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  • A blog by Gutenberg Communications

Tweetalee Dee, Tweetalee Dumb
by Joanna Leis

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It looks like the Pittsburgh Steelers are repeat offenders.  James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley sure know how to put their feet in their mouths when it comes to tweeting: Harrison called his boss an idiot for the new Pittsburgh Steelers Rule, and Woodley was non-apologetic for hitting too hard. Yes, hitting is part of the game, but as Kevin Allen of Ragan’s PR Daily says: “With the NFL going through PR hell right now, with its plague of severe head injuries and the current lockout, tweets like this are the last thing it needs.” It seems as if these players forgot that they are not only the faces of the Steelers, but they are also the faces of the NFL as well. What they say and do impacts the organization.

In my previous post, I talked about the BronxZoosCobra tweeter and how he or she successfully turned a crisis into an opportunity. The comedic tone made the BronxZoosCobra’s tweets successful. But in certain instances, humor does not work and should not be used. The tone of the situation must match the tone of the tweets. A misguided use of “humor” can cause a crisis of its own.

For example, Gilbert Gottfried, a famous comedian most recently known as the voice behind the duck of Aflac is now recognized for making a very famous mistake. He tweeted jokes about Japan’s tsunami during the midst of the crisis, stating “Japan is really advanced. They don’t go to the beach. The beach comes to them” as well as another tweet that is just too appalling to rewrite.  Making fun of people while they are in distress isn’t nice, and it’s bad business sense. His tweets were offensive to many and as a result, he was fired from Aflac.

Another example is Kenneth Cole; his tweets on the situation in Egypt damaged his company’s reputation which was known for its professional appeal.

These attempts of humor on Twitter have caused damage to these individuals’ reputations. They may have also caused damage to the companies’ brands, but that’s something only time will tell.

When you represent an organization, you need to monitor what you say and do at all times. With social media there is no separation between company and personal time. As PR Professionals, it is our responsibility to remind our clients that everything they say, write and do is under the scrutiny of the organizations’ constituents, especially if they are the face of the company, a spokesperson or a famous football player.

With the expansion and increased use of social media PR Professionals need to provide counsel on both the corporate and private aspects of spokespeople lives. PR Professionals can work with their clients/organizations to protect their reputations by:

  • Having integrated access to all public social media accounts (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
  • Monitoring conversations within social networks
  • Consistently advising clients on what to and most importantly what NOT to say

PR Professionals need to have a say in everything that is publicly stated, for they are the guards of corporate reputations and can only remain to be so if they have full access to all communication channels.

Snake on the Town (or How One Person Found Opportunity in a Crisssssis)!
by Joanna Leis

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Most people aren’t fond of snakes. But 238,395 tweeters love the New York City’s Bronx Zoo Cobra. The zoo temporarily lost one of its Egyptian cobras last week and an anonymous and extremely creative, astute person made the snake reappear on the popular social networking site, Twitter. The snake, which took on the name @BronxZoosCobra, was busy tweeting away its fictional NYC tour.

The snake’s hilarious updates won over fellow tweeters; so much that it garnered the attention of traditional media. This innovative idea has brought on great opportunity for the snake impersonator. The New York Times and TIME have already interviewed the person behind the snake.  And who knows what else is in store, maybe a TV interview or book deal? Or maybe even a job as a professional tweeter for the Bronx Zoo?

There is much we can learn from this impersonator. He or she was able to take a crisis and turn it into an opportunity. Clearly, all crises cannot be transcended into opportunities. One crisis does not fit all, which is why much care and forethought must be brought in when choosing to use a crisis for opportune purposes. An unsuccessful attempt, described in my colleague’s post, was made by Kenneth Cole earlier this year. In the case of Kenneth Cole, he was using the situation in Egypt to promote his spring collection. This is what put people off and turned the situation into a PR nightmare.

The crisis referenced and opportunity at hand has to align with the organization. Picking the wrong crisis can have monumental consequences that can negatively impact a corporate or individual’s reputation. PR Professionals need to first think of the business objective and see if the opportunity would help meet this end.

The BronxZoosCobra is a good case study to examine as it successfully exhibits turning a crisis into an opportunity.

When appropriate, you can also turn a crisis into an opportunity by:

  • Keeping abreast of current events and understanding your industry- Constantly review the news, social media and newest trends. Some crises happen immediately and others happen over time. As a PR Professional, you should keep yourself aware of what’s going on. That way you will know when and how to react. The snake impersonation would have never worked if it was done after the snake was caught.
  • Understanding the severity of the situation at hand- Different situations call for different things. Make sure what you do is appropriate and is right for your organization. Be sure that the tone is on point and represents the sensitivity of the situation. The BronxZoosCobra twitter account worked because the snake was only missing. If the snake had escaped and bit a child then this idea probably wouldn’t have been suitable.  If the crisis is severe it is best for a qualified organization to take on the role of a thought leader or advisor. During an overwhelming crisis organizations should use discretion and not engage in over self promotional activities.
  • Being thoughtful – Know what will work for your industry and look for opportunities to be creative. Don’t self-aggrandize but ask what will catch people’s attention? What will make you, or what your organization has to say, stand out? Think of how to communicate in a way so that will resonate in peoples’ minds. Taking on an identity of a snake online is certainly a unique and memorable way of getting your voice heard.
  • Targeting the right audience- Who are you trying to reach and why? What perspective or advice can you offer them and why would they be interested in it? What is the benefit to this audience? Once an appropriate audience has been identified, the PR Professional then has to understand where this audience gets their information. Is it traditional media: print, radio, or TV? Or is it social media: Twitter, Facebook or Linked-In? One of the fastest and easiest ways for the snake impersonator to get his or her voice heard was through social media. Twitter provided the medium to tell a funny relevant story as well as reach a broad audience.

So the next time a crisis arises, don’t only think of how to manage it but also think of how to leverage it. And pay attention! Look at your competition’s crises and see if you can use their messes to your advantage. Who knows, if done right you can end up being a local or national sensation.

Are You Ready for Real-Time?
by Cecilia Hughes

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In today’s marketplace, how rapidly you react has become a real differentiator. The first to respond does not go unnoticed. Whether reacting to a crisis, releasing a new product or responding to a global event, if you seize the opportunity in real-time, you position your brand as engaging and significant.

In Real-Time Marketing & PR, author David Meerman Scott demonstrates how technology has impacted and revolutionized interactions between brands and their consumers, suppliers and the media.

Social media are tools. Real-time is a mindset. 

In his book, Scott shares the importance of using social media tools, regardless of how small or large a business is, and exposes the consequences of not responding quickly to an audience expecting instant communication.

Real-time means news breaks over minutes, not an extended period of time.

When operating in the current climate, it’s imperative to use strategies that emphasize sustained — and consistent — immediate communication with one’s customers. In real-time, “ideas percolate, then suddenly and unpredictably go viral to a global audience”. It is then up to the brand to develop a response immediately, based on “feedback from customers or events in the marketplace”. If a business is quickly prepared and a response is properly executed, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities appear.

Adopting an approach: 13 principles of real-time business

Scott recognizes that developing a real-time mindset requires constant effort and offers thirteen principles of real-time business:

  1. Act before the window of opportunity vanishes.
  2. Revise plans as the market changes.
  3. Measure results today.
  4. Execute based on what’s happening now.
  5. Implement strategies and tactics based on breaking news.
  6. Empower your people to act.
  7. Move when the time is right.
  8. Encourage people to make wise decisions quickly, alone if necessary.
  9. Make swift inquiries, but be prepared to act.
  10. Quickly evaluate the alternatives and choose a course of action.
  11. Get it done and push it out, because it will never be perfect.
  12. Respond to customers on their time frames.
  13. Engage with media at the moment they need your input.

How real-time is your enterprise? Are you seizing the opportunity to react in real-time? 

Kenneth Cole and Groupon Cause Their Own Riots
by Cecilia Hughes

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Last Thursday, I spent my morning writing pitches and participating in conference calls. Fashion designer Kenneth Cole spent his receiving a virtual lashing.

After releasing an inappropriate tweet about the current situation in Egypt, Cole is now dealing with the repercussion of angering thousands of people. The tweet read:
“Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo -KC”

Within a few hours of sending the tweet, the designer removed it and issued an apology on his Facebook page. “I apologize to everyone who was offended by my insensitive tweet about the situation in Egypt,” he said. “In hindsight my attempt at humor regarding a nation liberating themselves against oppression was poorly timed and absolutely inappropriate.”

Unfortunately, Cole’s momentary gaffe will inevitably impact his company’s image in some way or another. Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that the Kenneth Cole brand has been in the limelight for its controversial tweets and advertising campaigns. So, why did this one backfire? My guess is timing. And was the intention of the company to get people talking? If so, it’s certainly working. However, I’d argue that the talking being done is not in Kenneth Cole’s favor. Some serious image restoration will most likely ensue.

A few days later, Groupon released a Super Bowl Commercial which made light of the plight of the Tibetan people. Actor Timothy Hutton blithely told viewers that while the situation in Tibet is bleak and their very culture is in jeopardy, they still “whip up an amazing fish curry”. The reaction from the public was swift and severe. Social networks lit up with angry comments, prompting a defense from Groupon CEO Andrew Mason.
As Hubspot nicely observed:
“While it’s always better to avoid these situations completely when possible, sometimes mistakes happen or situations come up, and you need to be responsive to a social media audience that is connected to your company’s brand 24/7.”

What’s your experience mitigating brand damage in the social media arena? Did Groupon and Kenneth Cole really create lasting damage to their brands? Or did they just gain some easy publicity?

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