A couple of years ago, American Greetings issued a web video that went viral. A fake advertisement was placed for a position that required 24/7 commitment to “the associate,” able to do a lot of heavy lifting and bending, a degree in medicine and finance, as well as an ability to cook, clean, and drive a car. Of course, the position, already held by billions of people, was “a Mom.”
We wouldn’t presume to compare ourselves with your saintly mother—so instead think of us as your Uncle Jack-of-all-trades. The services offered by many public relations firms, including The Knight Canney Group, encompass everything from crisis management to corporate image building to executive thought leadership. Not to mention the staples of media and public relations.
Smart leaders are smart enough to know what they don’t know and that there should be someone around who does know. For instance, do you know—
- How to navigate or how to mitigate a public relations crisis?
- How to get media coverage for your corporate excellence?
- How to reach a government official with your problem?
- How to be viewed as a leader in your area of expertise?
- How to persuade people to vote for your issue, to pay attention to your product, or believe in your cause?
If you don’t, it’s okay—as long as you understand their importance and the value of bringing in someone who does.
If you badly cut yourself, you wouldn’t sew your own stiches, would you? (Unless you’re Sly Stalone). Sometimes, you need to bring in a consultant to stop the figurative bleeding as well.
An unexpected crisis can do irreparable damage to your image. Thoughtful, careful, and expedient management of a crisis can keep you from losing years of hard work to a momentary change in circumstances. Would you know what to do in the realm of crisis management?
Establishing a network of media contacts takes time and effort. Do you know how a public relations campaign could amplify your story beyond paid advertising?
Businesses, non-profits, organizations, and individuals can all benefit from professional public relations consultants. Let us let you focus on doing what you do best.
Across social media, where no good deed goes unpunished, Zuckerberg and Facebook are being denounced for activating Safety Check for the bombings in Paris but not for those in Beirut. The fact that more than 4.1 million people were able to use it is apparently negated by Facebook’s negligence of the tragedy in Lebanon.
In the aftermath of tragedy and terror, the impulse to help kicks into high gear. Whether it’s donating money or blood, people line up to do their part. Feeling helpless is often a great motivator to do something.
For many, that something was to show solidarity with the French, America’s oldest ally, by using Facebook’s photo filter. Tens of millions of people did this, and millions more criticized the move as an empty gesture and then demanded, “Where are the flags for Lebanon? Syria? Russia?”
Granted, changing your photo on Facebook doesn’t actively help any more than wearing a pink ribbon cures breast cancer. But it makes people feel better, feel part of a worldwide moment of compassion. When people are confused and hurting, where is the harm?
The harm, say critics, comes from viewing the world only from a Western point of view—regarding both what rises to the level international tragedy, and in thinking that a presence on social media is good enough to show you care. Yes, Facebook is an American company, but one with more than a billion users worldwide. So, it should have a global sensibility when it comes to tragedy. Fair enough. But the level of outrage in the wake of an attempted good deed seems outsized. Hundreds of millions of people were able to communicate in a crisis, able to know their friends and family were safe. Facebook may have fumbled, but it still offered something valuable.
Whether or not one believes that corporations are people too, commercial enterprises often want to help, and do. Still others are quick to exploit.
Duri Cosmetics may have won the award for “most tasteless blatant PR stunt” this year, with it’s invitation to “pay respects and show support” via a blue, white, and red manicure.
Now this is worthy of scathing derision. There was nothing remotely altruistic in this promotion. No proceeds donated, no matching dollars sent to any kind of charity, not even an acknowledgment that people were in crisis.
What Facebook did and what Duri did are two different things. One tried to help. One tried to exploit. The righteously outraged among us should learn the difference.
There are so many more than five ways you can slip up on social media, but here are five mistakes that are easy to avoid and quick to fix.
1. No profile photo on LinkedIn.
It’s understandable that some people are private and don’t understand why anyone wants to live their lives out loud in cyberspace. But trust me, there’s nothing creepier than getting a LinkedIn request from one of those silhouettes, no matter whose name is attached to it. Of all the social media sites where a photo is crucial, it’s LinkedIn. This is a professional site, folks. If you want to be anonymous, then you want to be unemployed and you want your business to be invisible. While we’re talking photo—make it a clear, current, well lit, in-focus photo. You don’t have to be in a business suit. You can be casual, indoors or outdoors. You just can’t be the blurry figure cropped from the middle of the line-up from your cousin’s bachelor dinner in 2003.
2. Out-of-date profile on LinkedIn
Even if you’ve been out of work since 2010, you’ve got to fill the time up to the present with something: volunteer work, tutoring, freelance, travel. If you stayed home for a few years to raise a family, explain how you’ve been honing your ability to multitask and organize. Blank time raises questions and prospective employers and potential clients may just fill in the blank themselves and not bother contacting you.
3. Inappropriate photo anywhere.
Certainly, this is advice that Anthony Weiner, a.k.a. Carlos Danger, gives his clients in his new PR practice. To help prevent any photos from that long-ago frat party from showing up in an online search, make sure all your social media channel settings are such that no one can tag you in a photo or post to your sites without your permission. In the meantime, try to remember, no posing nude, no flipping the bird, no bleary-eyed drunken selfies. Seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised what’s out there.
4. Profanity-laden online rants.
Would you pitch a client by dropping high decibel f-bombs in the lobby? If so, then why did you even click on this post? Stop reading and go join the Trump for President campaign. But if not, then why do it on line? What you post, what you tweet, what you video and upload is there for the world to see. If you don’t think your current or potential boss or your current or potential clients will conduct a thorough Internet search before hiring you, then you underestimate their desire not to get burned.
5. No social media profile.
Doesn’t everyone dream of that time when they can unplug and go off the grid? But if you’re still in the workforce, that day is not yet here. What’s worse than someone finding that profanity-laden rant next to the photo of your perfect keg stand? Finding nothing at all. Having no social media profile tells prospective employers that you’re
a. In the witness protection program
c. Too old to understand social media, or
d. A conspiracy nut who hides his tin foil hat under the bed
So, off you go now, get that social media profile in shape!
It’s not a big surprise that we – and especially millennials – increasingly are consuming video via bite-size pieces on something other than a traditional television screen.
The New York Times recently reported that more than 6.2 million people tuned in live to watch the World Surf League’s Billabong Pipe Masters. “Those numbers exceeded the American television audience for the final game of the 2014 Stanley Cup hockey finals. Not a second of the surfing competition was shown on traditional live television in the United States; instead, it was streamed on YouTube, with 35 to 40 percent of its viewers on mobile.”
The Times also noted that both the N.H.L. and the P.G.A. have teamed up with lightweight-camera maker GoPro to post real-time highlights on social media.
According to a recent analysis by Criteo – a company that “helps advertisers generate more sales at a global scale” – in 2015, mobile devices will account for 40 percent of worldwide eCommerce sales and more than 50 percent of such sales in the U.S., Japan, and Great Britain. Criteo also predicts that “eCommerce will become ‘do or die’ for brick-and-mortar retailers in 2015 as they experience the increasing impact of shopper ‘webrooming’ and ‘showrooming’ behavior.
In late 2014, Nielsen noted that television viewers “aren’t just surfing through channels when the TV is on anymore; they are riding the waves of second screens [laptops, tablets, and smartphones].”
And a study conducted last year by consulting firm Deloitte found that while the average American views 71 percent of his or her media on a traditional television screen, the majority of 14-to-24-year-old millennials’ video consumption happens on laptops, smartphones, and tablets.
All of which is a long-winded way of pointing out that mobile is rapidly becoming a significant part of the video universe, and is poised to become the dominant platform – particularly among younger consumers.
That means that your advertising, marketing, public relations, and communications strategies need to embrace these second screens. But it’s not enough to slap your Presidents’ Day mattress sales TV spot on your website and call it good. Mobile platforms require a more nuanced approach.
Because the screen on even the biggest smartphone is tinier than the smallest laptop (and dozens of times smaller than a wall-mounted flat screen), your video message needs to be scaled accordingly:
- Big graphics
- Compelling copy
- Shorter length
- In-context messaging
Also, assume that mobile-video consumers are younger and less susceptible to traditional advertising/marketing approaches, and then craft your message accordingly.
Last month, Forbes published an analysis on millennial consumers. Among the findings:
- Just one percent said that a compelling advertisement would make them trust a brand more
- 33 percent use mostly blogs to help them make a purchase – only three percent rely on TV news, magazines, or books
- 62 percent said that if a brand engages with them on social media, they are more likely to become a loyal customer
Yes, it’s a brave new consumer world, but if you’re savvy, you can engage those hard-to-engage consumers and get them to buy a mattress.
But first, switch out that George Washington actor for a Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, or Taylor Swift impersonator.
On Sunday, New York magazine posted a profile of a Stuyvesant High School senior who claimed he earned $72 million playing the stock market “during his lunch breaks.” On Tuesday, Mohammed Islam fessed up to his hoax in an interview with the New York Observer.
This is the latest example of a respected publication getting it wrong (see last week’s Knight Canney Group blog), but it’s also an intriguing example of how we could truly believe that someone used his lunch breaks to amass a fortune. After all, a hoodie-wearing college kid built and ran a campus social network out of his dorm room and now Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook pretty much have all the money.
Still, the image of a young man in the high school cafeteria, using his laptop (tablet, smartphone, phablet?) to become fabulously rich is a stark counterpoint to the cliché of slacker employees who use the Internet during work hours to:
- Order Xbox One Assassin’s Creed from GameStop
- Play World of Warcraft
- “Like” Audi on Facebook to win a $120,000 R8 sports car – which, it turns out, is yet another scam
True slacker employees always will find ways to, you know, slack: smoke breaks, coffee breaks, lewd use of the photocopier, and hanging around colleagues’ cubicles. Unlike twenty years ago, however, instead of faxing NSFW Polaroid snapshots, employees simply email, photo share, or Snapchat digital NSFW selfies.
But, as tempting as it may be to try to limit your employees’ use of the Internet (and particularly social media), the benefits of a more liberal policy generally outweigh the disadvantages.
For starters, limiting Internet usage is counter-productive. Job site Monster.com lists it as the first reason not to limit employees’ access to social media in the workplace:
1. Blocking social media access is a costly exercise that simply doesn’t work.
2. Use of social media doesn’t necessarily adversely affect productivity.
3. There are advantages to allowing employees to use social media sites.
And, perhaps, most important:
4. The future of business is a networked future. Employers who figure out the right balance will be more competitive. Those that don’t will be left behind.
Shel Holtz, a social media and communications expert who wrote the Monster.com essay, elaborates that one trade-off business leaders need to recognize is that employees are always accessible via cell phone, email, and social media. Plus they use those platforms to keep in touch with work at night, on weekends, and during vacations. So, some slack for the slackers is only fair.
The goal should be to encourage your employees to use social media to benefit their lives as well as to benefit your business. For example:
- Employees promote their participation – and your company’s sponsorship of – the upcoming charity 5K.
- Employees post photos of work-related activities (such as the annual Chanukah/Christmas/Kwanzaa/Festivus party) to burnish your company’s reputation as a cool place to work.
- Employees’ positive posts about your company create credibility.
You should, of course, have a clear and consistent policy about negative posts – say, rants about how bad the commissary food is or how high the health insurance co-pays are. That policy needs to exist in concert with a responsive internal mechanism where employees’ concerns are heard. Complaints about rules, procedures, bosses, and coworkers need to be addressed in a timely manner, before employees feel the need to turn their frustrations into your social media crisis. There will always be those for whom the outcome is unsatisfactory. That’s when the clear and consistent policy about negative posts comes in.
It may be unlikely that your employees will use their lunch breaks to accumulate $72 million. But it would be beneficial to foster a work climate that recognizes that employees want to spend part of their workday posting, commenting, liking, and surfing online.
Channeling that activity to contribute to the success of your business will be the challenging part.