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?

Reflections on 2013

It’s New Year’s Eve tomorrow and it’s been a huge year! Here are my highlights…

I conquered my fear of public speaking.

I was a keynote presenter at the Social Media Marketing in Tertiary Education Conference in Sydney. It was a tough gig – I was the final speaker on the final day. I was so nervous in the lead-up. But when I got on stage, I actually enjoyed it. I received wonderful feedback about my presentation ‘Managing organisational change in 140 characters’ and now I’m not afraid of public speaking at all.

My son finished school.

Forever. It’s been an epic 13 year journey that started at Hilton Primary School in Fremantle and finished at Caulfield Grammar School in Melbourne. He’ll go to University of  Melbourne in 2014 and I’ll figure out what the hell to do with myself now my child is raised.

My team won an award.

Swinburne achieved the second-highest Facebook engagement in Australia’s education sector (Social Pulse Awards 2013).  We also made the top 10 of largest brand pages. Not bad for a core social media team of two – Chris Wong and me. Chris undertook a 12-month Industry-Based Learning placement as Swinburne’s Social Media Officer in 2013. He is a talented, creative and hard-working digital and social media professional. He will complete his degree in 2014 and I cannot recommend him highly enough. Connect with Chris on Linked In or email

I conquered my fear of performing music in public.

Overcoming my fear of public speaking inspired this. A community organisation I’m involved with held a talent night and I took the opportunity to conquer another fear. I played guitar and sung ‘Mad World’ by Tears for Fears and ‘Your Ghost’ by Kristin Hersh, on stage, to an audience of about 100 people. I don’t know if I’ll do it again, but it ended up being fun and I felt elated afterwards. Feedback was lovely – in fact one person described my performance as ‘mesmerizing’.

I launched Sun on my Parade.

After several years of wanting to do it, I launched a digital magazine for women celebrating the second half of life. Sun on my Parade is a work-in-progress, but I’m proud of myself for giving it a go. So, this post is also to let you know I’ll be busy building that platform in 2014, so I won’t be blogging as much in Summer’s notebook. I’d love you to join the Sun on my Parade community – we’re @sunonmyparade on Facebook,  Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, And if you’re inspired, I’d love you to share a story.

Best wishes for a very happy 2014.

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



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.

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


A day in the life of a social media manager

You might imagine that being a social media manager is exciting, glamorous and fabulous. But here’s what a typical day actually looks like… 

7am: Morning alarm goes off. Reach for iPhone and attempt to read mention feed of company’s Twitter stream with sleep in your eyes, glasses off and no coffee. Manage to make out a couple of blurry tweets that need responding to. Decide (wisely) they are best responded to when you can actually see. And have had coffee.

7.10am: Lie in bed trying to picture that awesome piece of content you posted on the Facebook page in your dream last night. It was gold – hundreds of likes, loads of comments and shares galore!

7.15am: Give up trying to remember dream. You’re on your own.

7.20am: First coffee of the day. Good morning!

7.30am: Mentally run through your day. Remember that you still haven’t updated  the social media guidelines,  reconciled your credit card, or worked out what content you will be posting to support major marketing campaign. Feel mildly deflated.

8.30am: Catch train to work and respond to company’s Twitter mentions. Check email, Twitter, Linked In and Instagram news feeds. Try to check Facebook page but the app is so slow you give up. Post good morning shout-outs to favourite tweeps instead.

9am: Get to work. Second coffee of the day. You’re going to need it.

9.10am: Log on. Open Hootsuite, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, the company website, campaign website and editorial calendar in different tabs.

9.15am: Check your official Facebook page. Notice the Talking about This (TAT) figure has dropped overnight. Feel wave of panic. Immediately decide to boost today’s post.

9.20: Write to-do list to regain sense of control. Delegate as much as possible to junior staff member. Left with customer service, check what content we need for next week, source awesome boost-able image for today’s post, present on your social media strategy at a meeting, update budgeting doc, get Facebook competition site set-up, develop campaign schedule, edit Tumlbr post, overflowing inbox … start to feel slightly overwhelmed.

10am: Customer service time. Get sense of impending doom – then remember you can assign customer service to other teams now. Happily assign what you can. Think about what a smart, savvy, time-saving system you’ve set up.

10.05am: Spend 20 minutes drafting perfect social responses to the unassigned comments – corporate but authentic, friendly but polite, informal but professional, intelligent but not patronising. Post. Time is ticking.

10.25am: Reply to one of your favourite tweeps and include #YOLO. Think about how young, cool and hip you sound. Get distracted by an angry tweet in your monitoring streams.

10.40am: Spot a great post by a competitor in your Facebook news feed. Ain’t nobody got time for that… Feel another wave of panic.

10.41am: Go through editorial calendar to see what’s coming up and what needs doing. Try to spot the social media gold. Decide that funny Friday meme is the one to lift the TAT. Adrenaline kicks in.

10.50: Check in with junior staff member who is working on the meme. Have a good laugh and then start providing feedback. Realise you’ve opened with ‘this meme has to go really well, it’s really important’ and have a vague idea that you might be putting the kid under pressure. Start providing high-level strategic feedback like ‘make the grass greener’ and ‘the sky needs to more blue.’

11am: Go into a meeting. Try to resist the urge to refresh Twitter mention feed 20 times during the one hour meeting. Fail.

12noon: Need fresh air. Brisk walk to sushi shop and back. Stop and get coffee number three. Instagram it.

12.20pm: Wade through your inbox full of requests for content to go on Facebook and Twitter. Reply to emails and schedule posts in editorial calendar. Spend too long drafting diplomatic email saying no to a request for a Facebook post promoting the new chairs in meeting room 101.

1pm: Wonder if your boss would support you abandoning email and having staff tweet you content ideas instead. Realise your business is probably not quite social enough for that yet.

2pm: Realise you’ve forgotten (again) to update Pinterest and Google+. Hastily post content on both before anyone notices.

2.15pm: Someone tweets that a room has been evacuated and there’s a fire engine. Call Security to find out what’s going on and tweet back.

2.17pm. Someone tweets asking where they can access power boards. Track down answer via four phone calls and tweet. Get shirty response back about there not being enough power boards around the place.

2.30m: Check Facebook page and respond to random comments and one rant on the Wall. Refresh page to see if any new likes appear on today’s post. Feel momentarily smug to see five new notifications. Realise four of them are posts by others on your Wall. Feel deflated again.

3pm: Remember that you still haven’t updated the social media guidelines. Put it on your to-do list.

4pm: Find out the new company videos you want to post on social have copyright issues and can’t go on YouTube. Start trying to solve the issue.

4.15pm: Junior staff member tells you the grass is greener and the sky is bluer. He races off to take a photo of a visiting wombat at the Library. Social media gold – run!

4.30pm: Spot Vine video of wombat in Twitter feed. Watch it and have a laugh. Wonder why there is a wombat at the Library today.

4.31pm: Someone tweets asking why there is a wombat at the Library today.

5pm: Everyone else leaves the office. You get into a conversation on Twitter about the wombat that’s still going at 5.30pm. Someone emails you with questions about the videos that can’t go on YouTube. Leave office at 6pm and continue Twitter and email conversations on phone on train.

7pm: Check company’s Twitter and Facebook. Realise you haven’t thought about your own social media and personal brand. Tweet some links from LinkedIn.

8pm: Think you really should update your own blog. Start writing humorous piece without your glasses on.

11pm: Post it. Tweet it. Realise your *humorous* post may not actually be that great for your personal brand. Get distracted by sharing other people’s stuff. Eyes are blurry. Feels like 7am again.

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!