Five tips for managing a crisis on Twitter

We all want our good news to go viral. But sometimes it’s the information you don’t want shared that actually gets traction. Your business is closing retail stores. Your call centre is going offshore. Your company is making redundancies.

Social media is not just word-of-mouth – it’s world of mouth. So, how do you manage that conversation on the social web? Here are my tips for managing crisis communications in 140 characters.

Be transparent

Resist the urge to bury your bad news in the last paragraph of a media release. It is not traditional media that has storytelling power today – it is consumers. You can’t control the message or the messenger. You can only be the most active, informed and useful participant in the online conversation. People will tell your story, whether you like it or not. You have to break your own news on Twitter and be honest about the facts. Share real-time updates via your official Twitter account and share key information on your Facebook page.

Be fast

When news breaks, people head to Twitter. Be prepared. Set up a monitoring station in Hootsuite, or whatever platform your company uses, to monitor and respond to conversation. Draft tweets with key messages and vital information. You may want to use a hashtag for the conversation. Reply to comments and questions as quickly as possible. Re-post your reply as a public tweet in case other followers have the same query. Respond to incorrect information with the facts, so misinformation doesn’t spread. Post a tweet every 15 minutes alerting people to follow your official Twitter handle for updates.

Be loud

You need to be the loudest person in a very noisy room. Post a tweet with key information every five minutes. Repeat the facts. Post new information, as it unfolds, as fast as possible. Share important information using as many mediums as possible – video, podcasts, images and words. Use your other social platforms to direct people to your official Twitter account for updates.

Be useful

There is no point making excuses and not offering a solution. Just saying, ‘we’re sorry, we’re experiencing technical issues right now’ isn’t useful. How can you help? You need to be customer-focussed. If your website is down, can you share information via your Facebook page? If your phones are down, can you provide customer service via social media instead? Social communications are human-to-human – you need to be helpful, empathetic and useful. If you are trying to find the answer to a question, let the person know you are getting an answer for them. Go above and beyond for the consumer.

Be responsive

Use real-time consumer feedback to determine how your business needs to respond. Do you need to establish a hotline? A dedicated support team? An alternate website? You need to be customer-focussed. Wherever possible move distressed customers into direct message, out of the public domain, and talk person-to-person. Give the person your full name, email address and your role at the company. Be accountable, authentic and helpful. The crisis will end, but the impact on your company’s brand and reputation will be lasting and determined by how you respond. Use the crisis as an opportunity to be exceptional.

Do you have any tips to share?


6 reasons PR pros are perfect for social media

In 6 PR and social media predictions for 2013 author Sandra Fathi says public relations will win the battle over which corporate discipline “owns” social media. Hear, hear!

Digital and mobile technologies continue to transform the PR practice. The lines separating PR, marketing, branding, advertising, and customer service are blurry indeed in social media. Do PR professionals have the right skills for the brave new social world? Absolutely – and here’s why.

We are experienced storytellers.

Social media requires us to create, curate, and share engaging and relevant stories. Brand journalism, otherwise known as content marketing, is not new to us. PR pros have always told stories using a range of communication styles and media. Many of us are former journalists. We can turn rocks into newsworthy features (true story). Social media is another way to tell and share our stories.

Just as we have practiced our written and digital communications, we need to develop our skills in social and visual content. Videographers, photographers and graphic designers are having their 15 minutes of fame right now. Businesses have become media companies and talented digital storytellers are essential for social success.

We are expert communicators.

While visual storytelling skills are important, writing skills are essential for social media. Conversations happen in words. Several colleagues have told me that writing was not the focus of their marketing degrees. As a journalism student, I lost 50 percent for every error in my news reports. My copy had to be clean. It only took one zero mark to make me a candidate for Grammatical Pedantry Syndrome.

PR pros are experienced writers, editors, and proofreaders. These skills transfer nicely to blog posts, tweets, status updates, and conversations.

We always aim to be relevant.

Social media is about being timely, interesting, and relevant. PR pros are experienced in creating content relevant to a specific audience. Whether we are pitching to a journalist or producing a newsletter for staff members, our audience determines the type of content we share.

Social media provides us with excellent tools to better understand our publics and communicate with our stakeholders. Become part of your social networks and get to know what your customers need and want from you.

We are experienced in relationship building.

Relationships have always been the focus of PR practice. Whether we are building relationships with journalists or stakeholders, we use communications to maintain good relations. Our professional contacts are often developed via phone and email— and now social media—without meeting face-to-face.

Social media is all about relationships. We are experienced in managing relationships with people we have never met, accustomed to finding information fast, and highly skilled in customer service.

We know crisis communications.

PR pros are trained in issues management and crisis communications. These skills are vital in successfully managing a social media crisis. In my experience, the same principles apply. You need to get your company’s voice into the conversation as fast as possible, respond to any questions, correct misinformation, and be as helpful as possible. Our skills in relationship and reputation management are well-suited to handling viral activity.

We have always sought feedback.

Gaining feedback about our company’s profile and reputation was always a challenge. We would run surveys and focus groups to gain insights into stakeholder concerns and public perceptions. Not anymore.

Social media is like an instant focus group. We can ask questions, gain feedback, and have conversations in real-time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We can draw on social feedback to inform future communications, create positive organisational change, and improve our customer experience.

This post was originally published by PR Daily. Here’s the original post: 6 reasons PR pros should manage social media

 


Amsterdam

Seven reasons why companies should decentralise social media

Is your organisation truly social?

This was one of questions raised at the 2012 International Social Media and PR Summit in Amsterdam. Edelman Digital‘s Marshall Manson presented three models for creating social organisations.

The first was the centralised model we are all familiar with. Social media is managed by a central division and provides the official voice of the organisation in each channel. We like this model because it’s relatively easy to manage. But let’s face it – it’s not very social. Too often social media is seen as a channel for promoting key messages (yawn).

I think the centralised model has become out-dated. As Marshall pointed out, we now live in a world where regular employees and ‘a person like yourself’ have more credibility – and therefore influence – than CEOs. So, let’s empower our regular employees to have a corporate voice.

Marshall presented two decentralised models – and it’s this type of model that really intrigues me. Imagine the central division being surrounded by employees who are building social relationships and online communities. There is two-way flow between central division and these trained brand ambassadors, who are blogging and tweeting and engaging people with the brand in different ways.

Disney uses a decentralised model and Disney Destinations’ social media director Thomas Smith said all Disney’s senior managers blog. One manager is in charge of floral arrangements at Disney. So she blogs about flowers. And guess what? She has built a social community of people who love flowers and now engage with the Disney brand because talking about flowers has made it relevant.

What are the benefits of a decentralised model?

More brand noise

How does one official twitter account compare with 25 brand ambassadors tweeting? Enough said.

More compelling content

With employees blogging regularly about their areas of expertise, your company will produce more diverse, interesting content. Content is still king. With two-way flow between central division and your brand ambassadors, imagine all the fresh, compelling content available for your marketing strategy.

More relevance

A decentralised ‘many voices’ model enables your brand to connect with people who may never have engaged otherwise. Relevance is key in the social world. Disney makes a great case in point.

More savvy employees

Social media training is critical to this model. Dell’s Simone Versteeg said the company has two types of employees – those who are official brand ambassadors and those who are just plain social. Employees choose what they want to be and there are guidelines and training for both.

More speed in a crisis

We no longer have the luxury of time in crisis communications. What happens if the employee responsible for the official account is at lunch when the 140 character news breaks? Your trained brand ambassadors will be monitoring social networks too and can quickly be the voice of your organisation.

More feedback

A recent survey found 70 per cent of social media complaints are ignored. Using a decentralised model enables employees to engage in direct social dialogue with consumers. Why do we want to respond to feedback? To improve the way we do business.

More innovation

Employees may have very creative ideas for social media. Dutch airline KLM, for example, has introduced an opt-in service enabling passengers to select their seat based on shared Facebook profiles. Imagine all the social ideas your employees have right now that you can experiment with.

What are your thoughts about using a decentralised social media model?

This article was originally written for Trevor Young as guest post for his PR Warrior blog. Here’s the original post: Seven reasons why companies should decentralise social media. I recommend you follow @trevoryoung on Twitter because he’s awesome.


Nine ideas for inspiring writing

Mum and I are both authors – she writes fiction and I write non-fiction.

In deciding what to contribute for a guest post, I asked mum what subject she would find most useful. She answered that her greatest challenge was coming up with new ideas.

I can certainly relate. I often struggle with generating ideas for my blog. In today’s world, where we self-publish online in blogs and social media, producing fresh content on a regular basis can be quite challenging.

So, mum gave me the idea of writing about… well, ideas and how to get them. Here’s nine to start the conversation, I’d love to hear your ideas too.

Ask your audience.

It may be helpful to ask your target audience – for me, that’s other writers – what they would like to read. If an audience member suggests a subject (like my mum did) other readers will probably relate too.

Tell the story again.

American journalist Barbara Grizzuti Harrison said: “There are no original ideas. There are only original people.” Even if a subject has been covered a thousand times, you have a unique voice and perspective. As a writer, your voice is your greatest asset. So, be yourself, feel the fear and do it anyway.

Start tweeting.

If you’re a writer, you have to be on twitter. Twitter is like Disneyland for us. There are so many wonderful people and so much great content, it’s a virtual treasure chest of ideas.

Share a secret.

In her autobiography, Australian publishing icon Ita Buttrose disclosed she was once so angry with a former boss that she wrote his name on a piece of paper and stuck pins in it. This confession not only surprises the reader but shows Ita’s humanity. Readers empathise with human frailty. The truth is very powerful.

Think like a journalist.

If you generally write opinion in your blog – and most of us do – get inspired by journalism. You could produce a feature about a local event or interview a person relevant to your readers and write a Q&A piece.

Explore a new genre or medium.

Writers are artists, we use words like a sculptor uses clay. Experimenting with a different genre or medium can be fun and produce some interesting content too. If you usually write non-fiction, why not try fiction? How about photography or producing a video? You may even discover a hidden talent or passion.

Voice your views.

Share your thoughts about news and current affairs. Even if everyone is talking about the Royal Wedding, for example, you bring a distinctive voice to the conversation.

Find inspiration in the everyday.

French author Anais Nin said: “My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.” A poem on a fridge, a conversation with a friend, a sentence in a book – all have inspired ideas for my blog.

Don’t Google it.

The first thing writers tend to do is research. But if you Google your idea, you’ll find it has already been written about. So, just write from the heart. Even if the idea is unoriginal, you are an original person. Your writing will be original if you write first and Google later.

This post was originally written for American publishing house Our Little Books. Our Little Books is dedicated to producing educational, inspirational and fun little books with a big message. You can follow @ourlittlebooks on twitter or like Our Little Books on Facebook. Here is the orginal post: Nine ideas for original writing


For the love of technology

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful … that’s what matters to me.” Steve Jobs, Wall Street Journal, 1993

I’ve been thinking recently about the late Steve Jobs and his contributions to the world. Following his sad passing on October 5, much has been written on the subject of his legacy. So, I’d like to add my voice to the conversation.

I was born in the 70s and grew up in the 80s. The threat of nuclear war was very real to me during my childhood. It seemed all it would take is one press of a button and we would all be gone. At school, we read classics like 1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Well, it was 1984 now and that brave new world was on its way.

It was a time before Microsoft, before the Internet, before mobile phones. We had the most basic computers in high school. Black screens with green text that you could program with simple commands. Enter ‘cat’ = show ‘meow’, or something to that effect.

For me, the 80s were all about – forgetting Madonna for a moment – the ‘greed is good’ ideology, the birth of the yuppie, and scientists mentioning climate change (or global warming as it was called then) for the very first time. I moved to Sydney in 1992 to work for Greenpeace and try to save the planet from capitalism. Technology seemed like a very scary thing. Like something I didn’t want. One day robots would take over the world. And ultimately us with them.

So, fast forward to 2011 and it is surprising to find that I can’t live without technology. I am excited to see where we take technology into the future. And robots? Love them.

What I believe Jobs contributed to my generation was to move the masses from a place of fearing technology to embracing it. And not just embracing it, but adoring it. It was a revolutionary shift. For me, Jobs changed technology from something sinister and evil into something I wanted. Very much. Like right now, if not sooner. And keep it coming, please.

When my service provider offered me the first iPhone in 2008, I initially said no thanks. The sales representative sounded shocked. So I rang my Generation Z son to check I’d made the right decision. “Do I want to upgrade to an iPhone?” I asked him. “Um yes, of course you do, is this a trick question?” he asked.

So I upgraded. And through this sweet little gadget, Jobs made me fall in love with technology. Now, I had used technology before in my work, of course, but I never loved Microsoft Office. I used it because I had to. But through the iPhone, I started to appreciate technology’s power, its beauty and its potential. The online world, especially social media, was suddenly much more fun.

As a writer, with a print background, I entered cyberspace with trepidation. But now I live in it. We can self publish and that’s amazing. We can interact and connect with our readers like never before. I can sit in a train and read a blog post by a writer on the other side of the world. I can edit my blog, share my posts and respond to your comments on my iPad. On the move and anywhere I choose. And it’s really only just begun.


Meeting Ita

Cleo and I were born in the same year. Cleo was born in Australia in 1972, her mother the now iconic Ita Buttrose and her father the late Kerry Packer. I was born in New Zealand, the love child of two teenagers. Suffice to say it didn’t last and I was raised by a single mother.

I grew up in hippy communities in Western Australia where the women grew organic vegetables, baked and sewed everything from scratch, and helped each other raise their children. The men, in contrast, seemed to pass their days smoking marijuana and living the ‘free love’ philosophy with abandon.

People tend to imagine hippy communities were all about peace, love and lentils. And to be fair there were some wonderful people – my mother and her close friends all had considerable grace and integrity. But in my observation, these communities were littered with lost souls on a road to nowhere. I wanted out.

My mother was a ‘radical feminist’ and a powerhouse. She was intelligent and well-read, with a fiery temper and a heart of gold. She encouraged me to chase my dreams.

I’ll never forget the day one of the hippies asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I was about 10 at the time. “I’m going to work in public relations, live in the city and drive a fast red car,” I snarled at him. He almost choked on his hash cookie. Well, I actually drive a blue car now but it was pretty close.

I recently attended the PR Directions 2011 conference in Sydney and Ita gave the closing address, ‘Does media change society or society change the media?’ During her presentation, which was sharp and insightful and very funny, I actually felt like I was falling in love. So it is when you meet an icon.

I am one of a generation of women for whom Ita was made relevant again by the ABC mini-series Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo. My mother didn’t buy Cleo but, as Ita pointed out at the conference, radical feminists were not the Cleo reader. Middle class women were.

As a young woman I would escape into magazines. I wanted to write for them, I wanted to be in the pages of them, I wanted to be part of them. My first regular reads were Girl and Dolly and I moved onto Cleo and Cosmopolitan as a teenager. I remember Mia Freedman from Cleo and Cosmo, of course, but I only knew Ita as the editor of Australian Women’s Weekly.

Paper Giants opened my eyes to the incredible influence and impact Ita had on my life. Everything from how I perceived my sexuality to my choices in life has been informed by Cleo and debated in its pages. But it also made me realise that Ita was both an editor and a single mother.

I was one of a handful of delegates who milled around after Ita’s address hoping for a few words and perhaps a photo. During my brief conversation with Ita – with me panting like an excited dog and her spectacularly warm and gracious – I blurted out, “I’ve always wanted to write for a magazine full-time!”

“Well, you know what to do,” Ita said. “You just keep on going, you know how it works.”

And so I do. My career has been a study in delayed gratification. Married in 1996. First article published the same year. My son is born. Separated in 1997. Began a journalism degree in 1998. Divorced. Raised son, studied and worked. Graduated in 2005. Son is now eight. Worked full-time as a journalist. Moved into public relations. Met wonderful new man. Son is now 15.

Is it time to chase that dream of being a magazine writer yet? Well yes, actually, I think it might just be.