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

 


Eight ways to create refrigerator journalism

I recently heard a term that has really stuck with me: refrigerator journalism.

It was used by Ragan Communication’s CEO and publisher of PR Daily Mark Ragan at the 2012 International Social Media and PR Summit (SMPR2012) in Amsterdam.

During his opening presentation on brand journalism (aka content marketing) Mark said the Holy Grail is when our content becomes part of people’s daily lives.

If your company is recognised as a respected news source – journalists come to you rather than you chasing them – you’ve made it. @PRDaily is an excellent case in point.

@MarkRaganCEO said our goal as company reporters is to create refrigerator journalism.

What is refrigerator journalism? It is content so engaging you want to make it part of your daily life. You want to share it with your friends. You want to talk about it. You want to take it into your home. It is content so compelling, so relevant and so brief you want to stick it on your fridge.

There were many other useful take-outs from the two-day SMPR2012. Learning about the strategies of global brands like Microsoft, Dell, Edelman and Disney was awe-inspiring. Notes to self: do more planning, more monitoring, more video.

It was reiterated by all presenters that content is still king – in fact, engaging content is more important than ever. So the question I’ll now ask myself each time I publish is simple: Is this content so compelling my readers will want to stick it on the fridge?

So, how do we create refrigerator journalism? Here are my top eight take-outs from SMPR2012:

1. Your new role is Senior Content Creator. Your job description includes content producer, company reporter, conversation starter and community manager.

2. Plan your editorial activities like you run a media company. You own a daily newspaper (blog), magazine (website), TV station (YouTube channel), radio station (podcasts) and a broadcast network (social media).

3. Don’t be afraid to re-package compelling content and cross promote.

4. Great content needs a great headline (hint: readers love lists).

5. Engage your whole company in social media. There are brand ambassadors throughout your organisation who are passionate about their area of expertise. Find them and get them blogging.

6. Social content doesn’t have to be slick – in fact, if it looks too much like an advertisement people won’t share it.

7. If content is king, then listening is queen. But why are we listening? To make changes to the way we do business if necessary.

8. No one is an expert in social media, we are all experimenting. Don’t be afraid to try new things and make mistakes. We are only limited by our imaginations and our creativity.

This article was originally published by the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA). I was the only Australian delegate at this international conference, so I wanted to share my key take-outs with other PR professionals. Here’s the original post on the PRIA blog: Eight ideas for creating refrigerator journalism


hop display in Collins Street

My new role – and why I love it

I was recently promoted from PR Executive to Social Media Manager. I’m absolutely loving my new role. But it’s also been a surprisingly steep learning curve. Why?

Well, it turns out there’s a big difference between using social media as part of your broader PR strategy and being completely immersed in it eight hours a day, five days a week. And at night. And on weekends. Social media never sleeps – it is truly a 24/7 job.

I’ve been in the role now for about six weeks. I’m learning how to take time out and switch off – without actually switching off. It’s Friday night (and my iPhone’s quiet) so I thought I’d share my experiences and insights so far.

Social media is turning me into a data hound

I am not naturally a numbers person. I’m a writer and the fact that I am not strong in mathematics has never mattered before. That old PR chestnut, how do you effectively measure reputation, has always saved me from having to dive deeply into data.

But social media requires it. The platforms and tools on offer provide comprehensive data that can be measured, analysed and used to maximise engagement. So I am learning to think in numbers. My new mantra: You can do maths. And you will do maths.

Social media uses all my professional skills

This is the aspect I am most enjoying. When creating content I feel like a journalist again. You need to be a news hound and create content that is fresh, compelling and relevant. As curator of our social media channels, I feel like an editor sourcing news and information from the full range of sources across the organisation.

My PR background gives me a focus on relationships and reputation, both of which are at the heart of social media. Even my 10 years experience in the hospitality industry (prior to moving into PR) serves me well in regards to the customer service aspect of social.

I’ve discovered good customer service basics – always be polite, respond in a timely manner and be as helpful as possible – work equally well in the social space.

Social media allows me to be more creative than ever

You have to think creatively in social. I’ve always loved photography but now I’m getting the opportunity to really explore that passion. I’ve become obsessed with Instagram. Images are so popular on the social web so I’m always on the lookout now for photo opportunities and interesting shots.

I can have fun with social content rather than being corporate. After years of writing media releases, reports and speeches, which now seem rather stiff and dull, social content is just so much fun.

Social media is making me think faster

I think faster. I talk faster. I probably even walk faster! The social web moves at rocket speed and when you’re immersed in that world, everything else in life seems to have suddenly slowed down. Except weekends – strangely, they still end very quickly. One negative I’ve noticed is that I find myself interrupting in conversations more than ever, and talking way too much, which I really need to watch.

Social media is making me more organised

I used to have an impromptu approach to social media. But having an editorial calendar and scheduling content means I’m now planning more than ever. Hootsuite is my new best friend. I used to think scheduling tweets wasn’t very authentic but now I see it differently. Scheduling content tweets in the morning and having conversations in real-time throughout the day seems to provide a workable balance. The editorial calendar for Facebook is booked up for the month ahead.

But there is always flexibility and content gets tweaked and moved around. It’s dynamic and fluid and ever-changing – just like the social web itself.

Do you work in social media? What do you love about it?


Richmond Bridge, Tasmania

Changing times

I recently had a conversation with a communications professional that completely surprised me. It went something like this…

Me: I’m experimenting with Pinterest at the moment.

Response: What’s Pinterest?

Me: [A little shocked … okay, what about Facebook …] 

Me: Facebook could be used as our primary communication channel for students because 100 per cent of them are there, but they may not check their email.

Response: Really? I’m not on Facebook, I never really got into it.

Me: [almost falls off chair… speechless … WHAT?!]

This conversation made me realise that professional communicators are at very different stages of embracing digital media, whether it’s online, new or social media. It made me reflect on my 15 year professional journey, from traditional print journalist to ever-evolving PR strategist.

When I had my first article published in 1996 the internet had only existed for seven years (Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web in 1989). I used to deliver my features to the editor of Nova Magazine on a floppy disc. Did I not have email? Actually I don’t remember, but that’s how I submitted my work. In person. Face-to-face. Hand delivered.

Back then public relations was basically about writing press releases and trying to get journalists to run your story. If you got your story in the first three pages of the daily newspaper, you would probably get radio and maybe TV if you had an interesting idea for visual footage. So, that was your goal.

How things have changed!

Then: 24 hour news cycle
Now: 140 character news cycle
Then: Daily newspapers set the news agenda
Now: News breaks on Twitter first
Then: Journalists held the publishing power
Now: Anyone with access to the internet can publish
Then: Social media didn’t exist
Now: If you’re not on social media, you don’t exist

My number one tip to anyone starting out in PR is to make a commitment to ongoing professional development. Keep learning. Keep changing. Keep growing. Otherwise, you really will be left behind.

What’s the one tip you would give to PR graduates starting out? 


London calling

I went to Europe with my mum and her best friend when I was three years old. I have five memories of that trip: the entrance to one room in the Tower of London, the house where we stayed in London, a street in Italy, a roadside in Germany and the grey of Buckingham Palace.

They are like very short films – snapshots of strange moments in time.

And now, on the eve of my 40th birthday, I am finally going back to Europe. I have wanted to go since I was a teenager. After I left home at 17 I was a traveler. I’ve lived in Byron Bay, Sydney, far north Queensland, India, Fremantle, Darwin and now Melbourne. I’ve been to Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia and New Zealand. But I didn’t make it to Europe. My one-way ticket to London via Delhi in 1995 became a return flight to Australia to get married.

And with the birth of my son in 1996, my traveling abruptly ended and my career journey began. I have spent the past 15 years studying and working to build a successful career in communications and provide my son with the best education I could. But high quality education comes at a price and I haven’t needed a passport for more than a decade. With my son now in Year 11, the time to dust off my backpack is coming soon. In fact, out of the blue, it has just arrived.

I am attending the 2012 International Social Media and PR Summit in Amsterdam on April 11 and 12. The speakers are brilliant – Carla Buzasi, editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post UK, and Stephanie L. Schierholz, NASA’s social media manager,  just to name two.

I wouldn’t know about this conference if not for social media. It is being organised by @PRDaily, based in the US, and has reached me in Melbourne through twitter. This is no surprise. Such is the  power of digital PR. I follow @MarkRaganCEO and not only does he tweet great content, he also took the time to comment in my blog. My registration is evidence that interaction is indeed the key to consumer engagement through social media.

It is also no surprise that my dream trip to Europe has come through my career. Maybe it is reward for all the hard work I have undertaken in the past and continue to undertake every day. I am incredibly grateful to have a manager who values my work and is prepared to invest in me. And I’m taking a little of my own time to visit London and Paris… again.  Bon voyage! 


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.