WARNING: This blog post includes vulgar language. Somebody else’s. Not mine. Avert your eyes from the image below if you are easily offended.

Slip ups in social media that create embarrassing – and sometimes damaging – consequences are all too common. Another one occurred last Friday affecting StubHub, eBay’s online marketplace for tickets to sporting events, concerts and shows. I read about it in Adweek, thanks to my colleague, Chuck Beeler, one of the leaders of EMA’s Social Media Advisory Group.

I’ll summarize the story, although it’s a bit like watching a rerun of one of your favorite old TV shows. You know how its going to end, but you love seeing it anyway.

At the conclusion of what must have been a very long week, a StubHub employee with clearance to manage the company’s Twitter feed, posted an exultant — but offensive — TGIF message:

“Thank fu_ _ it’s Friday! Can’t wait to get out of this stubsucking hell hole.”

Of course, this employee intended the declaration for a personal handle, but mistakenly released it on the official @StubHub Twitter feed reaching its 19,000 or so followers. Oops.

In his timely story the morning after, Adweek reporter Tim Nudd rightly noted that brand social managers must carefully switch between their personal and professional feeds: “Let’s all say it together: If you have access to a brand’s Twitter account, make sure you log out before posting an offensive personal tweet.”

Tim’s advice is sound, but I think it misses the bigger mistake that was made. What made the StubHub Tweeter think for one second that this disparaging post was a good idea even from a personal social media profile?

The critical message for public relations counselors is this: nothing is personal in social media.

This is especially true for front line social media managers, but I believe this reality goes well beyond that. If you have a career you care about or a company you are accountable to, forget any notion that what you do in social can be personal.

Accept this truth, and you’ll never need to worry if you picked the right profile in your HootSuite account when you upload a post. And you’ll surely avoid throwing a social hand grenade that bounces back at your company and you.

P.S. If you’re wondering how StubHub extracted itself from this social fiasco, they deleted the Tweet and acknowledged it in a follow up Tweet shown below. Good recovery. More posts like the first one, though, and StubHub might be able to start selling tickets to follow them on Twitter.

Greg Loh is the managing partner of public relations and public affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s leading independent marketing communications agencies. Views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the opinions of EMA.

Advertisements

Ian Schafer’s column in Advertising Age’s “Digital Issue” never uses the words public relations, but he’s got a lot to say that’s relevant to Digitally Powered PR.

In, “Why it’s time your brand invested in a creative newsroom,” Schafer, who is CEO of interactive agency, Deep Focus, writes about the need for brands to create timely, relevant content that people want to share.

Click to link to Ad Age Digital Issue

“If there is one thing that we should have learned in this era of social media,” Schafer says, “it’s that people are being drawn to content not through publishers and pages but through people and feeds. The best content is not what surfaces most through search results but what travels most between people.”

Schafer’s perspective supports my view that public relations is moving ever more quickly in to the Post Publicity Era. Publicity isn’t dead, not by any means. It plays a very important role in delivering messages and engaging with target audiences. Need an example: I found Schafer’s column while reading the print version of the Ad Age Digital issue, so even he knows he needs media relations.  Of course, now I’m sharing his excellent content with you.

Schafer’s message, issued as a wakeup call to digital creatives, can also be seen as a red alert to public relations. Evolve or be left behind.

“…the modern digital agency is equipped to lead the next era by thinking as much like a modern newsroom as it does a creative department…The traditional creative process generally includes briefs, brainstorms, boardrooms and 70 rounds of revisions. While this process can lead to rich brand experience, it does not deliver consistent content that is immediately relevant at a given moment time.”

I doubt most digital agencies even see public relations as relevant to this evolution  Oh sure, PR’s great for schmoozing reporters and organizing events, but creating compelling and entertaining content that people want to share? That’s digital, dude.

One of the central roles of public relations has been its position as the timely voice of organizations. Most public relations practitioners have seen that “newsroom” role through the perspectives of “media relations,” “corporate communications” and “investor relations,” noble functions that are vital to business and commerce. Now, we need to lead our organizations in “customer engagement” by developing relevant and creative content that our target publics want to interact with and share.

If digital agencies need to act more like a newsroom, then PR firms need to think more like the digital shops.

Greg Loh is the managing partner of public relations and public affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s leading independent marketing communications agencies. Views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the opinions of EMA.

What’s the PR formula to get action from an unresponsive bureaucracy? In Yekaterinburg, Russia, the answer is a few cans of spray paint and a video camera.

Potholes are familiar sites in this city of nearly 1.4 million people located about a 1,000 miles east of Moscow. Common, too, is a lack of action by government officials to address the problem.  After running several stories about the pothole plague with no action from city leaders, staff from the news website Ura.ru took their case to the streets.

With the help of a talented graffiti artist, the website turned three appalling potholes into portraits of the governor, the mayor and the vice mayor.  Gaping holes in the pavement were used as the ugly open mouths of the elected leaders.

What happened next?  Click here and see.

With the faces of city leaders surrounding potholes, someone in city government immediately put a road crew on the job. The workers, however, didn’t show up with asphalt to patch the holes.  Just paint to cover the portraits.  Unfortunately for them, a hidden video camera caught them in the act and shared that video online, too.  That finally brought action and the potholes were repaired the next morning.

The bigger impact of this outstanding example of digitally powered PR goes beyond the fact that three potholes were filled.  It’s a story that documents the growing influence of online video.  Investigative journalism didn’t prod government to action. Just grainy video that caught government leaders red-handed doing something underhanded. After that, the sharing power of online media did the rest.

Yekaterinburg may be Russia’s fourth largest city, but it is by no means a household name.  Now, the city is gaining fame around the world. Ura.ru’s online video is spreading rapidly on YouTube.  When I first visited the link a week ago, it had only a few hundred views.  Today, it is over 130,000.

If city leaders were motivated by caricatures in the street to quickly fill a few potholes, imagine what they’ll do with people chuckling worldwide at their embarrassing behavior.  It should be smoother sailing on the streets of Yekaterinburg soon.

When I blogged on July 18 about questions regarding the future of the printed newspaper, I hoped that my daily paper would have a print edition around long enough to carry my obituary. Well, it looks like I better die on the right day of the week.

The Syracuse Post Standard, an Advance Publications newspaper, announced yesterday that it would limit home delivery of the printed paper to Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. While it will continue a slimmed down print version the other days of the week, Advance said that edition will be reviewed before the end of 2013. The future for those days of the week looks bleak.

Advance’s decision regarding the Post Standard and a sister publication in Pennsylvania, which announced a similar plan on the same day, is not a surprise. Advance implemented similar models in Louisiana, Alabama and Michigan. As Lorraine Branham, dean of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, put it in the Post’s coverage of its own news: “This is going to accelerate. They’re ahead of the game, and in some ways it’s really smart on their part.”

For public relations professionals who see the Post Standard as a vehicle for publicity, you can be sure that placements in the print edition will be particularly prized – especially in the Sunday edition, which is bound to maintain the greatest readership.  I believe the Opinion page on these dates will wield even greater authority and influence.

Advance Newspapers’ approach is another indicator, though, of what I called the Post-Publicity Era in my July 26 post. Media relations will continue to be important, but it will no longer be the defining capability of the effective public relations professional.  Communicators need to build the four corners of effective digitally powered public relations:

Community – Cultivate a network of connections with the broadest collection of people and institutions that represent your stakeholders. Databases and social media are critical digital tools.

Content – Build a system to generate news and information yourself in all formats – text, pictures, video and graphics. Your content must be honest and meaningful — not self-promotional fluff.

Channels – Maintain multiple distribution vehicles so you can self-publish and self-broadcast to your community. Use your channels first to talk to your community.

Metrics – Develop measurement standards and tools that align with your objectives and goals. Clips represent only one dimension of digitally powered PR.

Whenever any landscape changes, new growth emerges. No one can predict what’s in the future for the printed newspaper, but I am hopeful that Advance’s print-digital hybrid is a model that works. Print has an important role, even if it only gets delivered three days a week. And society needs the robust news gathering organizations that newspapers represent.

Greg Loh is the managing partner of public relations and public affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s leading independent marketing communications agencies. Views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the opinions of EMA.

PRWeek’s August issue tells the story of the PR agency industry’s near shutout at the 2012 Cannes Lions. Only two PR agencies won PR Lions. The rest of the honors went to advertising agencies.

There’s been some hand wringing about what it means for the future of agency public relations. I think it is simply more evidence of how the emergence of digital is blurring the lines between public relations and the rest of marketing. PR powered by digital makes it easier for organizations to capture attention, create engagement and influence opinions.

Another important factor in the outcome at the awards is the fact that Cannes is about “creativity.” In that regard, there is no doubt that advertising agencies have an inherent advantage. PR agencies are best at creating healthy relationships between institutions and their publics; advertising agencies win the day in creative ideas.

Which is why I feel so lucky to have spent last 25 years practicing public relations in an integrated agency. Eric Mower established a public relations division at the agency almost four decades ago. At Eric Mower + Associates, public relations people work side by side with the best creative talents in the industry. Because our agency’s roots have grown in integrated soil, we’ve also learned that big ideas can come from anywhere. Creativity is an intersection.

Earlier this year, EMA put this experience in writing when we introduced the Declaration of Inter-Dependence, a  500-word manifesto signed by all of EMA’s creative directors. Under the banner of, “You’re creative, damn it,” the Declaration invited all EMAers to join the creative process:

“Our industry is changing. Our lives are changing.

We’re influenced less and less by what we see and hear…and more and more by what we feel and experience. This isn’t news to anyone. This isn’t a revelation. It’s just the new reality.

Unfortunately, the old reality is this: Much of our industry is still clinging to a creative model that was born before the FIRST screen was created, let alone the second or third.

In this outdated model, copywriters and art directors are charged with coming up with the Big Ideas, and everyone else is charged with sharing them with the world.

Well, it’s time to shake things up. It’s time to take EMA’s core value of collaboration to the next level — beyond simply playing nicely together and working as a team.”

Creative development efforts at EMA are more open than they’ve ever been before. Teams solve problems together and generate more compelling and impactful solutions.

I have no doubt that the Declaration of Inter-Dependence at EMA will mean better results for our clients. And with shared ownership of creativity, maybe a Cannes PR Lion is in our future.

Why not? We’re creative, damn it.

Greg Loh is the managing partner of public relations and public affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s leading independent marketing communications agencies. Views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the opinions of EMA.

It had all the makings of a social media disaster. NBC invested nearly $1.2 billion for broadcast rights for the 2012 London Olympics, but before the first competitive event began an #NBCfail hashtag movement was underway.

It started on July 26 with a single post by a web developer from Peoria who was frustrated that NBC limited online streaming of coverage to cable subscribers. The next day, 215 others used the #NBCfail hashtag. As the network delayed airing some events to primetime, 6,000 #NBCfails popped up July

Read the rest of this entry »

I don’t like infographics. There. I said it. In writing for the whole world to see. Given the explosion of the infographic in communications today, it feels like heresy. So let me qualify that broad statement by telling you why.

The majority of infographics just don’t work well at communicating information. They’re cluttered, confusing and hard to work with. They look like someone created them because it is the cool thing to do not because they provide a better way of sharing knowledge.

Infographic done right by Paychex

It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are four ways to make infographics better — even for someone like me:

1. Save the Cartoons for the Comic Section

The category is not, “graphicinfo.” That’s because the information is more important than the graphic elements. Don’t let artists over illustrate with cartoons and colors that don’t improve understanding or readability. The best design uses “white space” to make the information and graphic elements that matter stand out. That should be true for infographics, too.  EMA client, Paychex, gets it right in this infographic from the Huffington Post on small business use of mobile technology.

2. Offer a Second Format

Not everybody wants to view an infographic, and not all information you need to share presents well graphically or can be covered in an infographic. So it’s a good idea to offer a second format along with your infographic. A simple, “Click here for a 300 word summary of this infographic,” will ensure more users get your information. If a live link won’t work, include a URL that tells the reader where to find it on your site.

3. Keep it Short

Infographics that scroll on for what feels like a yardstick of space simply aren’t user friendly in any format – desktop, tablet or mobile. Users often want to reference back to something earlier in the graphic. Try doing that on your smartphone with a graphic that goes on multiple screens. Think of an infographic as a poster. Done right, your reader might even print it out and pin it in their workspace for future reference. Radian6 recently did that with information on social media metrics.

4. It’s the Information…

Infographics aren’t about putting lipstick on a pig. If your information isn’t new or relevant, then dressing it up with graphics isn’t going to make it any more meaningful.  Infographics should take complex information – most often data – and make it easier and faster to understand.

OK, so I don’t dislike all infographics, just the ones that are using graphics like a Halloween costume – to be something they are not. Don’t fall in to that trap. Follow my four tips and your hard work will stand a better chance of getting picked up by news media and bloggers.  And better yet, more users will engage with and share your information within their social circles.  More on that in a future post.

Greg Loh is the managing partner of public relations and public affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s leading independent marketing communications agencies. Views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the opinions of EMA.

In my last post, I wrote about the clouds of doubt hanging over the newspaper business. Those same questions hover over the other traditional mainstream news outlets — magazines, radio and broadcast television. Even social media can’t escape uncertainty. Look at the recent sale of Digg for what amounts to practically pennies.

In a news and information landscape that changes as quickly as the tides, there is one fundamental truth for public relations people:

It’s the news that matters – not the medium.

People can and do get their information from many sources. Much of what they get originates from PR people.  I don’t see that changing. In fact, I think it will grow, so PR people need to be able to create and deliver news themselves.To prosper in this digitally powered reality, every business needs to have a communications foundation with four strong corners:

1. Open Community

Maintain a living network of connections with the broadest collection of the people and institutions that represent your stakeholders. Create your own community that incudes those who support you and those who don’t. It must be both an analog community that includes direct physical contact and a digital one, with feedback and transparency enabled by social media.

2. Honest Content

Have a robust, cost-efficient system in place to generate news and information yourself – in text, pictures, video and graphics. Content should be persuasive, but it also must be must be “meaningful.”  That means solid, useful, relevant information that has value to the user.  People are smart, and they are getting smarter. The more they use search, the better they get at choosing between reliable sources of information and promotional junk. Expect the technology behind search to get even better at helping people make good choices.

3. Many Channels

Create multiple distribution vehicles so you can reach your community directly. Email. Social media. Direct mail. Live events. Publicity is important, too, but you need to give your organization the flexibility to make media coverage in whatever form it takes a bonus. Always use your channels first to talk to your community.

4. Strong Metrics

Know what you need to measure and create the most customized measurement tools your organization can afford. Digital tools make collecting quantitative and qualitative data more achievable than ever. Metrics are essential because they ensure what you’re doing is working, but they’re also needed because the highly visible and tangible proof once documented in clip reports is no longer as relevant or as thick.

Like media relationships that lead to great news coverage, the four corners can’t be built overnight. They take hard work and investment over a long period of time. If you’re organization wants to thrive in whatever the news media world becomes, make sure you’ve got the building blocks of your communications foundation in place.

The Post Publicity Era is coming. Are you ready?

Greg Loh is the managing partner of public relations and public affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s leading independent marketing communications agencies. Views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the opinions of EMA.

I love reading the New York Times on my tablet.

I catch up on the local news every morning on Syracuse.com, the digital version of the Post Standard, at my desktop.

I don’t, however, like thinking about a future without the printed newspaper. When I really want to engage with the news, I pick up the paper. I’m a loyal subscriber to the Post Standard, and I will be until it carries my obituary.

Recent events in publishing and some news coverage last week made me wonder about which might come first – the demise of the printed newspaper or me. Assuming a fairly long timeline, I hope it’s me, but increasingly, the future of newsprint is looking gloomy.

It’s been well documented that newspapers are the official record of news and information. Even with all the cutbacks in newsrooms, newspapers still have the biggest and most experienced news gathering teams. They do more investigative work and have the ability to dive deeper on matters that need attention and understanding. Their opinion pages have been and continue to be the influential voices on societal issues. A strong editorial can still swing thought leader opinions and activate people to solve important problems.

Because of these truths, conventional wisdom is that the demise of the “paper” will be bad for the public relations business. It means one less place to generate clips for our clients. I sure don’t want to see that day come, but if it does, I see opportunity for public relations. At least for the organizations that are ready.

In my next post, I’ll explain what it takes.

Greg Loh is the managing partner of public relations and public affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s leading independent marketing communications agencies. Views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the opinions of EMA.

Freedigitalphotos.net

The Technology page in the New York Times lamented Saturday that tech companies aren’t using phones for user support. According to reporter Amy O’Leary in Tech Companies Leave Phones Behind, internet companies like Quora, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn either don’t offer numbers for phone support or end up only playing a recording that drives callers back to their online customer support system.   The story suggests there is something wrong with this model or that it signals a fundamental culture shift in a digital world.

Not so.

Tech companies don’t leave phones behind. They’re an essential part of doing business, even in today’s online world. Having successfully reached Google and LinkedIn representives by telephone, I can assure you tech companies have phones for dealing with paying customers, in my case, an agency that wants to buy advertising. But internet and social media companies that offer a free service to users simply don’t have an obligation or revenue stream to support a costly telephone customer service system. A relatively small number of these companies have successful revenue streams, but virtually all would be driven under by labor intensive phone interactions with users trying to collect lost passwords or account for people who were mean to them on line.

You could argue that other “free” services offer users the ability to talk by phone. I could call my local television station and eventually find someone who would hear my complaint about commercials playing too loud or the sports action I missed due to a technical problem. But I wouldn’t find that after 5 p.m. or on weekends. Why? Because the phones at a TV station are there to serve advertisers not viewers. From my days in radio broadcasting, I can tell you that calls from the public with gripes about programming were an unfortunate side affect of needing phones to make and receive sales calls.

Online search services and social media sites are free to users. By maintaining that status, they already defy the conventional wisdom of, “You get what you pay for.” They deliver information, entertainment, communication and even commerce for free. There is no business rationale to set up call centers for users who pay nothing for their service.

The real travesty of this story will be when some opportunistic elected leader somewhere decides to grandstand by proposing a law that requires online companies to provide customer service support. When that happens, I hope legions of social media users get on their smartphones to call that lawmaker’s office and say, “No way.” Only I bet they won’t find more than an answering machine for most hours of the day.

%d bloggers like this: