Don’t Blame Twitter — Case Study: STRABAG SE

Austrian based STRABAG SE, one of the largest construction companies in Europe with 73,600 employees and annual revenue of € 12.B (both as of fiscal 2010), posted this update on Twitter after 18 months of use —>

In an email to IR Web Report (whose article inspired this blog entry), spokesperson Paula Rhys of STRABAG’s investor relations team said: “We do not see any benefit in using this social media tool for the time being. Stakeholders did not discuss actively with us on Twitter despite our efforts to ask questions.

Now, regular readers of this blog or my Twitter stream know that a recurring theme of mine is that companies need to place the responsibility for its social media initiative in the hands of a social media professional. A quick review of this move by STRABAG underscores this requirement.

The Facts
STRABAG created their Twitter account on August 5, 2009 and issued its first tweet two days later (“Largest construction company in CEE

  • It has issued 146 tweets over the 575 days from inception to the date of this entry (~4/week)
  • It follows 524 people, is followed by 527 and appears on 32 Twitter lists
  • Its bio info is exactly the same as its first tweet (see above)
  • Its profile provides a link to its home page: http://www.strabag.com

The Analysis (aka Why They Were Doomed to Twitter #Fail)
First, let me say that the mistakes STRABAG made are not uncommon when companies apply traditional marketing and communications strategies towards leveraging social media. I do not mean to assign blame to its communications and marketing teams — it’s not their fault — they were simply operating the way they were trained. But, Twitter, and indeed all social media, is a different animal. Here’s what they did wrong: Read more of this post

Of Kenneth Cole; Twitter; and Crossing the Line

“The evil that men do lives after them, The good is oft interred with their bones.”
– from ‘Julius Caesar’ by William Shakespeare

By now you’ve heard about this tweet issued by fashion designer Kenneth Cole where, in an obvious case of insensitivity, he tried to connect the world-changing events in Egypt to his spring line:

Ouch! And for this he has rightfully drawn the scorn of the Web. That’s what he did wrong.  You know it, I know it and he  knows it.

What he did right next was to remove the offending tweet,  but not try to cover it up; instead he acknowledged the mistake and apologized publicly within a few hours:  

When negative reaction persisted, he did so again, more extensively. Still, “the evil lives on”, these days in the form of first page Google search results.

But, as inevitable as that sounds,  mistakes will be made – so create an action plan now for handling the blowback.

Cover-ups Never Work

People always ask me how to remove negative social mentions online. The truth is they can’t be summarily deleted. Manipulating social media to obfuscate the truth never works. I can cite examples. The social space is in many ways self-correcting, and the truth will out. Always. The best tactic: do good things. And get those good things (thought leadership examples; blog entries; positive reviews of personal appearances) published online. Get them in front of key influencers and, this is vital, do everything while maintaining three core principles:

Accuracy; Integrity; Transparency

Social media reputation management does not work any other way. Don’t let the good be interred with the bones of the brand’s or individual’s reputation when crises hit. Be both reactive and proactive.

Of course, the best way to handle a PR crisis is to avoid them in the first place. As a brand, Kevin Cole is known for being socially relevant and supportive of social causes — often in a controversial way. As such, his brand supporters and loyalists will not likely be affected by this social media faux pas compared to those for whom he was an unknown.

In a sense, he’s lucky that it was he who made the intended-to-be-pithy-but-ultimately-offensive remark. Had a social media manager in his company done this he/she’d likely be looking for a new job.

But then again, in the hands of a professional, maybe the mistake would have been avoided.

Full disclosure: In a past life I worked for El Greco Leather, a company owned by Kenneth Cole’s father and run with his two brothers. I never had any direct contact or dealings with Kenneth (though I do wear his shoes)

The (Self-Proclaimed) Most Amazing Press Release Ever

The (self-proclaimed) most amazing press release ever written comes from Mitch Delaplane of PitchPoint PR. And while it’s an amusing piece, it calls to mind how much the venerable press release has changed from the days when it was distributed to a closed ecosystem of journalists to entice them to learn more, and in turn write about, the product, service or individual.

Today, the press release is pure and simple content — meant as much (if not more) for the end user to consume as part of his/her daily web-based news gathering process as it is for writers to repurpose.

The rise of the social media press release acknowledges the role search engines play in being the new conveyor of information to the end user. Releases that have the proper number of characters in its headline; include certain keywords in the proper places; use direct quotes and hyperlinks wisely; and incorporate images and video carefully, all get higher placement from search engines and therefore more notice from users.

If your press releases are not optimized for social media, hire a professional with that specific skill-set as part of your permanent communications team. That’s not a “nice to have” it’s a “must have.”

See the release: http://ow.ly/3DQ8z

The Ten Commandments of Social Media Crisis Management

Writing for BuzzBin, Priya Ramesh does a good job listing the Ten Commandments of Social Media Crisis Management, but I think it needs one more.  Here’s Priya’s 10 (condensed by me) and my essential 11th:

1. Thou shalt move at lightning speed: This demands a sense of urgency to react in a matter of hours and not days.
2. Thou shalt build a micro-site to provide 24/7 updates: This serves as THE go-to site for all up-to-date information on the situation.
3. Thou shalt deploy a round the clock Twitter monitoring schedule: Simply by monitoring and responding to tweets, you are letting the audience know their outpour is being heard on social channels.
4. Thou shalt NOT delete negative comments on the crisis: By deleting negative chatter during a crisis, you are only aggravating the situation.
5. Thou shalt train your crisis team on social media: Crisis communication in 140 characters is very different from issuing a press release or calling a press conference.
6. Thou shalt be willing to say “Sorry” openly on the WWW: Get used to openly apologizing on social networks and take full responsibility for the crisis.
7. Thou shalt create hyper-transparency on the crisis situation: The more you are open to sharing information on social networks to build transparency, the better.
8. Thou shalt proactively alert bloggers on PR crises if you can: This is a very powerful tactic to neutralize the negative sentiment online.
9. Thou shalt NOT feed the troll: There will always be a set of constant complainers who thrive on crises and leverage the situation to further badmouth your company –  disengage them.
10. Thou shalt not merely blog and tweet for crisis’ sake but LISTEN and ENGAGE: Companies that demonstrate that they have listened and taken the right action are the ones that maintain a favorable image online.

And here’s an essential additional step from me:

11. Thou shalt own your social media identity: Take steps now to ensure that social media accounts related to your company, its brands and executives are created and already under your control. After the jump,  why this is so important: Read more of this post

10 Plus 10: Twenty Social Media Rules and Tips

Firefly Millward Brown Study on Brand EngagementThis is the time of year when numbered lists abound. Top 5 this… 10 Best that… and it is rare that I agree with all of the points offered.

So when I saw this item from Online Strategic Solutions Richard Meyer (@richardmeyer), where he adds 10 additional tips to Firefly Millward Brown’s social media rules for brand engagement, and I agreed with all 20, I knew I needed to share.

See for yourself: ‘10 Rules of Social Media

Updated: From the O.R. to PR

Shonda Rhimes' Production Company LogoGrey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes is reportedly developing a new TV show for ABC about PR crisis management based on the career of a real-life spin doctor.

There’s plenty of material to draw from.

For more info, see NY Mag’s Vulture

Updated December 21, 2010:
ABC Greenlights PR Drama: TV Show Based on DC PR Guru Judy Smith

%d bloggers like this: