Mario Sundar

LinkedIn's 2nd PR hire; I led their social media efforts from 2007 past their IPO. These are my thoughts on tomorrow's social products, today.

The magic left the building with Jobs

I remember the moment Steve Jobs scrolled through his music and uttered those magical words – “scrolls like butter” – while illustrating the beauty of the original iPhone.

stevejobs1

It’s moments like this that you lived for, as a technology obsessed professional in Silicon Valley. And with Jobs we got to watch the Michael Jordan of technology, courtside, at his best. iPods, iPhones, iPads, the hits kept coming and Jobs made them look great.

So, it’s a pet peeve of mine these days when companies try to rip off Steve Jobs’ launch style. Not Apple’s style because the new PR machinery at Apple leaves a lot to be desired. But what Jobs created, no one else can put together, because it was and will always be classic Jobs.

Jobs in the above video is the same age as Zuckerberg is today. Incomparable!

Why “Public Relations” sucks?

Kevin Roose writes of the Applefication of Facebook PR in light of today’s Facebook press conference.

I’m sitting in the Facebook headquarters, in Menlo Park, in a room filled with the symphonic clicking of keys produced by hundreds of tech bloggers, all writing the same stories and updating the same live-blogs on identical Apple laptops.

Go on…

Zuckerberg has long departed — he was disappeared from a teeming pile of reporters and cameras and out a back door like a sitting president — so now it’s just us and the PR Borg. Oh, the PR Borg. Facebook’s communications staffers are paired up with reporters at demo stations, showing off Graph on a series of computers. The spares are milling around the room. There must be 50 of them — a phalanx of fresh-faced professionals with smiles on their faces and carefully scripted responses to our questions in their hip pockets.

These are today’s news factories. These are things I’d hoped would change with social media but frankly the hand that runs the machine continues to operate with an old playbook. And that sucks…

But wasn’t social media meant to change these things… Hold that thought.

Because no company can ever be Apple with Jobs 

I never went to an Apple event in the Steve Jobs era, but I gather that the pitch is nearly identical: the charismatic founder, the well-paced presentation, the subtle way that certain media outlets are subtly given preference. (This time, major news outlets — this one not included — were given off-the-record briefings about Social Graph.) It’s all drawn from a playbook that was developed a decade ago and has been used to transform a smallish computer company into the largest corporation in the world.

Not so fast. This playbook copied by every large company from Amazon to Facebook forgets three key elements for this communication to work: killer product, charismatic founder, real user values.

The magic with Steve Jobs was his effortless communication. A passionate user himself whose demos communicated his wonder around Apple products that truly changed the way we interact with technology.

Yes, Apple had their PR machinery but the difference was Jobs.

  • The difference was in backing up those missives by publicly sparring, evangelizing and winning over developers or journalists when they called him on it.
  • The difference was a holistic approach at communicating openly to users by treating them as adults.

Wasn’t that the utopian goal of social media? To help companies talk one-on-one with their users. Instead here we are, still mass producing press releases around giant product announcements, trying to reach the lowest common denominator at the lowest possible price. In some cases, at the ridiculously low price of $100.00!

Welcome to the future of social media communication.

[Disclosure: I own public stock in Facebook, I do not own stock in Apple. This blog holds my my personal thoughts on all things marketing and communications since 2006.]

Filed under: Best-of, Facebook, Public Relations, Social PR, , , ,

How to make Social Media work for Earnings

Does social media work well with earnings? It was my goal to find out a few weeks ago as we planned the social media component of LinkedIn’s first earnings announcement and the accompanying earnings call, which went out yesterday at 2pm Pacific time. For those of you who missed the action, here’s a recap.

But, I digress. My goal was to find out what are the key social media tools a company should leverage during an earnings call and I found there were two, in particular, that could come in handy. After the jump.

Step 1: Start with the Basics / 3 key social media channels

First off, figure out the key social media channels that’ll work best at disseminating information around the earnings to the right audiences (investors, customers, members of your service, etc.), in the right way (share friendly and compliant). This may seem simple, but planning every last detail whether it’s post, tweets or sequence of uploading content well in advance really helps.

Here are the three basic social media channels that we used for our first earnings call yesterday:

  1. The LinkedIn Blog – post from the CFO
  2. LinkedIn’s Company Page – will link to our twitter page @linkedin  (didn’t want too many tweets, cluttering our homepage there, so we decided to have select tweets that redirect to our Twitter page where I’d be live tweeting the call)
  3. LinkedIn’s Twitter Page (real–time updates during the earning call)

In addition, specific to the earnings call – I found the following two channels helpful. More on that in just a second.

  1. LinkedIn’s Slideshare Page
  2. LinkedIn’s StockTwits Page

This is of course, in concert, with your existing official channels that should kick-start the process (there are mandatory regulations that govern this process; so make sure you work with your legal team on figuring out that order). In our case, right after the press release crossed the wire, and the PDF slides were up on our IR site, the social media component went into play. So, time it well and stick to your schedule.

Trust me, it’s all a blur once the call starts and you start live tweeting – plus, there are so many moving parts that you’ve got to be careful you don’t mess up the ordering or accidentally upload stuff before the official news is out there. Also, don’t schedule stuff for auto-publishing, cos, you never know when things break.

Step 2: Make it easy to share / Slideshare 

I think the biggest advantage that social media brings to the table is the ability to let users – members, investors or other bloggers get a hold of content (like earnings deck slides) and make it easy for them to share. The earnings call (in our case) was an audio webcast and you had to register to listen in. You could also download a PDF deck of slides, but you’d have to email that and there’s no way to tweet that either.

Enter Slideshare.

Not only does Slideshare make it easy for you to upload your slides in private mode (premium feature) so you have it ready to go when the call starts, they also offer customization that lets you feature your earnings slide on your Slideshare homepage. And, of course, it makes sense to add your Twitter and StockTwits widget as well. More on that in a second.

Some examples of companies that use Slideshare around earnings: Dell, Amgen, and Pfizer. Here’s the brand new LinkedIn page.

Step 3: Get Compliant / Stocktwits

Finally, the biggest question that companies have about earnings call and social media is staying out of trouble and keeping your blog post/s and tweets compliant with regulations. First off, you wanna work closely with your legal team to nail the specifics around your Safe Harbor statement and Disclaimers, which we used on the blog post. But, what about tweets and 140 chars?

Enter Stocktwits.

If you’re live tweeting your earnings call — and I’d recommend you do that — ideally, you’d want to add a disclaimer to every tweet that contains financial information. Now, doing that manually is one heckuva problem and Stocktwits helped take care of that (premium feature we subscribed to).

They have a system which allows you to add a disclaimer to every tweet (it may be a simple tweet, link to other webpages, a slideshare page, etc.) That does reduce the # of characters for your tweet (from 140 to 117) but from my perspective the premium feature was worth the peace of mind. In addition, they allow you to send this out to your Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook pages.

Here are some examples of companies that have used Stocktwits in a similar fashion: eBay, Dell, AEP.

And, here’s our Stocktwits LNKD page.

To summarize, the earnings call was like our other recent announcements on social media but the two new components that made the earnings call simpler, were Slideshare and Stocktwits. Here’s how I described it on their official blogs:

As a social media company, it was a no-brainer to use Slideshare to share our earnings call slides on our corporate blog. While Slideshare made it easy for our readers and followers to share this content virally, Stocktwits ensured that our status updates and tweets were compliant; both necessary components for an effective social IR strategy.

Work in social media for a company planning earnings? Got questions? Let me know.

Leave a comment or @mariosundar a question to me.

Filed under: Best-of, Business Blogging, HOW-TO Use Social Media, Linkedin, Slideshare, Social PR, Stocktwits, , , , ,

Airbnb is sorry. Really, really sorry.

Airbnb CEO just blogged a much awaited response to what we (in the tech community) call #ransackgate (the unfortunate story of one of their customers who was ransacked) recently. As someone who dabbles in words, I found their blog post today a great start on their road to recovery.

As I’d outlined in my post yesterday, there was a ton of back-and-forth over the past week, between Airbnb co-founders, CEO (Brian Chesky), investors and EJ (whose house was recently ransacked). As I’d outlined, the original blog post that Brian published on TechCrunch was quite a yarn.

I concluded that they need closure on the case, and an intense customer service makeover to move forward. Today’s response goes far in that direction:

“Over the last four weeks, we have really screwed things up. Earlier this week, I wrote a blog post trying to explain the situation, but it didn’t reflect my true feelings. So here we go.”

Wow! a real apology. Kudos there.

With regards to EJ, we let her down, and for that we are very sorry. We should have responded faster, communicated more sensitively, and taken more decisive action to make sure she felt safe and secure.

But we weren’t prepared for the crisis and we dropped the ball. Now we’re dealing with the consequences. In working with the San Francisco Police Department, we are happy to say a suspect is now in custody.

Moving forward: to assuage customer concerns and irate customers, they’ve instituted a $50K guarantee retroactively. Wow! that sounds really hard to manage but is probably really good news for folks like EJ.

To EJ, and all the other hosts who have had bad experiences, we know you deserve better from us.

We want to make it right. On August 15th, we will be implementing a $50,000 Airbnb Guarantee, protecting the property of hosts from damage by Airbnb guests who book reservations through our website.

We will extend this program to EJ and any other hosts who may have reported such property damage while renting on Airbnb in the past.

As I’d said in yesterday’s post, they would also have to make it easier for you to get help (something they sorely lacked from the two incidents we just saw recently) in the event of such a catastrophe. And, they now assure you of a 24 hour customer hotline.

24-Hour Customer Hotline (Nice!)

Beginning next week, we will have operators and customer support staff ready to provide around the clock phone and email support for anything big or small.

2x Customer Support Team

Since last month we have more than doubled our Customer Support team from forty-two to eighty-eight people, and will be bringing on a 10-year veteran from eBay as our Director of Customer Support next week.

Dedicated Trust & Safety Department

Airbnb now has an in-house task force devoted to the manual review of suspicious activity. This team will also build new security features based on community feedback.

Contact the CEO (Nice!)

If you can’t get a hold of anyone or if you just want to contact me, email brian.chesky@airbnb.com.

There’s still no closure on the EJ case (but that’s gonna take a while), but they seem to have done the right thing by instituting the guarantee that should take care of folks like her, fessing up, apologizing, assuaging potential customers’ concerns, earning some goodwill and halting the PR trainwreck that all of us had to witness.

Filed under: Social PR

Spin, Lies, and Airbnb

The one thing more absurd than the debt-ceiling cliffhanger these days, is the unraveling AirBnb PR fiasco that’s been getting more bizarre with each passing day.

What really stands out is the botched PR response to an unfortunate customer experience, with multiple points of view obfuscating reality and closure.

The Rashomon effect is made worse by spin...

Airbnb is a service that helps people rent out their homes or apartments or boats (yes, boats) to other “real people”. And last month one of these apartment rentals resulted in a scary home destruction:

Three difficult days ago, I returned home from an exhausting week of business travel to an apartment that I no longer recognized. To an apartment that had been ransacked.

With heart pounding and stomach churning, I slowly swung the door open as both a pungent odor and the full realization of what had occurred washed over me: this wasn’t just a random break-in. My home had been burglarized, vandalized and thoroughly trashed by a “traveler” I connected with via the online rental agency, airbnb.com.

The post really goes into detail on the level of destruction in a home, a nightmare situation none of us would ever want to step into. That was a month ago. More recently though, in the past few days, there’s been a storm of back-and-forth blog posts from both the company and victim of that destruction. So, let’s try peeling the layers here…

Airbnb CEO, Brian Chesky, wrote a pretty reasonable guest post on TechCrunch, pointing out the company’s efforts to help the victim (“EJ”), pointing to a resolution and offering next steps to assuage other users’ concerns. That’s a textbook response to such situations and in the face of it does seem adequate. But, that soon turned into a crazy back-and-forth this past weekend when the user wrote a second post refuting some of his claims.

He said. She said.

Airbnb CEO: “Our first concern was to make sure our host was safe.”

Which may not have necessarily meant they help secure her safety.

EJ (victim): “I am not clear here if Chesky is trying to convey the message that Airbnb was involved in securing my safety, but the company was not. My safety was secured by my own efforts.”

Here’s another:

Airbnb CEO: With a single booking, one person’s malicious actions victimized our host and undermined what had been – for 2 million nights – a case study demonstrating that people are fundamentally good.

As TechCrunch points out, it makes it sound like that was the first time that happened, but apparently not. Granted these break-ins (two in the public eye) may be more the exception than the norm but the way the media works is to focus on the extreme situations — whether good or bad. And, this is one such terrible experience that makes for a riveting human interest story. I think Robert Scoble does a good job of pointing out how companies should deal with customer service disasters of this type.

But, I digress. The back-and-forth between the CEO and the renter gets ugly with the following back-and-forth:

Airbnb CEO: “We have been in close contact with her ever since, and have worked with the authorities to help find a resolution. While we are not at liberty to discuss the details during the investigation, we understand that with our help, a suspect is now in custody, and our information will now become important evidence.”

In her 2nd post, published on July 28, EJ refutes that claim:

EJ: As of today, July 28, I have received no confirmation from either the San Francisco Police Department or the District Attorney that any culprit is in custody for my case.

One month ago an individual was apprehended, however as far as I know, this person was transferred to a neighboring jurisdiction for prosecution of previous crimes, and no charges or arrest warrant has been issued for my case within San Francisco County. If this has changed and Chesky’s statement is in fact true, I have not been made aware by city officials.

She then goes on to suggest that things were even worse:

EJ (victim): And I was – but no longer am – scared of Airbnb’s reaction, the pressure and the veiled threat I have received from them since I initially blogged this story.

On June 29 I posted my story, and June 30 thus marks the last day I heard from the customer service team regarding my situation. In fact, my appointed “liaison” from Airbnb stopped contacting me altogether just three days after I reported the crime, on June 25, for reasons that are unknown to me. I have heard nothing from her since.

Wow?! And, that would contradict what their CEO had said earlier: “We have been in close contact with her ever since”. And…

EJ: During this call and in messages thereafter, he (ed. another co-founder, not Brian) requested that I shut down the blog altogether or limit its access, and a few weeks later, suggested that I update the blog with a “twist” of good news so as to “complete[s] the story”.

If true, that’s just sad, disappointing and plain wrong.

Closure & Moving Forward

At the end of the day, I think both parties (Airbnb and the renter) find themselves in an extremely difficult time in their lives. Airbnb just raised another round of funding and is on a hot streak, but the renter has just lost her peace of mind, home, and belongings (a month ago) with no end in sight.

What makes matters awful, is the company’s attempts at making this go away by utilizing everything from traditional spin to suggestions on shutting down the victim’s blog. Given how emotional this can be (for the aggrieved party) this needs to be dealt with in a considerate manner without coming across as pressurizing someone whose life has been upended recently. Interestingly enough, that customer service approach works in the best interests of the business as well.

Once again, I recommend you read Scoble’s post on a few ways to deal with this crisis.

For now, I think the onus for the company should be on getting some real closure in this unfortunate event, ensuring there aren’t any more random rants from their side, and an official update on their blog once there’s some real news to share. Most importantly, given Airbnb’s business model, the institution of a serious customer service policy (like at Zappos) seems essential.

All else is spin.

What do you think Airbnb should do? Tweet me @mariosundar.

Filed under: Social PR, , , , , , , , ,

Is the Press Release really dead?

No. Press releases are not dead… yet.

Despite losing their relevance, they’re still alive for one reason – the distribution system, aka the press release wire services (Quora thread: Which press release wire services are popular and why?) – a well established / adopted system for dissemination of press releases to a large number of news outlets world-wide that scales well.

For e.g. the Business Wire. Here’s how it works (Source: Wikipedia)

Business Wire is a company that disseminates full-text news releases from thousands of companies and organizations worldwide to news media, financial markets, disclosure systems, investors, information web sites, databases and other audiences.

The company distributes news via its own electronic network,
NX, developed by its in-house tech team using XML/NewsML. It also has carriage agreements with major news agencies, including the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg, Dow Jones, Reuters, Thomson One, and some 60 regional news agencies to deliver content directly into their newsroom editorial systems.

The only other way you distribute press releases is to email them directly to journalists, but in that area the blog post with multimedia elements, near real-time updates and the ability to make edits after publishing, etc. has got them beat.

Speaking of corporate blogs, their strengths include their ability to target the long tail of niche audiences (think TechCrunch for tech, Engadget for gadgets, Huffington Post for politics etc.) way better than press releases. There are also numerous other benefits like SEO (which press releases try to mimic), the social aspect of corporate blog posts (commenting, building communities who care for the product), and most importantly the human element (a post from a the product manager who created the feature vs. a corporate template that announces it with a quote) makes corporate blog posts way more effective.

At the end of the day though, news is most effectively shared through a trusted relationship network, whether it’s in the blogosphere or in the news world.

Vote up my answer on Quora

Filed under: Social PR

Top 20 CEOs who Twittered in 2009

Since yesterday, there has been some blog chatter about Google CEO Eric Schmidt joining Twitter and the two auto populated tweets his id seems to have generated since yesterday. What’s even more odd are the tweets he’s following on Twitter: Heidi Montag, Diddy, and the Dixie Chicks, among others. Wow!

But, I digress. As you know one of the most popular posts on this blog; actually the post that got Marketing Nirvana initial recognition was a Top 10 CEO blogs post I did. I followed that up with the equally popular Top 10 Corporate blog series. And, I’ve wanted to focus on the next avatar of CEO communication – CEO Twitter ids.

Which CEOs have been naughty or nice on Twitter in 2009?

We have two types of “CEOs who Twitter”. Those famous for utilizing social media the right way – as a means to engage with their users (think @zappos) and on the other hand you have the already famous CEOs who may just be creating another channel to broadcast their “message” to users (think @ericschmidt) as TechCrunch suggests here. Irrespective of the rationale behind their joining, the correct way to tweet is to share your personality and engage in real conversations with your audience (think @padmasree). And, if a CEO’s twitter channel doesn’t possess these traits a twitter channel is nothing more than a meaningless personal billboard.

A final caveat: Before we get into the popularity contest, let me warn you that this ranking is far from accurate partly because it’s comparing apples and oranges. Some of these Twitter ids have had preferential treatment meted out to them, thanks to the much hated suggested users list. So, for what it’s worth – this list should be something you bookmark if you’re interested in checking out the state of CEO communication in social media. And, now, I give you the Top 20 CEO Twitter ids (based on the # of followers).

  1. Pete Cashmore – @mashable
  2. Tony Hshieh – @zappos
  3. Biz Stone (Twitter) – @biz
  4. Jack Dorsey (Twitter) – @jack
  5. Tim O’Reilly – @timoreilly
  6. Padmasree Warrior (CTO, Cisco) – @padmasree
  7. Evan Williams (Twitter) – @ev
  8. Kevin Rose (Digg) – @kevinrose
  9. Richard Branson (Virgin) – @richardbranson
  10. Mark Cuban (Dallas Mavericks) – @markcuban
  11. Jason Calacanis (Mahalo) – @jason
  12. Loic Le Meur (Seesmic) – @loic
  13. Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) – @finkd (Facebook fan page)
  14. John Battelle (Federated Media) – @johnbattelle
  15. Michael Arrington (TechCrunch) – @arrington
  16. Marissa Mayer (Google) – @marissamayer
  17. Bob Parsons (GoDaddy) – @drbobparsons
  18. Eric Schmidt (Google) – @ericschmidt
  19. Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn) – @quixotic
  20. Jonathan Schwartz (Sun Microsystems) – @sunceoblog

Executives across the globe are slowly beginning to see how Twitter is easier than corporate blogging (as I’d recommended here) but also demands caution now that SEC regulations will be extended to this corporate social media tool as well. Stay tuned in future posts, for best practices on how executives can adapt their personal and company brand to emerging social media channels like Twitter. In the meanwhile, feel free to follow this CEO Twitter list I created with the above CEO twitter ids.

Question to you: which of these CEOs above are using twitter the right way, and who are not? It’s your chance to separate the naughty and the nice. Leave a comment.

Filed under: Social PR, Twitter

Why the Social Media Press Release is an Oxymoron!

So what’s the brouhahah all about this time. I miss attending an event and exciting stuff happens at the event. You guys may remember the event I was supposed to attend last week — Third Thursday, run by Mike Manuel and Chris Heuer.

Apparently, Chris had a rountable discussion going and Stowe Boyd took exception to their definition of what’s called a “social media press release”. Here’s Stowe:

For those who have missed the idea, a social media press release is supposed to be a webbish/bloggish version of old timey press releases. These will incorporate elements of the now commonplance blog motif: links, tags, comments, and trackbacks, for example.

This all begs the question (which I raised early on in the evening): Why not just use blogs? Why do we need these so-called “social” press releases?

Scoble chimes in:

He’s right. I hate that idea too. Just give us a damn demo of your product and tell us about it.

Well, Shel Holtz who was on the panel retaliates:

Most people I talk to outside of my work (neighbors, family, people I see at my religious institution) don’t even read blogs, no less understand what RSS is. At the Third Thursday event, Chris Heuer asked who among the attendees didn’t know what RSS was. The bartender raised his hand.

The numbers are higher among journalists, but still low overall. To suggest that a company can officially, fairly, and consistently deliver the message concurrently to all audiences by posting it to a blog is, frankly, absurd.

My Take – the reinvention of PR: Well, I respect all of the above bloggers, but c’mon guys let’s take a chill pill now, shall we? To me, it seems like all this debate has an undercurrent of the “Survival of the Publicists” theme as outlined by Shel & Scoble in Naked Conversations. The Social Media Press Release seems to be a step in reinventing the Public Relations Universe. I get it.

However, if PR is “The art of managing communication between an organization and its key publics to build, manage and sustain a positive image.”, while Social Media is defined as “the online tools and platforms that people use to share opinions, insights, experiences, and perspectives with each other”, many of which are negative!!!

What does a “social media press release” mean? Is that still the same old press release in the garb of genuine social media generated by people. And, that’s where Stowe Boyd, in my opinion, takes umbrage.

Holtz in his summary, makes a ton of valid points, like why you can’t use blogs as press releases and their relative importance. However, one of the points he kept reiterating is that non-PR guys shouldn’t meddle w/ PR affairs:

To insist that the profession use a tool one way or another—or to abandon it altogether—is no different than me telling NASA engineers which tools to use to build their next-generation spacecraft.

Point taken. However, applying lipstick to a press release doesn’t make it a “social media press release”. And, that’s just my humble opinion.

Filed under: Social PR

The death knell of traditional media

3 Facts and a Conclusion:

Journalism and advertising is all about packaging the news in a consumable fashion, but social media seems to be reshaping the way we consume news:

Fact 1: Web traffic to the blog pages of the top 10 online newspapers grew 210 percent year over year in December (Source: Nielsen Net Ratings)

Fact 2: TIME Inc. lays off nearly 300 (Source: New York Times)

Also, “both Time and People are scaling back their practice of using several correspondents to report and write a single article.”

Fact 3: TIME redesigns home page with prominent focus on blogs/bloggers:

Check it out here.

Conclusion: I guess it was a foregone conclusion as to the decline of traditional media, but does this indicate the death knell for traditional media. Will all journalists start blogging and stop writing long winded articles? I guess not, but it’s definitely an interesting thought.


Filed under: Social PR

It’s COMCASTrophic!

COMCASTrophic (n): Poor “denial-of-quality-service” to paying customers. Disregard for customer’s time and patience.

Here’s my 2-part rant. Customer Pain & the Marketing takeaway.

Customer Pain:
Against my better instincts, I decided to upgrade to Comcast’s Digital Silver Package! And ended up wasting my entire Saturday afternoon, trying to jostle my schedule to accomodate three visits by two technicians and the problem is FINALLY resolved. Eight hours of my weekend wasted trying to get my cable fixed!

The Marketing takeaway:
1. Customer Touchpoints: All points of product/service delivery need to be as perfect & customer-friendly as possible, because your brand is only as good as your customer service rep or technician. If they screw up, basically YOUR BRAND is screwed. After a little investigation I figured out that the technicians who visited me yesterday were contractors who’re paid by the # of jobs and the in-house technician today was paid by the hour and so was willing to spend an hour trying to sort things out.

As Hank Brigman, President & CEO of TouchPoint Metrics rightly points out:

Whether an ad, Web site, sales person, store or office, Touchpoints are important because customers form perceptions of your organization and brand based on their cumulative experiences.

For an introductory & fascinating look at Customer Touchpoint Management or CTM, take a read of this iMedia article: “Defining Customer Touchpoints“.

2. Match the Hype w/ Service: Hiring the best minds in advertising and delivering crappy customer service does not further your brand image but rather works against it. Esp. since these customer touchpoints are priceless in stressing the quality of the brand and maintaining that relationship.

Advertising’s gotta evolve. Keep it real in your advertising and your audience is going to respect and trust you for it. Look no further than the recent spate of Dove ads that emphasize reality with their self-explanatory “Campaign for Real Beauty“.

Summary: Best Advertising Campaign of the Year, One Comcastic Exec, and a sampling of 1.06 million + 1.8 million + …. disgruntled users (on Google alone). And you call that Comcastic!

My $.02: Cut the hype, Walk the Talk, and Start a Real Conversation w/ Customers.

(Hint: Start a Business Blog in each of your service areas/zip codes)

Filed under: Social PR

Update: Blogs as Crisis Management Tools

Quick Update: I know that RocketBoom viewers have been eagerly awaiting its re-launch, which hasn’t happened till now. Andy knows that a lot is running on this re-opening video but postponing the video launch twice already isn’t helping their brand image in any small measure. Actually, Valleywag has an interesting tidbit on how they feel Rocketboom’s re-launch may have died on the vines. Similar posts heralding the demise of Rocketboom here and there.

For more history, read on…

I’d been planning this post ever since the Rocket Boom fiasco rocked the blogosphere and from there on went to traditional media outlets such as New York Times and CNN.

I also know that many of my fellow-bloggers have covered the same topic here, and there. For those of you living under a rock and don’t know what the furore is all about, here’s a summary (via CNN):

In less than two years as the quirky, goofy-but-gorgeous host of a low-tech, three-minute fake newscast, Congdon, who left Rocketboom this week in a dispute with her partner, achieved a kind of fame unique to this Internet age.

To conclude, here’s a video clip of Amanda Congdon declaring she’s been “fired”. And here’s her partner Andrew Baron’s rather long-winded, yet interesting rebuttal (via Jason’s blog).

Anyway, of all the posts I’ve read, the most recent posting from Jason Calacanis is probably the most objective and gives a two-sided view of all developments. I know that yesterday, today, or whenever, is Rocketboom’s re-launch, but I thought it may be appropriate for me to post a few ideas I’d scribbled regarding how weblogs can be great PR tools in crisis management.

Here’s how a weblog can be a great PR tool in moments of crisis (esp. for CEOs):

1. Stay in touch w/ community:

Well, seems like we’re back to square one. All the answers revolve around community, don’t they? Of course! It’s essential for the leader of a company to have his/her own communication channel open to the larger public at all times, since this’d open the door for a conversation during moments of a crisis. Imagine if Andrew Baron had such a channel even before the crisis struck, he could have depended on the blog to get his message across. And most importantly, it demonstrates your genuineness in wanting to stay in touch.

2. Be the first:

It was mighty savvy on Amanda’s part to release the “I’m Fired” post before Andrew could even realize he’d been punked! Firing the first salvo is always the best response! What it does is provides you the “moral high-ground”. What can I say, that’s how psych works? Her starting a blog to do that was equally smart, because it provides a way to rally your base, which actually further cements the high-ground you’ve placed yourself in.

3. Responses must be swift and targeted:

Anyone, care to remember the swift boat crisis that did John Kerry in during the Presidential elections 04. One of the major reasons for the ads’ effectiveness was that Kerry’s rebuttal was rather slow in coming. Too bad! Kerry paid a heavy price for it during the elections. Likewise, in all crisis situations, respond swiftly and immediately. Amanda did a great job with a swift “For the record” rebuttal, which surely would have further strengthened her position. Not doing so could irreparably damage your brand.

I understand that the above rules will work irrespective of who is right/wrong, but at the end of the day, it’s all about Honesty! Because nothing will harm your brand more than the realization (later or sooner) that your PR machinery was touting untruths.

Disclaimer: I don’t know either of the two parties concerned and I’m absolutely clueless as to where the truth lies. This is an objective third-party view.

Filed under: Social PR

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