Author: abrothanamedced

When it comes to social media, an ounce of prevention goes a long way

Photo Credit: Ikon Images

Thanks to social media, following companies is as easy as watching television.  However, the social media world can turn into a cruel one with one wrong move, damaging the reputation you took years to build.

Sarah Skerik of PR Newswire recently gave some good advice on ways to avoid a social media disaster.  We’ve tweaked her ideas to focus on avoiding a professional PR crisis:

  1. Keep it clean – While it’s become socially acceptable for TV networks to use language formerly considered vulgar, this is one trend that your business should avoid.
  2. Make sure you want to see it again; it will come back to you – Yes, you’re able to delete any tweet or status update you please.  However, there are two reasons doing so is a bad idea:  a) someone can still grab a screenshot of your message; and b) backtracking on social media leaves a bad impression on your business.
  3. Consider your stakeholders – If you have any doubts that your message may offend the people you care about – or those you want to respect you – then refrain from posting it.  Cool off before you write anything.  As your mother probably told you, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.”
  4. Stay classy – Since no one is perfect, you’re likely to have a dissatisfied customer whose mission in life is to damage your company’s reputation.  In situations like these, it’s best to admit wrongdoing on your company’s part and offer a solution to the customer – putting out the fire in the process.
  5. Do some scenario planning – This simply involves thinking before you speak.  Don’t just think about the positive outcomes of your message, but also think about the negative responses your message could receive.
  6. Divide and conquer (or don’t mix your accounts) – Every company has a few social media savvy employees to manage the social media accounts.  Social media managers must keep their personal profiles distant from the company’s profiles to avoid posting to the wrong account..  And always remember to manage your privacy settings carefully.

The ease of sharing information is what makes social media both a blessing and a curse.  With social media, what it all boils down to is being cautious of the message you send.

A Lesson in Humility from “The King”

By now you’ve heard the story of LeBron James.  You know, the one who was labeled as “The Chosen One” by Sports Illustrated when he was only 17?  The one who was drafted 1st overall in 2003 by his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers?  And yes, that same one who infamously announced he was “taking his talents to South Beach” in an hour-long ESPN special, “The Decision”.  By the way, he’s the same one who finally won his first NBA Championship with the Miami Heat last month.

Oh, you’re not really a sports fan?  You mean you’ve never heard of LeBron James?

Well, you have now!

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To answer your question, no, this hasn’t become a sports blog.   However, perhaps you could see how LeBron James has done, what some might say, irreparable harm to his reputation.   In the business world, this would be similar to a long-time business partner announcing to the world via press conference that they’re leaving you to join a Fortune 100 company – as opposed to staying in business with you.

In the PR world, situations, people, and brands like these call for crisis communications management.  At the simplest level, crisis communications just involves telling your stakeholders, “I’m sorry.”  But when you have a situation like LeBron James on your hands, well – that’s when you have to pull out all of the stops in order to “win your baby back!”

Believe it or not, there is a lesson to be learn from LeBron James.  Last season he gave us a lesson in crisis communication management that you could apply to your situation.

1) Be genuinely remorseful – Admitting that you have a problem is always the first step to solving it.  At the start of the 2011-2012 season, LeBron James sat down for an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols.  In the interview, LeBron expressed his feelings of regret for “The Decision.”

2) Be humble – When you’ve suffered a serious setback to your brand, the last thing you can afford to do is continue to toot your own horn; after all, the effects of being humble stem from being humiliated.  LeBron learned that after the Heat loss the 2011 NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks.

3) Be supportive – That is, support a noble cause.  If you’re in damage control due to an external issue, it makes perfect sense to support an organization or initiative that relates to what got you in trouble to begin with.  For example, if you’ve been insensitive to a certain demographic, find a way to be a part of a progressive movement that serves those you’ve offended.  While LeBron didn’t offend one particular group of people (although Cleveland sports fans may disagree), he took a step in the right direction by supporting State Farm’s “26 Seconds” campaign to lower high school dropout rates.
4) Be yourself – At some point you have to stop apologizing to everyone.  Unfortunately, there will still be critics to anything positive you try to do.  Getting your brand back requires getting back to the things that earned your stakeholders to begin with.  Hey, there are actually people out there who forgive.  So go out there and make them smile!
5) Be great – Some say that winning cures many ills.  If that’s the case, then it’s time for your company to get back to being the best.  You may be surprised at how low your critics’ noise-level is compared to the praises.

Overall, the key to crisis communications is being genuine.   Your stakeholders have to believe in what you’re doing to make amends with them.  However, after so many apologies, they want to see things get back to normal.  At the end of the day, don’t just talk about it.  Be about it!

Good PR Starts with Good CR

So, let’s say you’re a business owner – a relatively new one at that.  You’ve come up with this great product or service that you can’t wait to spread the word about.  You may have even hired a PR firm to help you out.  And yet, your business is still anything but booming.

While you’re thinking of new ideas, you think of the phrase about networking: “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”  So now you’re browsing the Internet looking for local events to network with like-minded people.  But after hours and hours of looking you realize that attending all, if any, of these events could play a huge factor in your expense report; and right now you’re likely not in a position to spend big on anything non-business related.

So, now what?

If marketing and public relations is best achieved from a relationship approach, then your potential clients need to know who you really are.  What better way to connect with them than doing some community relations? That is, community relations (CR) is just the way your business interacts with the environment you work in.

Believe it or not, community relations is one of the easiest ways for you to promote yourself.  It lets your potential customers know that you care about the things they do as opposed to just selling to them.  By dedicating your time to the community, you start to build trust with others and make a name for yourself as being people-oriented.

Please note, however, that it’s just not enough to attend volunteer events just to show your face – you have to be down with the cause!  That means you have to be genuinely interested in the community work you choose to do.  For instance, if you participate in a community clean-up event, but are afraid to get down-and-dirty with the other volunteers, they will notice your actions and may feel uncomfortable working with you.  In other words, they’ll question your character and you won’t have the trust from them that it takes to build your business; and you know what they say about trust!

If you’re looking for low-cost ways to get involved in your community, here are just a few ideas:

  • Coach a youth sport – If you work well with kids, you’ll leave a lasting impression with parents.
  • Community cleanup days – Interact with the area’s most passionate citizens and get a sense for what the community wants.
  • Join a committee – Get to know the most influential people and offer your ideas to an organization in need.
  • Mentor those who aspire to do what you do – Remember, even you had to start somewhere.
  • Offer a free sample, demo, or presentation of what you do – Some people have to see it to believe it – nothing wrong with a little show-and-tell!

At the end of the day everything is brought in full-circle.  Just as you had to put in some elbow grease to get your business started, you have to do the same to promote yourself.  People don’t buy what you do, but rather why you do it.  And what better way to show them why you’re in business than by getting involved with your community?

Just make sure you have fun doing it along the way!