Most of the world now knows about the “United Airlines incident” after a video of a 69-year-old passenger being forcibly removed from his seat went viral earlier this week.
The video, shot from another passenger’s phone, showed clearly the screaming man being dragged down the aisle, leaving him bloodied and terrified – along with the over- booked flight of witnesses.
Within hours of the video being captured, #United was the leading hashtag worldwide on Twitter. Even in China, where Twitter and Facebook don’t exist, more than 97,000 comments had been recorded on one Weibo post by the end of the day, along with a new hashtag #Chineselivesmatter.
Following the Twitter (and Weibo) eruption of the United Airlines incident, we’re reminded us just how vital a solid social media communications strategy is to any business, particularly in the event of a crisis.
When a crisis does hit a business, social media excels as a way to spread news in a quick and efficient manner. Bad news will always travel fast, and these days it’s likely to gain traction on social platforms before the traditional media get to it. It’s important to have steps in place to manage reaction in the midst of a social media storm and how monitoring early warning alerts of any change in volume or sentiment around your brand will give your team a chance to prepare for what’s coming.
When tackling a social media crisis, I believe there are 5 essential steps that need to be included in any PR plan:
- Plan ahead.
Even if you can’t predict what might set off a social media meltdown, the steps you will need to take are the same: Respond, reassure, research, respond again, and react. Your plan needs to state how you will do this within the tight time demands of social media. Who gets notifications? Who can access the Twitter account? How slow is your approval process? Who has final sign off? Contact details for spokespeople? Have pre-approved statements available, this will make the reaction process far more manageable.
Every business should have social and media monitoring set up to capture what is being said about its brand so that if there’s a spike in negativity, or an emerging issue, you can react instantly. Frankly, a Google alert isn’t really sufficient. For effective monitoring, you need to pin point what it is you want to listen for. There are 6000 tweets sent every second, so understanding the language around an issue will make it quicker and easier to find the relevant ones. Successful monitoring should include daily reporting, early warning alerts if there is a change in volume or sentiment, or mentions from highly influential critics.
- Prepare your posts.
When something happens, you need to be out, publicly, with a response in about 10 minutes. Have a holding tweet at the ready, or a post that acknowledges that something has happened – even if you can’t give out specifics, being the first to acknowledge a situation can go a long way. Even a post that says “We understand an incident has occurred. We are finding out more information and will update in 10 minutes” is better than nothing.
- Pick your platform.
Twitter is the place for breaking news. Facebook is the place for connecting and seeking feedback. Instagram should not be used anywhere near a corporate crisis. Understanding the difference of your social media platforms and having sufficient followers to ensure you can engage when needed is important.
- Respond swiftly and carefully.
It is essential that in any situation involving your business, you are the first person to weigh in and that you have the right information on hand. If you do something wrong admit, apologize, and accept responsibility. The sooner you do, the less likely that your original stuff up will spiral out of control. It’s important to not add fuel to the fire. Understand how your situation is being reacted to on social media and plan your responses accordingly. Even if you do believe your actions are justified, pause to think about how they are perceived.
Chances are, your business is not in the habit of dragging people out of plane seats while being filmed on a smartphone, but there are lessons in United’s response for everyone.
Tags: brand engagement, business, crisis communications, issues management, leadership, media relations, social media
At its core, public relations are about storytelling and now more than ever brands need to have a powerful and compelling story to engage and mobilize their audiences.
The trouble is, storytelling has its limitations. In today’s saturated communications marketplace, where information is digested in smaller sizes and competing against more channels, the ability for a story to engage and retain an audience is becoming increasingly difficult. Furthermore, technology has expanded the ability of audiences to digest information, so brands must find a more meaningful means to deliver a coherent and credible message.
Moving beyond storytelling
Brands today must move beyond segmented campaigns and episodic storytelling and develop a narrative, an central thematic that is the basis of the brand’s identity and strategy. A foundational idea that encompasses and forms all areas of a brand’s engagement across its myriad of channels and stakeholders, be it employees; consumers, traditional media, social influencers, policy makers, etc. A company’s narrative should tell everyone what it stands for and offers an idea for those stakeholders to connect with and align behind.
Today, public relations, corporate relations, publicists and marketers are all competing to engage the same audiences through more integrated means – paid, earned, social and owned – meaning that messaging needs to be not only engaging but also consistent across the various streams, and most important of all, in real time.
Brands must lead conversations
Digital and social media platforms have changed the way brands engage with their audiences. Communication no longer flows in a single direction; audiences are now feeding back to companies on a constant basis. Brands must now lead “conversations”, interacting with their audiences in real time, which has quantifiable impact on their reputation.
Proactively driving engagement is now an absolute. While engaging with audiences across these various channels, brands need to utilize a coherent narrative, one that provides clarity and consistency of that engagement. The ability to communicate a compelling, inclusive and consistent narrative has the power to inspire, energize and mobilize an audience in ways our industry never thought possible.
How to develop a strong narrative
- Have a real understanding of the brand’s purpose and its values. Consumers today are more value driven than ever before. How a company is trying to achieve its objective, is as important as what it is trying to achieve. Ensure your narrative seeks to explain what the brand stands for and what is it is seeking to achieve.
- The narrative must be relatable and easy to explain. To maintain the attention of audiences, a narrative cannot be bogged down in jargon. A strong narrative is based on fact and is not only persuasive but also easily repeatable.
- Be inclusive and insightful. Narratives need to evoke an emotional connection and invite participation. It presents an idea for an audience to believe in, support, and ultimately recommend.
In our hyper-completive, over-saturated communications environment, being able to portray a potent and authentic narrative has the power to genuinely connect with an audience, inspire them to action, and lead them on a journey.
Tags: brand engagement, branding, business, marketing, Media relations vancouver, Public relations, Vancouver PR, Vancouver social media
So it’s your company’s birthday.
Today is your opportunity to indulge, have some cake and show your fans/guests/customers your true colours.
Here’s how to make the most out of your brand’s special day:
Happy birthday to me me me
Marketers and PR people say it’s the kiss of death to talk solely and incessantly about yourself on social media.
On your birthday, that rule goes out the window. It can be all about you — as long as it’s interesting.
Tell your story
How was the company founded? Who makes up the company now and what are they all about? What are the most poignant or funny stories your company has collected over the years? What have you learned along the way?
When you’re sharing these details on social media, tell stories about real people doing specific things. Stories about CEOs strategizing in generic boardrooms aren’t nearly as captivating as tales of entrepreneurs risking their life savings and drawing out their ideas on bar napkins.
Don’t be afraid to bring out the quirk.
You can rework these stories into tweets, longer social media or blog posts, and/or, if your story is interesting enough, pitches to media.
Your brand is a party and everyone’s invited
On your birthday, start something everyone can get involved in. Our client 7-Eleven Canada celebrates July 11th (7-11 — today!) every year by giving away free Slurpee drinks. Thousands of Slurpee lovers celebrate alongside the brand as a result and the company’s birthday turns into something much bigger.
Your “party” could be as involved as an event or product giveaway, or could be as simple as your CEO giving a Twitter shout-out to your loyal customers, your social team Instagramming a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the decorated company lunchroom, or a hilarious gif you made at the party.
There’s no serious way to wear a birthday hat. Today, let your hair down a little and just be you. Your resulting communications will be magnetic. Show your audience just how fun it is to be a part of your organization. Let them in on the joke.
At Peak we use our company birthday as a reason to give back to our clients and media contacts. This year, that took the form of a wine-tasting bash at the Peak office. It was our way of showing we care about the people we work with every day. Because we all had fun, engaging photos and social media posts came naturally from the event.
Celebrate with visuals
Photo- and video-sharing platforms like Instagram and Vine are your ticket to generating quick, fun content that will engage your audiences in ways no plain-Jane blog post can.
Yes. Share those badly drawn cake cartoons. Those goofy birthday cards. The interns’ three-legged race. The perfect cupcakes you made for the occasion. The CEO high-fiving the company mascot. One of your project managers jumping out of a birthday cake.
Just make sure you make those social posts before you get into the champagne.
Tags: anniversary, birthday, brand engagement, branding, celebration, employee communications
Did you know that 8 in 10 internet users trust information and advice they get from bloggers, and that 6 in 10 have made a purchase based on a blogger’s recommendation?
What if I told you that 63 per cent of consumers are more likely to be influenced toward purchase by a blog than a magazine?
Blogger outreach is becoming an increasingly important element of a successful PR campaign. Traditional media sources such as TV, radio and print used to be the only way to share stories, ideas and opinions – but as we know, sharing information via the internet has allowed information to be available at your fingertips within seconds.
What is it about blogs?
Honesty and trust: Bloggers share personal opinions and reviews that readers trust to be honest and authentic. The average person has exposure to roughly 600 advertisements a day. It doesn’t take long before people start realizing ads are intentionally placed to make you feel as though you need or want something.
- Blogger benefit: People trust real people. When they can put a face to a name and feel as though they can relate on a personal level, that trust provides more value than any other form of communication.
Influence and leadership: Some bloggers are just as influential as journalists. Most news outlets reach a certain demographic and, depending on their scope, may not be your target demographic. Bloggers are seen as thought leaders and can generate massive followings.
- Blogger benefit: Look at your campaign goals and think about your demographic. Would they be more influenced by way of traditional media, blogs or both?
Trend starters: Due to the mobile generation, bloggers have begun to actually share news before media can even become aware of the story. With blogs being the first source for information, traditional media outlets often reference blogs to provide credibility and value to their own stories.
- Blogger benefit: Bloggers live in the real world and blog anywhere on the spot, giving them an upper hand when it comes to timeliness. People no longer need to read the news paper tomorrow morning to find out what’s happened the day before – they turn to social media to find out what’s happening now.
Social amplification: It’s every brand’s wish to have something they’ve created “go viral.” Blogs are the landing pages which are then turned into links to be shared though social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. Bloggers create social sharing opportunities that traditional media often cannot.
- Blogger benefit: Bloggers want their content to go viral because of the fame that could result. From sponsorships to media coverage and increased followers – it’s in their best interest to work with you. Aka, a huge win/win.
Don’t just take my word for it – take a look at these three outstanding blogger outreach campaigns to get an idea of how beneficial blogger campaigns have been for other brands.
So the next time you are planning a media relations campaign, ensure that targeted blogger relations component is included to complement your traditional outreach. This combined approach will optimize exposure, influence and engagement for your brand.
Tags: blogger, blogging, brand engagement, influence, media relations, outreach, partnership, sponsorship
I had the privilege of being a panel expert at NEXT Marketing & Design Agency’s unique BRAND CHATTER™ event earlier this week. BRAND CHATTER™ is the name coined by NEXT’s CEO, Sandy Gerber – something she uses to describe the buzz around a brand. I joined four other experts in social media, networking and broadcast media. An interesting discussion ensued that gave the 80-strong audience of business owners and marketing directors food for thought. I think the discussion accurately reflected the ever-evolving communications industry – how social media is now a necessity and not really a choice and how the value of traditional media and campaigns is being scrutinized more closely. Business owners now want the most cost-effective options that will create the most buzz and engagement for their brand. So, what’s the answer?
Here are some key take-aways from the discussion:
- Integrated campaigns are key. As seasoned communications consultants, we should be recommending campaigns that have a mix of traditional PR, social media and, depending on the brand and its objectives, an element of advertising. Word of mouth and networking is still crucial to a brand’s success and should also not be ignored. A lot of brands need to reach multiple audiences so leveraging different channels will help achieve this. That said, it’s important to ensure that communications are always clear and consistent, regardless of the platform.
- Keep it simple. Be realistic – you can’t be everywhere all the time. And, if you’re a small business, you will have to prioritize what’s best for your brand. Just because other brands are now exploring Pinterest and Google+, shouldn’t automatically mean that you also have to be there. Perhaps Twitter is your best option at present, along with a simple media relations campaign. Building a brand’s reputation takes time and patience.
- There’s no set formula or template. We were often asked, “where should I be” and “what should I be saying and when?”. The important thing for business owners to realize is that there’s no winning formula that can be applied to every brand. Ultimately, it comes down to what is going to bring you the best ROI. A good consultant should review your vision, objectives, audience, budget and resources and make recommendations off the back of that.
- Content is still king. It’s an old one but a good one. And it won’t go away. However sophisticated a campaign may sound or cost, it must include compelling and regular content that engages a brand’s audience and makes them want to come back for more and share it with others.
- Don’t just broadcast your message. Listen to your fans, followers, readers…Whether it’s through social media or more traditional focus groups, letters to the editor, surveys or blog comments, brands should be responding to the needs of their markets and not just shouting how great they are. If you go with the latter, it may well be falling on deaf ears – you will never know. Ambassadors can be a great way to create BRAND CHATTER – they garner interest and credibility – something that can prove priceless.
- Metrics – this is something every communications professional should feel accountable for. Campaigns can be relatively easy to measure – i.e. number of coverage hits, circulation, readership or the equivalent advertising cost – or metrics can be more difficult to define, especially in the social arena. Still, it’s important that metrics are agreed upon at the outset of a campaign so that everyone involved is aware of what is being used to define success.
Tags: brand chatter, brand engagement, campaigns, Public relations, social media, traditional media