines for our clients,” he told the BBC. “You won’t find anybody, including journalists, who doesn’t do exactly the same thing.” – Lord Bell, Chairman 

I disagree. Every client involved will suffer damage to its reputation. What Lord Bell fails to comprehend is that social media is a self-correcting organism. There’ll always be someone with the time and resources to ferret out the truth. Attempts to misrepresent or obfuscate information get discovered and the blowback is worse than facing the facts from the start.

This concept is nothing new. In 1596, Shakespeare wrote: “but at the length truth will out.” And, in a quote generally attributed to Abraham Lincoln, 1858, “you cannot fool all of the people all of the time“. My advice to organizations and individuals alike, is to conduct social media with accuracy, integrity and transparency. That’s how it works.

As for my friend, s/he left that company over a year ago, in part because of the lack of support for social media done right. But the all-too-often encountered attitude of PR bigwigs that social media is something to “handled” persists. So choose your digital PR firm wisely.

Oh, and that old saw about all PR is good PR? Hardly.

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When to Say “No” to Your Social Media Marketers

See photo credit belowMore and more people are calling themselves social media marketers these days,  so how do you know the one you are working with is giving you good advice?

As always, my recommendation is to first hire a social media professional (someone employed in social media for at least five years) as your in-house guide, watchdog and subject matter expert. Until then, here are four red-flag warning signs that you’re getting bad advice from your social media marketer: Read more of this post

Of Jobs, Jobs and Social Media as Disruptor

Three points I’d like to touch upon:

  1. Jobs, Steve Jobs, that is. The passing of a tech giant.
  2. Jobs, lack thereof, that is. And bringing socio-economic change via protest.
  3. The job social media has as disruptive agent, and the blame it doesn’t deserve.

I was saddened to hear of Steve Job’s passing last week. Not as a Mac fanboi; I have always used Windows-based PCs, have an Android smartphone and except for a video iPod none of my gadgets begin with a lower-case “i”. But there is no denying his greatness as a tech visionary and pioneer. My Facebook post acknowledging his transition said it all:

When we were young, we learned about the great explorers: Magellan; Balboa; da Gama and later Lewis and Clark; Byrd and Amundsen. And the great inventors: Da Vinci; Franklin; Marconi; Babbage. Steve Jobs was a little of them all.

Jobs, and the lack thereof. Mark these words: More change comes about in this country by protest than by working within the system. Think about it. Women’s suffrage in the U.S. culminating in their right to vote in 1920; the Civil Right’s Movement’s victory in 1964; the end of the Viet Nam war, until last week the longest war in U.S. history; equal marriage rights and military rights And now we have Occupy Wall Street, sounding the clarion for increased employment and narrowing the gap between the haves and have-nots by exercising their constitutional right to free speech and assembly. You may not agree with what they’re saying, but you must admire the way they’ve made themselves heard. Their movement has spread to other cities across the U.S. The Arab Spring has given way to the American Autumn.

Which brings us to social media’s job as disruptive agent. They key to this is, social media is not the causal factor for disruption. It is a tool. Like the telephone (and cell phone) before it, the radio before that and the newspapers even before that. Silencing, censoring or otherwise attempting to control social media is a losing proposition.

Riots in London? Squatters on Wall Street? Don’t blame social media for fomenting the masses. It is simply a tool like the ones before it. Instead, look to cure the disease, not the symptom.

Great Infographic on Social Media Use

See full infographic after the jumpEveryone likes a good infographic — a chart or visual that conveys important information in a visually compelling way — but not everyone who creates them does it right. I love this one called “The Growth of Social Media” by the good people of Search Engine Journal. A ton of info, such as:

  • If Facebook were a country it’d be the third largest in the world
  • 1 in 4 Americans watches a YoutTube video every day
  • 49% of Twitter users rarely or never check Twitter
  • 80% of companies use social media for recruitment and 95% of those use LinkedIn

And there lots more. See the full infographic after the jump.

Read more of this post

Everything AOL Is New Again, Again

American layout roulette wheel.

Image via Wikipedia

I can’t help it. Maybe it’s because I spent 10 years working at AOL during it’s rise and fall. Maybe it’s just that things happen in cycles. Regardless, when I saw this headline today it made me think of something I’d written about previously:

StumbleUpon passes Facebook in US referral traffic

So what does this have to do with AOL? First, some background for those of you who have never been an AOLer. Navigation within the walled garden of AOL content was aided by the use of shortcuts known as Keywords. Want to jump directly from the Welcome Screen to content regarding vacations? Enter keyword: Travel.  Want to go from there to see how your favorite team did last night, use Keyword: Sports. With both major and sub-categories there were literally hundreds (if not thousands) of keywords on AOL.

So what does this have to do with StumbleUpon passing Facebook as the number one referer on the ‘Net? Well, at AOL we were privy to the list of most popular keywords (as determined by user clicks), and invariably every month positioned near the top was Keyword: Random.

Enter “random” in the keyword box and a roulette wheel would appear. Click it to spin and when it stopped you’d be taken to a random page somewhere on AOL. Some pages were great, some not so great. But people loved the, well, randomness of the result, something I refer to today as serendipitous discovery“– where you (literally) stumble upon content you previously had no knowledge of.

It worked back then for AOL, and to StumbleUpon’s benefit it still works today.

♫… No need to remember when
‘Cause everything old is new again …♫

STATS INTERESTING: Social Media By the Numbers

Social media is NOT about stats. Too often, companies put too much emphasis on the numbers (how many followers; how many “likes”, etc.) at the expense of ignoring the true value that social media provides.

And even though I believe in the old adage, “There are lies; there are damnable lies; and there are statistics”, I recognize that having a few quick stats on hand can help you gain support for social media — so here are a few:

  • 5 percent of online shoppers note that social media influenced them to visit a retailer’s website (Foresee)
  • 82 percent of 18-29 year olds utilize a form of social networking (Pew)
  • 40% of corporate Twitter accounts engage in some kind of customer service (Burson-Marsteller)
  • In 2011 marketers will increase their social media usage by 75 percent (Brian Solis)
  • 48 percent of consumers combine social media and search engines in their buying process (GroupM)
  • Of all social networks, YouTube has the highest Net Promoter Score with 50 percent of users saying they would recommend it to a friend (MarketingProfs)
  • ~140 Million Tweets are sent each day (Twitter) (update: July 2011 ~200 million/day)
  • 24 percent of adults have posted a review of a product they have purchased (HubSpot)
  • 41 percent of the companies report that there is no staff dedicated to social media (Useful Social Media) (see graphic)
  • 35 percent of small businesses utilize social media in their marketing mix (eMarketer)
  • Facebook expects to bring n $4.05 billion in ad revenues this year (eMarketer)
  • One out of every six minutes spent online is on a social network (comScore)
  • 73 percent of the US internet population visits Facebook each month (comScore)
  • 62 percent of Facebook users between 35-54 years of age have liked a brand (eMarketer)
  • 47 percent of journalists will use Twitter as a source for a story (Digital Journalism Study)
  • The average media site integrated with Facebook has seen a 300 percent increase in referral traffic (Search Engine Land)
  • 61 percent of Facebook users who have liked a brand note that they are more likely to purchase from that brand (AllFacebook)
  • 96 percent of Americans use Facebook (Business Insider)
  • 46 million Americans check their social media profiles daily (Edison Research)
Sometimes, having a handy stat or two can help you build support for your social media initiatives. Then, once they’re on board you can really open their eyes to the value of social media.
For more interesting social media stats, see the source article for this entry: Social Media Stats for the C-Suite by  Jeff Esposito

Happy 100th IBM – and a One Word Lesson for Social Media

Image representing IBM as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Light the candles (and notify the Fire Marshall) on the cake and sing “Happy Birthday” to IBM as it celebrates its 100th birthday. Despite its many technological accomplishments including the revolutionary punch cards; electric typewriters, mainframes and personal computers, its most significant contribution to social media use may be its iconic company slogan – “THINK”.

On June 16, 1911 four companies merged into the Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation in Endicott, NY creating one of the great American corporations, renamed in 1924 as International Business Machines, IBM. Three years later its iconic leader, Thomas J. Watson, instituted the one-word slogan that both encourages and cautions – THINK.

And that’s the social media lesson for brands and individuals today. Before you send that photo… before you post that angry rebuttal… before you denigrate others (no matter how well deserving)… before you tweet that knee-jerk reaction that , at the time, you are sure is justified… THINK.

Think about how what you send may be received. Think about how what you say can be interpreted. Think about whether what you are about to do maintains accuracy, integrity or transparency — or — just lowers you to the same level as the muckrakers and mudslingers.

Too often, brands have been tarnished, careers ended or major revenue lost, due to the failure to employ a “digital count-to-ten” before publishing on the Web.

It’s not enough being right. It’s not enoughbeing technically correct. In social media, as in all marketing and indeed much of life itself, it’s all about how what you do is perceived. So before you post, tweet, like or digg…

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