Peak Communicators
July 13, 2017

A simple guide to your social media plan

Identify your social media goals

Having a clear direction or end goal to your social media plan is key to determining your strategy and how you measure your return on investment (ROI). To set this up, you need to understand your company’s overall business goals, as well as their marketing / PR objectives. Ideally, a social media plan plays a part in achieving your company’s overall business goals (eg. increasing ticket sales, generating online transactions on an e-commerce website, or breaking into a new market).

Create a content calendar

Keeping your social media accounts active with relevant and quality content is key to being noticed in densely populated platforms. More than 60 million businesses worldwide now have a Facebook page, and each and every one of them are aiming to grow their following. A social media content calendar is an easy way to organize your content strategy and ensure that your company is publishing new (and relevant) ideas regularly.

Social Listening

To judge how well your social strategy is working, monitor the activity around your accounts and listen to how audiences are engaging with you.  Firstly though, make sure you know what you know what you want to listen for. There are approximately 6,000 tweets sent in the twitter world every second, so understanding the language around an issue will make it quicker and easier to find the relevant ones.

Using social media listening tools helps you understand what is being said about your business, your brand, and popular topics within your industry. You can even listen in on what your competitors are saying, how they are engaging with their followers, who their followers are, and how their followers are responding to their content.

Engagement

Now that you’re listening and monitoring your conversations, don’t forget the most important part of social media — engagement. Social media is a powerful communications tool and has revolutionized the way business and brands reach their customers / stakeholders. Engaging with your followers or audience goes towards boosting your brand and reputation in the social sphere.

Analytics and Reporting

Arguably, the most important part of any social media plan is the analytics and reporting. The only way to show value in your social media plan is to demonstrate ROI. For example, if your social media goal is to drive traffic to your website, keep track of these numbers using Google Analytics. Try your best to track absolutely everything based on what your ROI would look like. Report on what social users like and don’t like. Generating reports periodically will help you evaluate your social strategy on an ongoing basis, and guide you to tweaking it so you can achieve your social goals.

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April 12, 2017

Navigating through the social media storm

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:

  1. 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.

  1. Listen.

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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February 10, 2017

Want to reach everyone at once? Call a news conference

Take the case of the Sunshine Coast Health Centre, a well-respected addiction treatment centre in Powell River where 20-year-old Brandon Jansen died of a fentanyl overdose last March. The centre was getting a lot of bad publicity with family members saying it was easy for Brandon to get contraband drugs within three days of entering treatment.

But investigations by both the RCMP and the regulator – Vancouver Coastal Health’s Community Care Facilities Licensing authority – determined there were no contraventions of rules and regulations.

In fact, the facility had consistently maintained a low risk rating with no other critical incidents or any drug-related incidents reported since the facility was first licensed in 2004. Yet, the centre’s reputation was taking a beating.

CEO Melanie Jordan has much to say about what treatment is – and what it isn’t. Addiction treatment centres are not prisons or lockup. Clients have rights and freedom.

Accredited staff members treat people for many types of addictions including alcoholism and prescription drugs abuse. Root causes of addiction are addressed including mental health and physical issues. Melanie Jordan wanted to speak publicly about the tragic death in her facility and have a voice in the search for solutions to stop the unprecedented number of deaths caused by fentanyl.

She enthusiastically embraced the concept of being front and centre at a news conference to be held November 14th. A Media Advisory was sent out inviting reporters and videographers to attend.

As the news conference got underway, news cameras quickly swung to the doorway where three visitors had appeared: Brandon Jansen’s mother Michelle, her son Nicholas and her lawyer.

They politely listened as the news conference went forward with Melanie Jordan providing reporters with the written investigation reports that found her centre was operating within the regulations.

But her most important message was aimed at the government and the medical profession.

Staff at the centre had not been permitted to administer the opiate antidote naloxone and it was possible that could have saved Brandon’s life.

Since Brandon’s death, the centre has received permission to train staff to administer naloxone and the staff physician can treat clients with Suboxone that takes away the craving for opiates.

With more than a dozen news organizations present at the news conference, this important information was received by the public across Canada. The record was set straight. The way forward was articulated. The news went out – all at once.

And the voice of Brandon Jansen’s family was also heard. They held their own media briefing following the news conference so as much information as possible surrounding this tragic death would be in the public forum.

Melanie Jordan and the Sunshine Coast Health Centre have standing at an inquest into Brandon Jansen’s death scheduled for January. This will be another forum where voices will be heard.

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May 3, 2016

Looking Back (and Ahead) at the Canadian Media Landscape

In just a handful of years, the Canadian media landscape has evolved by leaps and bounds. Traditional media outlets like print and television are beginning to give way to digital media, resulting in a significant and dramatic shift in the way media is produced and consumed. Newsrooms have consolidated as digital media continues to change and develop at a faster pace than ever. As more millennials enter the workforce, we’re starting to see brands rely more and more on social media tactics right alongside traditional media.

So, let’s take a look back at a brief timeline of the Canadian media landscape:

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This blog post was contributed by our 2016 Peak Communicators Practicum Scholarship winner and intern, Thomas Miller. Connect with Thomas here!

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March 23, 2016

Lessons in PR: Should We Be More Like Donald Trump?

Donald Trump is breaking every conceivable PR101, 202 and even PR PhD rule and remains completely unaffected by it.  In fact, the more he breaks the rules, the more popular he becomes. So, are those basic public relation rules that we all know outdated?  His communication style is aggressive to the point of stand-up comedy; more propaganda, less public relations. But, for argument’s sake, should we throw out what we know and adopt the shoot-from-the-lip style Trump embodies – especially in the face of a crisis?

In a political nomination campaign, particularly in the United States, you can do the following, apparently without fear of law suits or reprisals:

  • Attack competitors
  • Call opponents liars
  • Threaten to punch protestors in the face
  • Be yourself – no matter what
  • Make fun of the media who carry your message

Say Trump wins the election. Should you or your company adopt his style and become more aggressive in the face of attacks by the media or critics?  Should you go on the offensive to try to galvanize your supporters? Should you simply thumb your nose at powerful media and treat it and your detractors with disdain?

Consider this: If “the Donald” was your CEO in a crisis and talking about your company’s critics or competitors as he is talking now about his opponents and others, how do you think it would affect your brand?  I suspect his board of directors would be the first to say, “Donald, you’re fired!”

In the real world of business, you simply can’t do what “the Donald” is doing. Why? Because politics is not business reality. So, in light of Trump’s recent antics in the media spotlight, here are some lessons we can all learn:

Never attack your competitors

The first rule of good public relations is you never attack competitors.  Exxon didn’t gloat publically when BP sprung a leak in the Gulf of Mexico. When Walmart parmesan cheese was found to contain cellulose recently, Safeway didn’t run attack ads about it. When you begin throwing stones it’s too easy for the media or the public to pick up some of those same rocks and toss them back at you.

Don’t call opponents liars

“The Donald” calls his opponents liars.  He does this often. It’s his go-to pitch. In a heated public debate which your company may be involved in, calling opponents liars will galvanize opposition and lose you public support.  When you lose your cool, you lose – period. The best strategy is to stick to your facts day in and day out and to let your facts ultimately win the day.  Keep a level-head because the more nasty and out of control your opponents get, the more support you will get.

Don’t threaten to punch protestors in the face

When asked, many a CEO might agree privately, that in certain instances they’d like to punch a protester in the face. Now imagine a big project, like B.C.’s pipelines and Site C dam proposals. Imagine a CEO saying on TV, “I’d like to punch that protestor in the face.” They’d be looking for a new career immediately and the project would be dead.

You can be your own worst enemy

In Trump’s case, this means his shoot-from-the-lip style is not a good idea in a crisis. Being yourself is actually good advice for a CEO facing a crisis, as long as being yourself means you show that you care, admit your mistakes, are truthful and outline a plan to make things right. If you are shaken by what happened, allow it to show, allow your concern to show through – be human. But, if being yourself means you go on the offensive and attack everyone in your path, then save that for the boardroom.

Media don’t like to be made fun of

The media, including social media, carry your message.  Making fun of media pundits, reporters, bloggers and analysts is never a good idea.  It may feel to you like you are winning but the “win” is temporary.  They always get the last word.  You should correct factual errors they have made, point out your positive message, and then take the high road.  The public is smarter than you think.  They will get your message and understand when the media is being unfair.

The bottom line?

Everyone likes to copy a winner; business schools teach investment success models such as Warren Buffett’s. But, we also laud those who break the mold and go against the establishment. Case in point? Donald Trump.

If you copy Donald Trump’s nomination strategy in your business I would say that you do so at your own peril.  Right now, Donald Trump doesn’t need real answers, he just needs one-liners, of which he seems to have an endless supply.  When pushed into a corner he goes on a personal attack, calls someone a liar, raises a boogeyman or mentions 9-11.

A nomination campaign is not the business world or even the real world.  It is more like reality TV.  There is only one measuring stick: winning, and the focus is extremely short term.  There is no tomorrow.

Successful businesses have a long time horizon to consider because the public won’t forget and you don’t get to completely rebrand every four years like a political party does.  Unlike a new political leader, a new CEO doesn’t make all the old negative news magically disappear.

 

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March 15, 2016

How Does Public Relations Fit into the New Media Reality?

Out with the old, in with the new

Looking back on nearly two decades of public relations work following a 30-year career as a news reporter provides an opportunity to reflect on how PR and the media interact in 2016. The new reality for the news media is there are now fewer people employed to do what, in many cases, is much more work.

After a series of buyouts of senior people, The Vancouver Sun and The Province announced earlier this year that they are merging their newsrooms. What does this mean for PR? Less competition and fewer people to cover news.

Television news that once was confined to slots at noon, supper hour and late newscasts is now delivered 24 hours a day in back to back ‘news wheel’ formats that stretch reporters, editors and videographers to new limits.

A new media frontier

The power of the internet continues to grow, with bloggers having as much or more impact than reporters for mainstream media.

So how does this impact the ability of companies, organizations and public relations professionals to get the message out in the media?

Simply put, the media landscape may have changed dramatically but there are more opportunities and channels than ever for publicity.

Everybody is talking about Donald Trump

Love him or hate him, Trump is a publicity machine. He is getting more media attention than anyone else on earth with radio, television, newspapers and social channels featuring what seems to be a play-by-play of Trump’s latest antics in the Republican presidential candidate race.

Getting noticed still makes or breaks reputations, makes the cash register ring and brings people to the door.

And so, getting your message out with ‘earned’ media – otherwise known as public relations – is still one of the best ways to become known. Although the number of reporters may be contracting, newspapers and television are still hungry for content. The number of social channels grows every day. Trade magazines also abound and every industry is supported by at least one that’s looking for stories.

Do-it-yourself

If you can’t get the media to tell your story through positive news coverage, do it yourself. Have videos produced and tell the story of your own company, your product or your services with words and pictures that matter to your brand. Then, feature it on your website.

Do something amazing and put it on the web via Youtube, Vimeo or Instagram. Send this to everyone you know. If your story goes viral, everyone will know what you want to get across and good things can happen.

 

 

 

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February 15, 2016

An Insight into 2016 Marketing Predictions

This year’s BCAMA annual marketing agency panel did not disappoint. Expert speakers from top agencies provided a strong sense of what’s to come this year and created a healthy debate around what’s really going to be some of the key drivers. There was a ton of information relayed to the hundreds of branding and communications professionals in the audience. Here are few of the highlights we took away with us.

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Speaker #1: Andrew McCarthy – President, Tribal Worldwide Canada

The theme of Andrew’s presentation was around using content to connect with consumers. Research has recently shown that 71% of consumers who have blocked ads have said they’d consider whitelist advertising if the content was decent. Basically, people hate bad advertising.

So, how do you increase the shareability of your content?

  • Relatability – your content must be relevant
  • Have a point of view – this will help streamline content and ensure it’s consistent and interesting
  • Findability – search rankings are key when it comes to content dissemination
  • Mobility – make sure your content is where your audience is hanging out
  • Likeability – it’s an obvious one but your audience has to want to genuinely share your content

Snack Time, the milk producers of Western Canada’s cartoon series, was shared as a successful campaign where all the above was put in motion.

Speaker #2 Kelly Stephenson – Director of Strategy, Creature Agency, Seattle

Kelly’s talk centred around the prediction that there will be a rebalance between data and “creative bravery”. Kelly acknowledged the importance of data but cautioned that often marketers can get so caught up in data that the ability to connect with consumers is lost. Her argument around brands not becoming too obsessed with data was effectively summarised when she said, “data looks backwards; insights look forwards.” Marketers need to consider data and use this to create consumer insights in order to produce relevant and creative narratives that will increase the value of the relationship between brand and consumer.

An example used to highlight this argument was REI and its decision to shut up shop for the day on Black Friday and encourage its followers to #optoutside. REI chose to prioritize its shared values with its Millennial audience, putting a short-term need (a lot of revenue on Black Friday) behind the longer-term relationship. It was a smart move as the retailer generated millions of media impressions and a significant amount of content and engagement around #optoutside.

Speaker #3 April Yao – Senior Account Manager, 6S Marketing & Sheng Li Digital

April got up on stage and immediately said she had to disagree with some of Kelly’s points as 6S still uses and responds to data to ensure successful client campaigns that are closely tracked and clearly show ROI. April primarily presented on two topics: retargeting (also known as remarketing) and marketing to the Chinese population. April discussed the virtues of retargeting and dynamic remarketing (getting specific products that someone has already looked at on your brand website in front of the user when they are viewing another site). She said that, if you follow the cost per click (CPC) model, you’ll see the value quickly.

On the Chinese front, April said that approx. 20% of the Vancouver population is Chinese and encouraged the marketers in the room not to forget this growing market which often has high spending power. She talked about some of the equivalent Chinese social sites such as Youku (video), Baidu (search), and Weibo (think Twitter and micro-blogging).

April gave the example of Cirque du Soleil and how they were selling tickets fast in the English-speaking Vancouver community but not in the Chinese community. Through a Weibo contest, creating a Chinese landing page and a retargeting campaign, Cirque saw a significant increase in its ticket sales. Her final point on this community was that ethnic markets shouldn’t be forgotten but they also require their own distinct strategy.

Speaker #4 Dan Scherk – Partner & Creative Director, Traction Creative

Finally, Dan Scherk took to the stage to discuss the importance of brands adopting a user-centric approach in their marketing campaigns. He talked about how social marketing in particular has proven how brands cannot be organization-centric and that they have to prioritize user needs. Using his psychology background, he delved into social marketing behavioural theories and touched upon reasoned action approach, a benchmark for understanding and predicting human behaviour. Dan emphasised the need for marketers to tap into consumers’ beliefs, showing how that would impact attitudes which would in turn formulate intentions and lead onto certain behaviours.

bcama-peak communicatorsThe last case study of the morning was an interesting one: it was the “Dumb Ways to Die” campaign that was launched by Metro in Melbourne, Victoria. The cartoon campaign series was focused on reducing the number of accidents on its trains. Based on this, it was extremely successful and resulted in a 20% reduction in accidents. The campaign won top industry awards and was hailed a great success by many. But it was viewed as a failure by others. Why? In the real world, the true issue was suicide. So, a successful user-centred approach would have been around suicide prevention. Instead, the brand took an organizational approach and focused on an issue that was not the real problem.

Finally, the panel moderator, Claire Booth of Lux Insights, said that, while #FOMO (fear of missing out) was a real thing last year, this year, it’s apparently going to be all about #FOLO (fear of living offline).

 

 

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March 6, 2015

12 Years in Business

This past Wednesday marked 12 incredible years of Peak Communicators. It was great gathering with our friends in the media and past, present and potential clients to celebrate with a sparkling wine tasting, live music and lots of delicious food!

If you weren’t able to join us for all of the festivities the other night, check out these photos collected from “#Peak12” for a taste of the fun.

Thank you to all who attended – support like yours has been what has helped our company flourish for over a decade. We can’t wait to see what the next 12 years has in store!

 


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February 13, 2015

Don’t Scoop Yourself

When it comes to releasing your news, timing and distribution channels are everything. Not heeding them could lead to disastrous communications consequences.

To understand why, you need to know how journalists think and what they’re looking for.

Get internal buy-in

Before you release your story to media, make sure everyone in your organization is OK with it, that it is factually correct, that all stakeholders have been informed when it will be released, and that spokespeople are willing and ready to comment on it.

It’s a nightmare to “take back” a story once it’s been published. So make sure everyone in your organization is ready.

Share it with all media at once

Every journalist wants to be the first one to share a story with the public. Don’t expect journalists to cover a story that has already been covered one or more days earlier by another media outlet. By then it’s old news.

To guard against being old news, make sure you share your story with everyone at once, rather than sending it to one media outlet one day and another the next.

If you want further coverage days later, you’re going to have to add to the story by pitching a new angle and/or releasing new information.

Consider the “news cycle”

If you can choose a time to release your story, tell media about it on a day and at a time when they’re looking for stories.

  • 9:00 a.m. on a Tuesday = good. Journalists have just sat down at their desks and are looking to see what’s going on that day for them to cover.
  • 4:00 p.m. on a Friday = bad. Journalists have already nailed down what they’re going to cover that day. Most have already done their interviews and created their stories. They’re ready for the weekend.
  • On a date when you know other news will be happening (e.g. election day) = bad.

These are the general trends. That said, media will always pick up a great story, and different media outlets have different news cycles.

Have your resources ready to share

If media decide to cover the story, they are going to be on deadline. And if they’re on deadline, so are you.

With little turnaround time, media could ask for any or all of:

  • Relevant photos and captions, including correct spellings of names, dates and locations for the photos
  • Interviews with spokespeople by phone or in person
  • Further factual information
  • Samples / site visits / concrete examples relevant to your story

Make sure you have your resources internally approved and ready to go so you can provide them easily and quickly.

Timing is everything.

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January 9, 2015

Reporting and PR Do Not Mix

I was in the media for more than 30 years and the first rule is PR and journalism don’t mix. If you want to do PR, you leave journalism. Simple.

In 2011, I was a consumer reporter at CTV and was offered a job as Premier Christy Clark’s press secretary.

When I accepted the position I told CTV immediately, even though the job didn’t start for two weeks, and that brought my TV career to an abrupt end. My story for that night was cancelled; I was allowed to thank all the great people I worked with, clean out my desk and record a 20 second thank you to viewers.

I offered to continue to work off-air for two weeks before I started with government, to assist a new reporter stepping into my old role and CTV politely declined. Its rules were strict and I applaud them.

At CTV, we signed a document which spelled out potential conflicts and the consequences which were dire and immediate. All CTV personnel knew the rules and many like me made career choices.

It appears Toronto Global TV anchor and executive editor Leslie Roberts didn’t make that difficult choice.

According to a Toronto Star investigation, Roberts is the co-owner and creative director of a Toronto PR company BuzzPR and some BuzzPR clients appeared on his show. The Star disclosed Roberts tweeted about some clients to his more than 19 thousand followers and other clients appeared in Global news stories produced by other reporters. In fairness, some of those clients also got stories on other TV stations, which legitimizes their news value.

Global news has suspended Roberts indefinitely while it investigates the allegations.

Roberts’ says he never received direct payment from any client for appearing on his newscasts and never took a salary from BuzzPR, but those clients did pay BuzzPR of which he is a part-owner. He told The Star he went to BuzzPR everyday and conducted media training for clients and helped write media pitches. He told The Star he is resigning from Buzz PR effective immediately.

Global viewers trust the news they see. Primarily they trust that there is a separation between the journalist and businesses or guests featured on news programs. They trust that the people they see interviewed, particularly those playing an “expert” role, are chosen for what they know and not who they know.

How would those viewers have felt if full disclosure had been made such as “my next guest is an expert in widgets and his widget firm is a client of the public relations company of which I am a part-owner and creative director.”

Critics of the media have often charged that advertisers or others use their financial clout to influence the news. In my experience those critics are wrong. I was never prevented from doing any story that positioned an advertiser in a bad light. On occasion, my stories in radio and TV cost my employers a good client and a lot of money, but as an old boss at CKNW used to tell businesses “buying advertising is not news insurance.”

Also no sales person ever suggested to me that I should do a story on a particular business that was an advertiser. We kept sales and news separate. Roberts is a veteran award-winning journalist. He should have known that what he was doing at the very least had the appearance of a conflict of interest.

If we accept his word that at no time did he cross a line, that he was surprised when BuzzPR clients appeared on his show or elsewhere on Global news and that he had nothing to do with those appearances, that still does not explain other findings of The Star investigation: his tweets supporting BuzzPR clients and an apparent positive ad-lib on air about a client with a coupon app.

In my opinion, Roberts had a duty to viewers to disclose any conflicts and he failed in that duty.

Back in September reporter Charlo Greene  of KTVA-TV in Alaska famously quit live on air as she disclosed she was the owner of a medical marijuana business, Alaska Cannabis Club, which she had just finished doing a story on.

Greene’s conflict is direct, Roberts’ is one step removed. Both are serious, in my opinion. Roberts’ credibility as a journalist has been irreparably harmed. I fear the reputations of his clients may be in danger of being tarnished as well because the public may wonder if the reason they got airtime was because of the Roberts connection. That would be unfortunate.

Read the full story Star story here

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