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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Psst...We KNOW What You Did Last Summer...

It is not enough for companies, organizations and governments to talk about doing the right things any longer.  Instead, customers, investors, tax payers and employees are all looking for consistency of action and deed.  In other words, walking the talk! If you did something wrong, chances are, they WILL find out.

In my last posting I talked about Eisner Amper’s survey of Boards of Directors and the fact that the results indicated that the thing that keeps Boards members awake at night is the worry over what the impact would be of a reputational faux pas or down right blunder.  These Board members are no fools.  Reputational risk and the effort needed to regain reputation after a blunder is serious business and big bucks.  Some may never regain what they once had.  What makes it even more troublesome however, is that there are still many who believe that they can create the right public optic, but act completely different in their deeds, thoughts and actions – particularly to their employees.  In the end, employees won’t stand for inappropriate and down right wrong behaviours by their employers. For example, one of the most common things we see in PR is the leaking of company information by employees who feel wronged or see inappropriate behaviour.

For those that still think that reputation is a mere game and you can take your chances, think again.  Earlier this month RepuStars launched the first ever Dow Jones Index to track and measure the impact of corporate reputation on share price. 

So, now that I have your attention and you know that reputation impacts a company’s share price, what are the top four activities that impact reputation?  Based on Edelman’s Annual Survey organizations, including government should be watching:
  1. the quality of one’s products or services,
  2. the transparency and honestly of one’s business practices,
  3. are you perceived to be an organization that can be trusted; and
  4. just how well (or badly) are you treating your employees.

As I read the on-line news each day I can certainly see organizations that should be paying more attention to these details. 

For more information on ways to protect reputation through social media, be sure to read my latest article, “Social Media Mistakes to Avoid with Public Policy Decisions,” which has just been published in PR News’ Digital PR Guide -  According to PR News you will read articles comprised by “Dozens of the most experienced digital practitioners in the PR discipline provide key insight into must-know topics, from mastering Facebook for your brand, tweeting during a crisis and integrating mobile into your PR plan to the more fundamental issue of optimizing press releases. The guidebook features detailed how-to's about measuring social media results and leveraging online video to engage current and new audiences.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Ostrich Effect

In my last blog posting I spoke of people, in general, having a fear of social media.  The question is why?

The answer could be as simple as “it is human nature”, but that would be letting me, and you, off the hook way too easily!  We need to dig a little deeper.   For this posting, let’s look at the issue from the perspective of an organization or institution.

Thanks to research presented earlier this year by Nancy Bain, we know that 75% of all Canadians are now on-line, that there are some 18,620,000 Canadians on Facebook and that the time that we spend on Twitter is up 3700%.

These numbers can be daunting for businesses or institutions.  These numbers are significant and it means that decisions makers have to take a hard look at actions that will involve the use of new communications’ tools, new technology and very open and public discussions.  This is a frightening thought for many. 

The questions that immediately come to mind are:  how will we learn to use these tools effectively?  Who will train us?  Do we need training?  What are the full ramifications if we choose to not use these tools and resources?  What are the ramifications if we do?  Do we need new policies?  Do we need to staff 24/7?  And most importantly, what if something unsavoury is said about my organization?  What can I do?  This last question is probably really what would keep managers awake at night.  Earlier this year Eisner Amper conducted a survey of Boards of Directors asking them what they felt was the biggest threat to their respective organizations.  The result was a clear and decisive statement – reputational risk! 

So, we know that reputational risk is a huge concern.  That being said, why exactly would so many decision makers choose to not engage in social media?  The reason – is what I like to call the Ostrich Effect!  If one chooses to bury his head in the sand and therefore cannot hear what is being said on social media, it doesn’t exist, right?  Wrong!

The fact is that there are many communications professionals that can assist organizations and institutions navigate the social media waters and prepare a social media strategy that meets your specific organizational needs.  We are just a click away!  What are you waiting for?  Organizations and institutions need to be proactive.  Waiting for a crisis to emerge is not the answer. 

In my next posting, I will look at crisis communications and how social media can work to your advantage.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Social Media and Trust

(Note this is slightly modified post that was originally posted last fall)

Last fall I presented Social Media in the Workplace at the Atlantic Schools of Business Conference in PEI.  As I have reflected on the experience, I can say without a doubt that it was interesting to present to this group.  On the one hand you had Professors who are teaching our future leaders.  On the other hand you have institutions that are looking for new and innovative ways to provide the service/education that is needed not for today, but for five to ten years from now!

The conversations around social media were absolutely intriguing and down right fascinating to me.  There were some who really embraced the use of social media and how it can not only set their schools apart, but also how it will set the students apart when they are looking for their entrance into the working world.

For others, it was very much like what we would hear in the business environment.  Essentially it comes down to fear - fear of the unknown, fear of the loss of control - fear.  Just plain and simple fear.

Fear is not easy to eliminate or to undo.  It takes time.  It takes information and it takes guts.

Whether you look at the studies by BlessingWhite or even Edleman's Trust Barometer, there are some common themes there.  This doesn't take away from the fear that people feel.  Rather it is no doubt the opposite.  It reaffirms what most people feel.  It justifies that others have the same fear.  Embracing social media is not as difficult as some might think. It can be done, but it takes a champion.

(Looking for more information on trust?  Feel free to check out my posts from both the employer and employee perspective

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Understanding the Art of the Social Media Conversation

There has been some interesting commentary recently about social media and official languages.  I say interesting because I am hoping that people don't move away from what social media is - a conversation between two or more people.

When you boil it down, it really is all about people having a dialogue and sharing information. Think about how you interact and converse with people in your daily activities.  When someone asks you a question, you don't respond in multiple languages - of course not.  You answer the person in the language that the question was asked, even if you do speak more than one language.

Social media should not complicate conversations.  It is actually just the opposite. As with any conversation, stop and listen.  Only when you have listened can you really have a meaningful dialogue.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Communicating in the age of mistrust

Perhaps the fact that organizations like Edleman’s looks at and measures trust is only a small indication of a bigger issue – people no longer trust.

In the age of social media there are many ways for people to unite over a cause and to share information – right or wrong.  Chances are however, that if you or I tell a friend something that we have learned, they will believe you or me before they will believe the corporate world, politicians or big industry in general.

In listening to the many commentaries today on the anniversary of 9/11 it is clear that people have many theories as to what happened that day and afterwards.  Knowing who to believe however comes down to who we trust.  In my opinion, social media has played a big role in our evolution of disbelief.  For those of who communicate or execute marketing strategies for a living, this is a tremendous challenge.  We have to build trust with our stakeholders, communities and customers.  

Building trust however is difficult when you learn about companies that hire people to spread positive word of mouth messages on social networking sites.  The term wombagging has evolved out of this very practice.  According to Basil Phillips although there are a number of wombagging methods, most of them involve some degree of dishonesty.

As someone who has been in the communications and marketing industry for nearly 20 years, the challenge to build and maintain trust is more of a challenge than ever.  Having an authentic voice without spin may be the goal, but even when this is executed to perfection, there will be those that refuse to trust and refuse to believe.  What impact will they have on the rest of your audience?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Continued Role of Email

Like it or not, email continues to have a role in our lives.  

For many, email is the preferred way to communicated with colleagues and friends.  For others, email is passé and they have moved on to various social media platforms.  Whichever side of the fence you are on; there is still a place for email.  In business, we continue to use it as a significant tool for communication.  That being said, I would argue that far too many of us are bogged down with the volume of email that we receive.  Add social media to the mix and we become overwhelmed.  

With this in mind, I challenge everyone using email, including myself, to stop and think before we choose the "reply all" option.  Ask yourself this question to determine if "reply all" is really necessary.  Is my response essential or critical to all those on the list?   All too often, one person hits reply all and as a result, everyone feels compelled to do the same, thus adding more and more email to our In Boxes.

Also, I would challenge people to think about whether you were sent the message or if you were cc'ed. If you were cc'ed, this means you were sent the email for information purposes.  Unless there is something critical or essential, again, do you need to reply all?

Just something to think about!