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
As we usher in 2017, the impact of digital and social media is only going to continue to grow. As digital news is more instant, searchable and accessible, more and more people are gravitating to the online world and using social channels to find content specific to their interests. Newsrooms also shrank in 2016, allowing for less specialized journalists and the rise of influencers. So what do we foresee coming ahead for 2017? Below is a list of what to look for and how to prepare for it.
Influencers continue to be King
Since more people are choosing to read online news that is filtered to meet their interests, influencers have become instrumental to brand marketing and PR efforts. A Nielsen survey found in 2013 that 92 percent of people trust recommendations from family and friends. While this may not seem surprising, Twitter revealed, in a similar study in 2016, that their users trust online influencers nearly as much as their friends and family.
Finding authentic advocates who already connect with your followers, and who are within your brand’s target audience, will increasingly become the best option for earned media. How do we prepare for this? Start doing some research into which influencers reach your target audience, and reach out to them. Figure out what they like and what they post, and tailor pitches to meet their needs.
Contributor marketing and thought leadership will grow
As audiences trust influencers more and more, it will be integral to build thought leadership for your brand, positioning yourself as an influencer in your field. If the audience feels that your brand/spokesperson is a subject matter expert in the product/service you are offering, you will remain top of mind.
Further, as newsrooms continue to shrink, a trend we have seen for the past few years, more content will be created by contributors who are thought leaders in their field. With less staff to conduct research and dedicate time to individual stories, many news teams are also looking for expert advice in their pieces. Positioning yourself as a thought leader will not only allow for earned media coverage and brand recognition, it will allow you to influence how the story is told.
Visuals will become a necessity
Over the past year we saw a rise not only in social media, but in live video. Snapchat (or Snap Inc. as it’s now referred to) became a force to be reckoned with and Facebook Live and Instagram Stories were born. As live video exploded in 2016, we can only see it continuing to dominate conversations this year as more news moves to the Internet. In an era of information overload, brands will have to provide content that is simple to grasp, personable and compelling enough to capture the short attention span of the audience today. That can be done most efficiently through strong visuals and live video. Videos and visuals are also easily shared through social media, allowing for a wider reach.
Facts and case studies are a must
If there was one lesson learned in 2016, it was that fake news will not be tolerated. With the many fake news scandals this past year, news outlets are going to be much more diligent about the information they put out. News stories are going to now be backed up by industry specialists, and articles are going to be written by contributors with knowledge in the specific area. Additionally, pitch notes are going to have to be supported by solid facts, and new products accompanied by user reviews and well researched case studies.
In 2017, news and online content will only become further curated for individual audiences. As a result, influencers will be the gatekeepers for brands, and content must be engaging and factual. Our advice? Brush up those social profiles, build strong relationships with influencers, establish a thought leadership program and create engaging, thoughtful and compelling content.
Tags: 2017, digital media, influencers, new year, PR, Public relations, social media, trends
Facebook is often one of the first social platforms a business sets up – and with good reason. Facebook has over 1.59 billion monthly active users as of January 2016, marking a 14 percent increase year on year. Each day, over a billion people log into this channel to review their news feed and messages.
Brands are fully aware of the potential of this platform. In the US specifically, 80 percent of companies have a Facebook page.
What is worth considering is how your Facebook page can be optimized, and whether your business is utilizing all the tricks available. Below are some ideas to make your content work harder for you.
- Add value: The trick to creating great content is producing images, text or videos that your audience values – rather than what you want to ‘sell’. If you sell ice cream for example, have fun with it and create ice cream based recipes, run contests for the quirkiest ice cream flavour or incorporate posts on keeping cool during the summer months. Whatever you post, add value every time to your audience.
- Community-focused: People ‘like’ Facebook pages to feel part of a community – whether that’s supporting a specific cause, interest or business. While you may have other business related objectives for setting up your page (such as increasing web traffic or sales), keep the idea of ‘fostering a community’ in mind. You can enhance the sense of inclusion by facilitating group discussions and responding to comments in an authentic and helpful way.
- Consistency: Posting content sporadically or leaving a Facebook account dormant is a big ‘no no’. People will ‘unlike’ your page when they see it’s not adding value. Create a content calendar and post ideally once a day, minimum, to justify being a worthwhile page to follow.
- Facebook Insights: Facebook has a great tool called ‘Insights’ that provides an overview of how much engagement your posts are generating. As well as tracking the number of followers to your page, take time to look at the insights – paying particular attention to the levels of engagement generated by each of your posts. Facebook Insights also tracks clicks, reactions, comments and shares. Use this to learn what your audience likes and responds well to – and provide more of it.
- Pin that ‘wow’ content: If you have important content that you want to promote over a longer period of time (say a week, rather than a day) or a post that’s receiving an impressive amount of traction, you can ‘pin’ it to the top of the page. This means even when you post your daily content, your ‘pinned’ post will remain in prime position. It’s a neat trick to make important content go further – without creating a new post.
Most of these are content-focused suggestions. What other ways do you recommend for optimizing your business Facebook page?
Tags: content creation, facebook, social media
Did you know: the average Instagram user only sees 30 per cent of their newsfeed? As social media continues to evolve as a business tool, Instagram (conveniently owned by Facebook) is likewise making large strides to adopt the business-minded algorithm that Facebook newsfeeds adopted years back. With this in mind, here’s why the new algorithm is going to affect you and your brand a little more than you think it might:
You’re going to have to try a little harder
Any savvy Instagrammer that you currently follow – businesses and brands included – will be battling it out to be categorized in the aforementioned elite 30 per cent. How do you do this? The answer’s never as straightforward as you’d like, but the bottom line is that you simply need to generate more appealing content so you don’t get buried in the other 70 per cent. ‘Likes’ and comments matter now more than ever.
So how does this affect the once-authentic (and chronological) nature of this image-based platform? Plenty if you ask John Mayer…
Turning post notifications on may not be the answer
If you haven’t been living under a rock the past week, you’ll have definitely come across brands begging their followers to turn post notifications on in light of the new algorithm changes. But, as a business, is this really your best and smartest option?
Asking followers to turn notifications on is a big ask and it puts the pressure on you to deliver. If people start to get flooded with too many notifications, the quick fix is – you guessed it – to turn those notifications off.
The short answer to keeping people engaged with your page is simply to create engaging content that entices people to ‘like’ and comment on. Unfortunately for content creators, this probably means extra brainstorming hours, but if you keep people coming back despite the new algorithms, you’re golden. Just remember: quality > quantity.
The “Golden Age of Advertising” is now
Advertising on social media doesn’t carry the same stigma now that it did when it was first introduced on Facebook, then Twitter. There’s a reason you’re starting to see more sponsored posts on Instagram these days – it pays off.
And, thanks to the new Instagram algorithms, you’re seeing ads from businesses that are deemed interesting and relevant to you based on the people you follow and things you like on Instagram and Facebook.
As a business, considering advertising buys on Instagram isn’t a sign of defeat. It’s a means of generating engagement from an audience that is hand-picked to fit your target market. The ads are also unobtrusive meaning they look just like any other shared image or video. So, while you may be seeing less organic reach in the future, you’ll at least be seeing more lasting engagement.
So, for now, we’re saying goodbye to the chronological Instagram newsfeed users have come to know and love and embracing (or at least trying to) its new algorithms. Above all, keep calm and don’t turn on post notifications…just yet, anyways.
Tags: digital marketing, digital media, Instagram, instagram algorithms, social media
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.
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.
Tags: donald trump, media relations, new media, Public relations, social media
Social media is central to many of our campaigns at Peak. We consume news about the impact these channels have and apply our learnings to client projects.
If you’re still struggling to get buy-in on social media, this list of 30 facts provides useful need-to-knows on why engagement is important.
Did You Know?
- Over 75 percent of all internet users use social media (source: Makeuseof)
- 71 per cent of women use social media compared to 62 percent of men (source: SearchEngineJournal)
- 91 percent of brand mentions on social media come from people with fewer than 500 followers and 94 percent of those mentions are positive (source: Business2Community)
- 21 percent of consumers will unfollow brands that post repetitive or boring content (source: Social Times)
- 89 percent of 18-29 year age group use social media (source: smallbusinesscan) and 84 percent of C-level/VP execs use social media to support purchase decisions (source: smallbusinesscan)
- Facebook accounts for 21 percent of all social media referral traffic globally (source: TechCrunch)
- Facebook drives 23 percent of all traffic across the internet! (source: Shareaholic)
- 189 million of Facebook’s users are ‘smartphone only’ (source: wersm)
- 23 percent of users check their accounts at least five times a day (source: SearchEngineJournal)
- 80% of pins are actually re-pins (source: Mashable)
- Shoppers referred to a site from Pinterest are 10 percent more likely to buy (source: Socialmediatoday)
- Pinterest referrals spend 70 percent more money than visitors referred from non-social channels (source: Socialmediatoday)
- Pins with a call to action increase engagement by 80 percent (source: Socialmediatoday)
- 80 percent of Pinterest users are women; 50% of all users have children (source: Socialmediatoday)
- The fastest growing group of new users on Twitter are aged between 55 and 64 years (source: wersm)
- 65 percent of users expect a response on Twitter in less than two hours (source: SearchEngineJournal)
- 88 percent of Twitter users are on mobile and 500 million tweets are posted each day (source: Jeff Bullas)
- LinkedIn has nearly a quarter of a billion users (source: smallbusinesscan)
- Only 20 percent of LinkedIn users are under the age of 30 (source: SearchEngineJournal)
- 40 percent of B2B buyers say LinkedIn is important when researching technology and services to purchase and 65 percent of B2B companies have acquired a customer through this channel (source: business2community)
- More than 70 million photos and videos are sent daily (source: Hootsuite)
- 53 percent of internet users aged 18-29 use Instagram (source: Jeff Bullas)
- Instagram is considered the most important social network by 32 percent of American teens (source: Hootsuite)
- Among top brands Instagram has been adopted by 85 percent (source: Hootsuite)
- Brands on Instagram are seeing a per follower engagement rate of 4.21 percent – that’s statistically 58 times higher than Facebook and 120 times higher than Twitter (source: Hootsuite)
- Still photos are more popular on Instagram than videos – generating 36 percent more likes (source: Hootsuite)
- Posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6 percent more engagement and posts tagged with a location receive 79 percent higher engagement (source: Hootsuite)
- 18 percent of marketers plan to increase efforts on Google+ this year (source: SearchEngineJournal)
- The +1 button is hit 5 billion times per day (source: Jeff Bullas)
- Google+ has more than 2.5 billion users but only 10 percent are active (source: smallbusinesscan)
Tags: facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, social media, Twitter
People often think of public relations only in marketing terms. How can we use PR to build our brand? If they don’t see an immediate payoff, they ask why bother? They are missing the link between positive PR and saving the brand during a crisis. Positive PR is like getting a flu shot, it won’t guarantee you don’t get the bad news flu, but it will make the symptoms less severe.
When a crisis hits, the first step reporters take is to type your name and your company’s name into Google. They are looking for a general impression. What another reporter has said about you will be given a great deal of weight. Reporters trust other reporters above all others.
Step two for a reporter is to search your name and the key crisis words like “fire,” “layoffs” or “complaints,” whatever best describes the crisis. They are looking for how you handled previous events and if there are any stories about your preparedness or lack thereof.
They will search all your social media channels, personal and corporate. They will dig hard and they are really good at it.
Within a few minutes they will form a picture of your corporate or personal character and that will frame an approach to the story in the hours, days, or weeks ahead. It is a picture you will find very hard to change during a crisis. For media there is no grey. It’s black and white, you are the good guy or the bad guy, the victim or the perpetrator.
Try it right now. Search your name, your company’s name. Now search again and add in a crisis word or two. See what comes up. That’s what a reporter will know about you today if bad news strikes in the next few minutes. If you have been keeping a low profile, not telling your positive stories, then reporters will find a void. This void will be filled with bad news when disaster strikes. Your bad news flu just became pneumonia. It might be fatal.
The most overlooked component to effective crisis management is building a positive public reputation in advance of any crisis. You can’t control when a crisis will strike but you can control how you build your reputation in advance of the bad news. This reputation will be the foundation you stand on during the crisis. Create a public perception of your company as a positive member of the community. It will help shape how media and the public will view the crisis story and your efforts to deal with it.
There is an old saying in politics, “If you don’t define yourself, your opponents will define you.” Business is no different. If you don’t define yourself now, the media, your critics or the crisis will do it for you.
An organization with a good public reputation will take a hit but will weather the crisis better than one that the public first hears about when a crisis has struck and the blame game is in full swing.
Now is the time to get your bad news flu shot.
Tags: brand, crisis communications, marketing, personal brand, Public relations, social media
By now everyone knows to be careful what they share on social media.
Potential and current employers may be monitoring your online activity, or it may be brought to their attention by others who deem your posts inappropriate or offensive. Even corporate social profiles have a heightened sense of what they share after the US Airways NSFW image fiasco, and more recently the Delta Airlines giraffe debacle (get it together airline social media!)
When we share on social channels like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, we know our posts will be broadcast to either the public or to a list of followers we have approved. Emails, however, we often assume are private. Like a phone call, they are typically not intended to be viewed by the general public.
Evan Spiegel, the 23-year-old founder of the billion-dollar app SnapChat, learned that this isn’t always the case, when a number of blatantly sexist emails he sent out to his fraternity during his college days, were publicized on Gawker.com and nearly every major business and technology publication in the days following. I am not here to condemn Mr. Spiegel on his less-than-eloquent language, as it may be argued that he was, and is, a 20-something frat boy uneducated in the impact of language. What I am here to do is remind us that we too could fall victim to embarrassing email mishaps, and provide some simple steps on how to prevent them.
Double check who you’re sending to
A certain member of my family who shall remain nameless once told me how he responded in a not-so-favourable manner after finding out that one of his colleagues would be taking charge of a major project, not realizing that the same person had been cc’d on the email. This resulted in a 45-minute phone call of back pedaling and apologies.
Proofreading the body of an email is second nature for many, but it is also important to make sure you check who exactly you are sending a message to before hitting send.
Know your audience
You may be quite chummy with clients, reporters or coworkers, but at the end of the day you are involved in a working capacity and a level of professionalism must be maintained when communicating over work email. Be aware that what you share and how you present yourself to these people could have an effect on your rapport with them.
Be wary of your formatting
Tying into the previous point, how you format an email to your mother or best friend should be different to how you format a business email. A proper greeting and signature, punctuation, and a clean font can say a lot about the quality of your work. It’s difficult to take someone seriously in Comic Sans.
Think before you hit send (or at least be prepared to stand by what you say)
At the end of the day, be it on social media or in an email, don’t send something you’d be embarrassed to have publically shared. I’m sure Mr. Snapchat figured his messages would never go beyond the inbox of those in his fraternity, but in a leadership role with his Stanford University chapter there was an expectation of him to have a level of professionalism, and his subsequent success made him an easy target for dirty laundry airing.
Though most of us won’t go on to create wildly successful phone apps, everyone wants to have a good reputation in the working world. If you are going to say something risqué, be confident in backing that statement if it is ever brought to light.
Tags: correspondence, editing, email, proofreading, social media, Writing
Peak Communicators is excited to be partnering with the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce to host two half-day seminars on building, enhancing and protecting your reputation through strong communications initiatives.
Taking place on April 16th at the Capri Hotel, attendees can learn the secret sauce behind building your brand and business. The session will also discuss how to protect your good reputation by identifying an issue before it becomes a crisis and delivering strong messages to internal and external stakeholders and the public.
Other topics to be discussed include:
- Building a brand and profile through public relations and media initiatives
- How to find and tell your news and your story
- Why a crisis communications plan is necessary and how to develop one
- Issues management and crisis communications
- Using social media tools to build, enhance and protect reputation
The session will be hosted by two senior Peak consultants, Alyn Edwards and Chris Olsen. Both were news reporters for 30 years and are experts in helping companies tell their stories.
Date: April 16th 2014
Time: Two time options: 8am – midday or 1pm – 5pm
Location: The Capri Hotel, 1171 Harvey Avenue, Kelowna, BC, V1Y 6E8
Room: The ‘Vineyard’ room at the Capri
Cost: The seminar cost is $195 per person or $149 for Kelowna Chamber of Commerce members
Registration: Available online through the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce
Parking: Available on site
If you’d like further information or have questions, please call Peak Communicators on 604.689.5559.
Tags: branding, crisis communications, issues management, Public relations, social media, storytelling
A picture is still worth more than 1000 words. The furor over the cover of the Rolling Stone proves that once again.
The cover depicts accused Boston Marathon bomber Jahar Tsarnaev but unlike the 1970’s cover of Charles Manson which showed a demonic killer, this cover shows someone who could be the latest teen heartthrob.
Reaction has been swift and damaging to the Rolling Stone’s reputation, a reputation founded on the cache of being on the cover as much for the often profanity laced articles inside.
The PR mistake that Rolling Stone made was failing to understand that emotions were still raw surrounding this terrible event. The editors forgot PR 101, lesson one, people react emotionally to what they see and not what they read.
What they saw and are fixated on is the picture. The words “bomber” and “monster” don’t come close to balancing that, even in bold, large print.
A picture is still worth more than 1000 words. In this case it’s worth hundreds of thousands of tweets threatening never to read the magazine again, and some retailers pulling the magazine from circulation so as not to offend their customers.
Having created its own “PR Crisis” the steps that Rolling Stone have taken are good ones:
- Publishing the entire article so that people can read for themselves that the article does not glorify a “monster”.
- Giving away its cover story, so that Rolling Stone is not seen to be benefiting from the controversy
- Acknowledging the bombing victims at the top of the article and explaining why they pursued the story
The article is legitimate. TV entertainment shows do this all the time. Sometimes entertainment news just becomes news.
In 1970 Rolling Stone published a Charles Manson cover story, but the picture demonized Manson. This one didn’t. It showed the boy next door or the newest rock star. The public wanted to see the devil and they saw themselves.
It has been 40 years since Dr. Hook released “The Cover of the Rolling Stone” a song which immortalized what it meant to get on the cover. The public hasn’t forgotten what that means.
If Rolling Stone had a do-over they would pick a different cover.
Will it do permanent damage?
Only time will tell.
Tags: Boston Marathon, communications, controversy, crisis, PR Crisis, Public relations, Rolling Stone, social media