Posts Tagged ‘facebook’

Five Platforms for Monitoring Digital and Social Media Trends

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
Tracy Moehnke

Tracy Moehnke

By Tracy Moehnke

According to a recent study, 82 percent of marketing and public relations professionals have at least six applications open on their desktop at any time during the average work day. Sorting through the clutter to identify relevant trends and new channels for reaching your target audiences can be tedious, but it is a necessity for any public relations program.

Media relations, digital strategy and social engagement benefit from incorporating the newest trends and ideology into campaigns. Consistent monitoring of the digital and social landscape helps PR professionals develop approaches to exhibiting thought leadership that adds relevance to client programs and your agency and personal brands. At Gable PR, we’ve found the following free platforms to be among the best for tracking trends in the digital universe:

  • Think With Google searches for studies, trends and news by different industries, topics, products and platforms. Think With Google only uses credible sources to compile data on the newest trends. Have a client in the healthcare industry? Simply choose healthcare and scroll through studies like ‘how healthcare administrators make purchase decisions’ and ‘how hospital administrators research online.’ Incorporate this information into your campaign strategies; targeting audiences on their preferred platforms.
  • Twtrland is a one-stop-shop for discovering people and places. The platform facilitates search of Twitter users based on their characteristics. Twtrland then categorizes users as influencers, champions or casual users. You can use this platform to search by keywords or demographics relevant to your business and client. Find all the 30-year-old women in New York who follow your account through a simple search and sort by influence. Explore and reach target audiences easier than ever, reaching the opinion leaders that matter.
  • SocialMention searches the web for user generated content with keywords of your choice. It then classifies results by sentiment, strength, passion and reach. Filters can be selected to examine certain sources, users, hashtags and content type. SocialMention’s analytics provide comprehensive data that can be applied to digital media strategy by identifying what is hot on different platforms.
  • Topsy is a Twitter maven, boasting an archive of every tweet since 2006. The platform offers search options for videos, photos, links and influencers. Expand your searches by clicking on ‘show search tips,’ which provides a keyword box to assist the search process. Search for all of a specific user’s posts that include certain link sources, or use a topic to search for trending relevant content. Topsy also creates great visuals on a line graph by comparing the popularity of one to three keywords over a length of time.
  • Digg compiles trending news stories. The home page lists the most popular news stories by analyzing clicks, shares and comments. Digg also offers personalization through a Twitter sign-in process, allowing users to see trending stories from their feed. The platform is great for staying up-to-date with the ‘topic of the day,’ ranging from hard hitting news to pop culture events. Brands and businesses can use this to stay relevant with audiences.

Every monitoring platform will have its downfalls with certain industries. Spend time experimenting with various services to discover what is most applicable to your business or client. For ultimate success, checking in with your preferred platforms on a daily basis will keep your business relevant and up-to-date with your target audience’s chatter.

Twitter and FB Flame Wars: Knocking Down the Big Ones in Crisis PR

Friday, January 31st, 2014
Crisis Counter Attack

Crisis Counter Attack

Posted by Tom Gable

When the flame wars break out on Facebook and Twitter, don’t you wish you could call in the air tankers and dump chemical retardants on the perpetrators?

We have had several recent crisis PR challenges at Gable PR where clients wanted to go to war. Being of a competitive nature, they envisioned blowing away the critics with nuclear twitter attacks from all angles. Keep the miscreants on the defensive. Show them the error of the ways. Prove that we are right.

Unfortunately, experience shows that dueling vitriol and aggression only perpetuate the madness. New critics jump aboard. The snarkiest and most clever attacks go viral, attracting new garrisons of hostile forces. Gable PR had one technology client who kept arguing against online critics for a week, only to see the ratio of bad comments to good rise faster than floodwaters during a tsunami. When he set ego aside and stopped debating, the tides of criticism receded rapidly. He moved the conversation into calmer waters with updates on popular programs and future plans.

A financial client came under the gun after a marketing person erred in posting a joke rather than a typical inspirational quote on the company’s digital billboard on a main city intersection.  The joke made fun of the traits of a certain breed of animal. A lover of the breed saw the billboard, took a photo and shared on the institution’s Facebook page, Twitter and several special interest websites. The photo went viral and critics chimed in from all over the country in the first 24 hours.

The client responded quickly, taking down the joke, issuing an apology and pledging funds to support a foundation related to the animal’s care. The institution then initiated a series of positive Facebook posts about community activities, awards programs, pending charitable events and other news that reinforced its long-time values of community service. Support came in from customers and the community. Within 72 hours, the negative had disappeared and all was good again in banker land.

You can fight most negative conflagrations with facts. Keep up a steady stream of positive information. Redirect the debate with new evidence and provide links to impartial outside sources and experts wherever possible. If you’ve erred, apologize as soon as possible, provide a plan to right the wrong and then carry out the plan, with regular reports of progress.

There are other nuances to consider. We blogged earlier about the half-life of a Tweet – the rapid decline in commentary when facts prevail and nasty exchanges stop – and responding immediately in what we classified as a social media “lightning round.”

Bottom line:

  • Don’t stoke the flames
  • Cut a fire break (apologize, provide a new direction)
  • Bring in the air tankers (bombard them with facts)
  • Congratulate yourself for knocking down a big one

Ultimate Sequester PR Strategy: the White House as content creator, channel master

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Posted by Tom Gable

Case histories will be written and studied for years on how the Obama White House has found new tools and tactics for connecting at the local level, while marginalizing major national media.

As covered in Politico in a piece called “Obama the puppet master,” the Obama White House has developed its own content creation machine to feed all channels of communication with tightly crafted messages that build the Obama brand. It chooses the channels with surgical precision. Why interview with The New York Times beat reporter who knows the issues and risk facing tough questions, Politico notes, when one can dominate local media through strategically scheduled interviews with friendly anchormen and women who may not be up on the issues?  The cumulative effect can be bigger than scoring a national media hit, as covered in depth by Politico.

The orchestration of coverage of potential economic Armageddon from the automatic budget cuts scheduled for March 1 (called Sequester) is the latest and most complex example of a local-national strategy. From the Secretary of Transportation setting the stage with future delays at major airports because of fewer air traffic controllers, to interviews in local markets with data on the anticipated loss of jobs (e.g. underway Feb. 26 in military towns in Virginia), the PR efforts are carrying consistent messages carefully chosen to appeal to each audience. How does it work?

Politico and a follow up piece by the Poynter Organization (“The dangerous delusions of the White House press corps and the president”) provided details. To summarize the key elements of the Obama White House approach and one that can work for brands, organizations, political candidates, new product introductions, crisis PR and other PR campaigns:

  • Develop a comprehensive, cohesive message strategy with consistent themes and supporting evidence;
  • Be precise in targeting and masterful in scheduling and orchestrating the individual parts of the program;
  • Go for local issues, with local examples;
  • The White House (or any brand) becomes the ultimate publisher (print, broadcast, photography, video, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube and more);
  • Every appearance or event needs to support the brand, to include great photo opportunities with locals for driving local coverage;
  • Control the content and flow through all channels by picking the media carefully;
  • Stage events to focus on the big messages and memorable lines and don’t allow time at the end for random media questions that might delve into negative territory and take the candidate, CEO or other luminary off-message;
  • Go for easy wins at the local level, then build regionally;
  • Ignore the major media unless they are friendly;
  • Produce your own photography and video rather than allow media coverage (local outlets are always looking for free content);
  • Shun those who have produced or written anything that would be considered negative;
  • Pound away at key messages through major pieces with the friendly media and TV personalities and support with social barrages to hit every target relentlessly;
  • Use the classic “weekend document dump” to avoid negative coverage and “minimize attention to embarrassing or messy facts”;
  • And orchestrate all the elements to ramp up for strategically and with surgical precision for maximum impact at a pre-designated date, such as an election or the day before the so-called fiscal cliff.

The latter – strategic planning of all elements for total control – represents the biggest challenge. Many organizations, brands and individuals can master parts of integrated campaigns.  Few would have the budget, the talent, the discipline and the power even close to that of the Obama White House to succeed on all fronts.

The bottom line, according to Politico:

“With more technology, and fewer resources at many media companies, the balance of power between the White House and press has tipped unmistakably toward the government. This is an arguably dangerous development, and one that the Obama White House — fluent in digital media and no fan of the mainstream press — has exploited cleverly and ruthlessly.”

Beyond gibberish and techno-babble: social media as part of the strategic PR tool kit

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

Playing with Tools

Posted by Tom Gable

We first pitched the Internet startup in July 2012 on supporting the launch of its new hobbyist portal/platform, which was envisioned to have distinctive features and functionality that could drive rapid growth and profits (we are under an NDA, so can’t share any more). Our Gable PR team provided a multi-faceted strategic plan based on our experiences launching the world’s first Internet payment system and a pioneering online greeting card company, plus introducing other disruptive innovations.

They liked our plan. It integrated old school strategic thinking with a full array of communications tools – traditional and new – fully orchestrated to roll from soft launch, gain momentum and then rocket to greater heights after the official launch. But we were the veteran grey-haired firm (although staffed with bright young talent!), so they were also shopping the hottest social media gurus in the region. The process went on for several months. We assumed they had gone elsewhere when we got the call in December to set a meeting to launch the Gable PR program.

What changed? Although they were initially charmed by the energy and enthusiasm of the fresh-cheeked social media evangelists, one of their partners said they were worn out by the jargon and promises to build their Twitter footprint and drive other social media metrics. The partners started asking for “what could be done beyond measuring things that might not count.”

“We got a lot of great-sounding gibberish but nothing we could directly connect to helping grow the business, not just buzz,” he confided.

Not surprising. A good piece in Techi.Com cited an AdAge survey that showed some “180,000 people on Twitter who claim to be social media mavens, experts, consultants, ninjas, pros, warriors, or some other noun that’s intended to fill you with confidence about their ability to save you from the evil world of Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.”

Many social media firms of note do provide valuable programs to support a client’s business and marketing plans. But all of this reminds us of one of the great parodies of social media from Onion, which packaged it as a TED presentation.

Check it out to appreciate the humor as the social media guru brags about his firm making huge amounts of money even though using social media “eliminates the need to provide value to anyone.”

He talked about helping a client raise its Twitter footprint by creating fake Twitter accounts to raise the number of followers from 300 to 900,000 in less than a week, all done by robots, so the his firm didn’t have to do any work. They added advertising the robots could see, but not buy from. And the companies didn’t care, because they were “liked.”

Saturday Night Live also had a classic bit skewering social media during the election. Seth Myers, host of Weekend Update, asked the social media expert if what voters are saying online is an accurate barometer of public option. She said of course. It captures how people feel. And each voice is valid even if it has no punctuation.

The expert provided sample Tweets from the election pointing out the physical characteristics of the candidates and their sexual attributes, plus use of scatological words to describe President Obama. Seth wasn’t too taken with the examples and asked if this really mattered.

She said in social media, everyone’s opinion is equal, including the New York Times columnist and the person using a series of equal signs and a capital D to indicate…

Long story short: As our new client came to understand, it’s not just getting excited about the latest technology, social media or other tool. It’s how to fit any tool and tactic strategically into an overall program to build image, reputation and leads in support of long-term business goals. And can you explain the benefits in something other than techno-babble and gibberish?

PR Pros as Masters of the Communications Universe — Think Like a Publisher

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Rolling out new tools

Posted by Tom Gable

How to develop social media programs for clients in different industries and professions but with the same need to connect with multiple audiences and build image, reputation and increased connections? After considerable research, brainstorming and analyzing potential strategies, we pulled together approaches taken from the pages of our favorite journalism books and publishing models.

The concept was presented at a PRSA Counselors Academy Spring Conference in 2011 to promote the PR profession as being the new “Masters of the Communications Universe.”  Unlike those in any other field, PR professionals have: proven histories of using strategic programs to build image and reputation; a robust arsenal of tools and tactics; the power to change perceptions and behaviors; the abilities to position new companies, markets and industries and reposition companies that have become stuck; disrupt a market; pre-empt the competition; manage a crisis; and so much more!

Ready to become a master of the communications universe? Here are the 13 lucky steps Gable PR uses as a starting point for developing programs:


  1. Set Program Goals and Objectives – These can be big ideas, such as supporting an organization’s annual business and marketing plans, or can get specific about increasing penetration in each communications channel, driving leads to the website, increasing stock volume and other metrics.
  2. Determine Your Target Audiences – This can include internal audiences, customers, future customers, the media, suppliers, regulators, elected officials, the community, government agencies and more. Whom do you need to reach? Where do they get their information? Whom do they trust? What do they need to know to begin developing a clear picture of what makes you rise above the crowd – the clear points of differentiation that are the essence of your brand and reputation?
  3. Develop a Position, Personality, Tone and Style – How to deliver quality content to impress and educate your target audiences? Think about your favorite publications. Will your different publications — electronic and otherwise — be similar to a trade journal, a general business publication (Business Week, Forbes), a more general all around publication or website (Time, Newsweek, Huffington Post, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, the Sunday magazines in daily newspapers), something feature-packed (Wired, Fast Company, Inc.)?  Your goal is to show a consistent personality, tone and style, whether for blogging, Tweeting or posting to Facebook. How do you want to be perceived? You want to come across as helpful, knowledgeable, trusted, dependable, reliable and, of course, human!  Be friendly and authentic; connect with your audiences, don’t talk down to them.
  4. Create an Editorial Calendar for the Year – Make a list of the topics you want to cover and then develop what the news media call an Editorial Calendar. Are you going to publish your blog weekly? How will you integrate Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+ and other channels into the plan? Assign a topic to each of the next 52 weeks. Once the calendar is established, have the discipline to publish accordingly. Then, if some important piece of news surfaces that you want to blog about, go ahead and share the breaking news and simply push the calendar back a week.
  5. Develop a Content Creation Plan to Make it Happen – Assign content development one to two months ahead of when the copy, video, infographic, photo album, news story, podcast, interview or whatever is set to run. You can use project management software to manage the process, or create your own means of tracking when an assignment is made and to whom, when the draft is due, editing date, final approval date and then run date.
  6. Have a Nose for News; Find Hot Topics to Cover – Subscribe to news trackers (Google, Yahoo, New York Times and most newspapers and magazines). Set up search terms in Twilert (a search engine for Twitter) to find interesting Tweets on key subjects and links to other resources. Identify your favorite news columnists, blogs, industry experts or others to follow and check them regularly. And if you ever feel you don’t have quality content but want to communicate according to your plan and schedule, blog about your “Best Sources.”  Write a short introduction about why you like the sites or people and provide links to four or five of your favorites. This can also lead to reciprocal linking and more followers.
  7. Provide Variety – Newspapers, magazines and news websites usually have sections, such as news, sports, entertainment, business and finance, home and garden, lifestyle and people news. Think about the potential topics you want to cover. You can cover one or more in each blog. Alternate topics to keep fresh.
  8. Invite Guest Columnists – Find outside experts, peers, customers, visionaries, thought leaders in the industry, fellow board members in trade associations and others to invite as guest columnists and bloggers. If your organization supports important local, regional or national causes, dedicate an issue to the topic, such as promoting the annual 10k race or other fundraiser for cancer research. Invite the head of the organization to contribute a short piece on the need and how the funds will be applied. Think of other ways of connecting to the community. Having these types of contributors builds credibility, helps search engines find you in new ways and increases the number of followers.
  9. Ask Questions, Do Quick Surveys – A favorite trick for engaging your readers is to ask questions and create short surveys they can answer online. It can take less than an hour to create a short survey using one of the free survey sites such as Survey Monkey or Zoomerang. The surveys can ask respondents to rank hot industry topics for the coming year, favorite news media in a particular niche and helpful hints from users of a company’s products or services. The surveys need to generate results that can be turned into a future news story, blog, post on Facebook and Google+ or topic for a speech.
  10. Have a Photo Contest – If appropriate to the company, organization, institution or cause, engage your followers (and add new ones!) by having regular contests to generate fresh content in appropriate categories. These can include nature, people, recreation, local attractions, street scenes and seasonal submissions (skiing, soccer, softball, spring flowers, cutest animals, ugliest dogs, raging rivers), most innovative use of your product and other helpful hints. Have prizes that tie back to the organization or a cause. Recruit two or three celebrity judges. Launch the contest and give it a deadline, such as three weeks to submit, then a week to judge before  announcing the winners. Post the best on Pinterest then Tweet the link and post on Facebook.
  11. Draw More Traffic to Your Blog and Website with Email, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook – Whenever you post something new, let the world know with quick Tweets, emails and Facebook posts with a short description of your new blog content and a link. This will help build your numbers and also make it easier for people to find you when they are searching for trusted resources and respected brands in your category. To make it even easier for your targets to find your key messages, include hyperlinks to your blog, Twitter handle, Facebook page and LinkedIn profile in your email signature, Tweets, posts, news releases, comments on other sites and in the body of email correspondence.
  12. Be Responsive – And do so within the personality! Communicate within the core values you have established. Keep it high level and positive.
  13. Track Everything; Have Regular Creative Sessions to Keep Improving – Are you achieving program goals and objectives? If not, why not? Post a survey to ask for feedback from your target audiences on what they like or don’t like. Find out what works best and build on it. Be consistently creative and how you, as a publisher and master of the communications universe, can keep providing quality content that engages your readers and builds your reputation.


Words of PR and other wisdom in more than 140 characters from Biz Stone

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Biz Stone

Posted by Tom Gable

SAN FRANCISCO — Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, meandered around the huge stage, somewhat like a magician or comedian working the space for effect as he engaged the crowd attending the PRSA 2012 International Conference here Sunday.

Giant screens flanked the stage so the some thousand PR professionals in the audience, even at the back a football field away, could catch his words and see his Cheshire grin as he told a quick person history before delving into his talk within the conference theme of “The Future Starts Now.”

The man who helped create Blogger, Xanga and Odeo said he saw the opportunity for the democratization of social media. The start was slow for Twitter until an epiphany at the South by Southwest (SXSW) technology and entertainment extravaganza in Austin, Texas, five years ago. A favorite restaurant was packed so they tweeted about meeting at another spot. When they arrived, long lines snaked out the door and around the corner.

He showed a cartoon slide of a flock of birds. The metaphor: envision the individuals moving independently then coming together and moving to a single place, drawn by a single call, common interests and instincts.

Stone said we are only at the beginning of this phenomenon called social media. The world will soon drop the term social media as we search for new tools to paint deeper pictures of ourselves.

We will be creating more information networks. The challenge, he said, is that information isn’t knowledge. Listening and then responding are key to developing understanding of the world around us. Something has to be done with the information to advance to the next level, whether it’s in public relations, marketing, philanthropy or just connecting socially.

Stone said PR has an incredibly bright future based on its ability to listen, understand and tell stories. With social media and other tools, PR professionals can create content and go straight to the source rather than through traditional media. Tell the story of the people and companies you represent directly, he said. It’s all about the narrative of the story. Stories with validity have value and the power to engage your audience.

For a new idea, Stone said there is a compound impact to altruism.

“Philanthropy is the future of marketing,” he said. He hired a corporate social responsibility (CSR) manager when they had just 16 employees – before he hired a sales manager.

The core tenet of the business is how people can work together to create tools to make the world a better place.

He made three key points that resonated with people as evidenced by the blast of tweets from the session, post-session conversations and in remarks by other presenters who referenced the Stone talk:

  • To succeed spectacularly you need to be ready to fail spectacularly.
  • Opportunity can be manufactured. What circumstance can I prearrange and take advantage of?
  • Creativity is a renewable resource. 

The PRSA flock

Communications at the Speed of Light in Crisis PR

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

When Crisis Hits

Posted by Tom Gable

Situation: The Twittersphere and blogosphere are exploding with attacks on your company, client, CEO, technology, food quality, lousy customer service, bad earnings report, botched new product introduction, labor dispute, legal action, whatever. You jump into the feeding frenzy of the 20-second (or less) news cycle where the momentum of an attack goes ballistic. How to respond?

One option is to do nothing if the attacks are from the lunatic fringe or deal with a single aberration that runs counter to the reputation you’ve earned over time based on the quality of all that you do.  You may still want to deal with that incident according to established procedures, protocols and process to counter even the most ridiculous post.  The challenge is to avoid an instant, emotional response that escalates the exchange, especially if it’s a difficult or contentious subject.

Instead, get analytical.  If it’s in the Twittersphere, consider the half life of a Tweet, as covered here earlier and where the first option may be the best.  If it appears the flaming will continue, set goals for moving the conversation.  Be consistent in the tones, themes and values being portrayed.  Display cultural authenticity – what you stand for and the essential core values.  Proceed with a human voice (no legalese or corporate speak).

Prepare to track the conversations by the minute as the crisis or issue unfolds. Measure how the conversation moves.  We’ve adopted a simple method that is incredibly easy to record and track the flow: is the message (Tweet, comment, news story, whatever) positive, neutral or negative. The ultimate goal is to be trusted and believed. If starting in a deep hole (three to one against), set your goal to at least break even within a certain period of time and rise into positive territory immediately thereafter (Gable PR used this approach and means of measurement in a issues management campaign that won a PRSA Silver Anvil).

To help focus the effort, Gable PR developed a quick check list to start the conversation with our clients when disaster strikes (the key word is when, not if; be prepared).

  • Source of the communications, legitimacy
  • Issues being raised
  • Internal analysis of accuracy, validity, magnitude of the issues and conversation; duration, desired end-point
  • Analysis of potential impact on reputation of the brand, company, people, technology, etc.
  • Beyond communications, are internal changes needed to the organization, product, service, culture and core values?
  • If analysis indicates the fundamentals of the organization seemingly aren’t lined up with the outside audiences, how to move toward better alignment? (Don’t get hung up in ego. What needs to be done?  By whom?  Course corrections?  How to announce and take leadership?)
  • Launch issues management and Crisis PR plan if required, to include response strategy, core values, messaging, tools, tactics and timing (in some cases, you don’t have to respond immediately, especially when the attacks are emotional and personal)
  • Set goals for moving the conversation
  • Add resources to the Crisis PR team if needed, including outside experts
  • Respond in a sincere, human voice and work to build trust
  • Conduct minute-by-minute tracking, analysis of trending in tone, content
  • Adjust the response strategy and tactics as facts and circumstances indicate
  • Continue to evolve the internal culture and organization as needed
  • Celebrate success!

Social Media, PR, Clients and Disclosure: Tips for Keeping on the Right Side of the Law

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Fully Disclosed

Posted by Tom Gable

PR firms are often the driving force behind helping clients build buzz, brand identity and even sales volume through promotional blogging and tweeting, Facebook pages, product reviews, restaurant and hotel tips and more. Beyond advancing the art of social media, firms need to ensure that they are equally up to speed on FTC guidelines or face possible legal action, according to two lawyers from Davis & Gilbert, New York, during a presentation to a quarterly meeting of IPREX recently in Toronto.

The lawyers, Michael Lasky and Gary Kibel, told the PR pros from more than 40 firms on three continents that the FTC has continued to update its guidelines about bloggers and others being truthful and reliable.

“And this isn’t just a feel good; it’s a legal requirement,” said Lasky, who chairs the PR practice at D&G. He provided a handout that summarized the FTC guidelines, including this summary:

“The Guides have been updated to ensure truth in all media, including blogs, social networking sites, and other new media. The basic principles of the Guides remain the same — endorsements must be truthful and not misleading and if there is a connection between the endorser and the marketer that would affect how people evaluate the endorsement, that connection should be disclosed.”

Clients and their PR firms can be held liable for unsubstantiated claims, so Lasky and Kibel stressed that PR firms need policies and procedures about expectations for proper behavior on both the agency and client side of the equation. This includes working with third parties, such as hiring people to blog and tweet about a company and its stock price, services or products, or take negative shots at its competition as well.

The lawyers provided an example in one of their publications about complaints being filed against Ann Taylor for giving gifts to bloggers and asking them to blog about an event. The FTC found that several bloggers posted about the event without disclosing the gifts. No action was taken because Ann Taylor had created a written policy stating that it would not issue gifts to bloggers without first instructing them they must disclose the gifts. There was a sign at the event instructing bloggers to disclose the gifts if they posted about the event. Case closed.

Lasky and Kibel outlined several top blogging practices clients and their PR firms should follow:

  1. Have a policy.
  2. For bloggers, be forthright — disclose any material connection.
  3. For clients and their agencies, monitor their bloggers to make sure they make the necessary disclosures. If you see something misleading, unsubstantiated or not reported accurately, take action.
  4. In hiring a blog service, companies and their agencies must provide guidance and training about the necessary disclosure.
  5. Employees of the marketing or its PR firms should clearly disclose relationships. Such as PR firms blogging about a product from a client.
  6. Even street team members who get consideration (reward points, etc.) for their work must disclose the details.
  7. When celebrities are paid, they must disclose (Lasky and Kibel provided the example of Armstrong Williams, commentator, who was hired by a PR firm to promote the “No Child Left Behind” program on CNN).
  8. Have spokespeople go through extensive media training to ensure they understand the disclosures.
  9. On level of disclosure, analyze the audience.
  10. You don’t know it all. Seek legal assistance.

In another case, an agency was hired to endorse a client’s gaming application. Its people gave the game high ratings. The agency failed to disclose that it received a percentage of sales of the games as compensation.

Disclosure can be as simple as adding parenthetical notes in the copy (“Company X gave me this product to try.” “Product Y was sent to me by the manufacturer.” “Wineries whose names are preceded by an asterisk * provided samples.” “Agency Z is providing blogging and other services for Client A.”).

Some use hash tags in their tweets and Facebook posts, such as #ad, #paid and #sponsored.

Bottom line: disclose, and have the disclosure displayed where it can be easily found. The lawyers said trouble awaits when the disclosure is buried three levels deep on a website.

Eight Easy Ways to Damage Your Brand Image, Lose 1 Million Customers and $8 Billion in Market Cap the Netflix Way

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Blowing up the Brand

Posted by Tom Gable

Recent analysts reports, coverage in the major media and the Twittersphere are being less than kind to Netflix and its two recent corporate announcements: raising prices by 60 percent; and coming back two months later to apologize while announcing the split of the company into two (Netflix and Qwikster). In looking at it from a strategic planning and PR perspective, the best companies incorporate image as a part of corporate strategy, especially when one has built such a strong brand. They do things right and also do the right things. Netflix appears to have advanced toward bursting its own brand bubble through eight easy steps:

  • Raised prices seemingly without much consideration for the existing customer base, its needs, wants, expectations
  • Went for a big number rather than incremental increases
  • Provided a rationale that didn’t ring true and made many long-term customers feel betrayed by the brand
  • Did it all top down and one-way in a CEO voice rather than human voice
  • Didn’t join the conversation; didn’t use social media to actively engage its many audiences
  • Waited a couple of months to apologize and then do it with an amazing lack of sincerity
  • Seemingly as an afterthought, changed a successful business model to confuse customers, analysts, and the stock market
  • Gave competitors openings to attack, reposition the company, declare pricing advantages

And if you are really successful, here’s what you can expect: 50 percent drop in stock price and market capitalization, enmity versus admiration, lack of support in the financial community (buy and sell side analysts), a zillion Twitter and Facebook comments, a Hitler meme or two, and confusion among consumers on how to order and from whom when you split the company, create a new brand name and dilute the brand image.

David Pogue, columnist for The New York Times, parsed the apology:

“Ah. O.K., good. We’ve seen this movie before. Corporation bumbles, apologizes, makes things right. Business schools take note. Life goes on. But this time, Mr. Hastings did not follow the formula. He only pretended to. He goes on to say that the new higher prices will stick — and, worse, Netflix is about to break off its DVD-by-mail feature into a completely separate entity, called Qwikster.”

The PR and marketing blogs offered good insights.  Mr. Media Training cited six reasons why the apology failed.  Liz Goodgold, of Redfirebranding, provided four ideas Netflix should have used before going down the primrose path to greater profits.

In summary, another NYT story delved into the reasons for raising prices (to generate more income for acquiring content from the major studies for streaming). The “self-inflicted” wounds could have been avoided with better planning for an integrated and strategic evolution of what were in actuality major change initiatives at Netflix.

Social Media the New Sock Puppet? Or Part of a Strategic PR Tool Kit?

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Tool Time


Posted by Tom Gable

The blogosphere, Twittersphere and mainstream media are waking up to the fact that the hot new item they fell in love with not too long ago is starting to remind them of infatuations of old. The packaging might be brighter, more exotic and stimulating to the senses. But this hot new item could be a time sink; with hours and days disappearing with little of value to show. Yes, the titillation has been stimulating. But could this hot item simply be distracting us all from more serious, important and strategic activities?

Sound familiar? Remember the first encounter with The World Wide Web and Mosaic (pre-Netscape)? Then came Netscape, email, Yahoo, Google and a million new websites that bragged about capturing eyeballs (but no income), ad infinitum. Many firms, Gable PR included, succumbed to the siren songs of the web. So many pretty new faces are now tired or gone. Is the hot new item – social media – heading for the same fate?

Experts seem to agree that we are seeing the evolution of the social media phenomenon into the development of a commoditized set of tools to add to the PR arsenal for strategic use as needed.

Peter Shankman, of HARO fame, wrote that he would never hire a social media expert, and neither should you.

“Social Media is just another facet of marketing and customer service. Say it with me. Repeat it until you know it by heart. Bind it as a sign upon your hands and upon thy gates. Social Media, by itself, will not help you. We’re making the same mistakes that we made during the dotcom era, where everyone thought that just adding the term .com to your corporate logo made you instantly credible. It didn’t. If that’s all you did, you emphasized even more strongly how pathetic your company was.”

The Sysomos blog offered this guidance:

“In simple terms, social media as a standalone activity is coming to an end. If you are a social media consultant, you need to be really, really good at providing strategic counsel, as well as have in-depth knowledge of the tools and services need to execute tactically. For everyone else, they will need to offer than just social media strategic and tactical services. Instead, they have to offer services that embrace communications, marketing and sales strategies and goals.”

Even Steve Rubel, who grew up being a social media consultant and blogger ubber alles, noted that:

“It was fun while it lasted. But I totally agree that the future is all about integration. We need more systems thinkers who can see the big picture.”

I led a workshop at the recent PRSA Counselors Academy annual spring conference where we discussed PR as the ultimate platform for building image and reputation and social media as part of the tool kit.

The metaphor was PR as the Internet of communications. PR starts with a solid, authentic foundation using traditional methods (e.g. Media relations) and then layers on new applications (websites, email), leverages off other platforms (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and connects with people from all angles to move perception and behavior in the desired direction.

The senior PR counselors attending the workshop agreed that the “start” button for authentic PR was strategic planning brilliantly synchronized to support client business and marketing goals. The strategies, tools and tactics can be far-ranging to support building reputation and driving results with multiple target audiences. The obvious basic list included internal relations, pro-active media relations, social media integration, special events, breakthrough promotions, cause marketing, community relations, trade relations, investor relations, speaking engagements, conferences, trade shows, crisis PR and issues management.

In delving deeper into the hottest topic – the social media component – the Counselors discussed media disintermediation and the rise of what was characterized as the PR Publishing House – a powerful emerging force in marketing communications and public relations. Think of PR as content developer for many communications products, all integrated within unified themes. PR pros serve as creative directors. They develop their own editorial calendars and control multiple channels that bypass traditional media filters. When done strategically, the work of the PR publishing house advances education and knowledge, building trust and credibility through authentic conversations in a human voice that build long-term relationships.

What’s next? The gurus noted the end of the social media gurus, which does have a touch of irony to it. The workshop talked about communications at the speed of light and the two-second news cycle. There will surely be new layers of digital tools that drive faster actions and forms of communications we haven’t yet imagined. And it will be up to the PR pros to manage those new tools within a brilliant strategic context.