Winston Churchill once said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” True then, but never more true than today. Public relations specialists continue to advocate strongly for transparency in communications and in business practice, and many insist that transparency is already here, an inherent component of the social media age. Because information is created so fast, and can often be inaccurate, incomplete, or just downright wrong, us PR folks are always working overtime. People can and will say, or should I say type, anything they want with a form of keyboard courage previously unimagined.
Public relations professionals find that they must be constantly concerned about reputation management. Already in the habit of using research and fact-checking to develop complete and accurate communications elements, we must now be even more vigilant about identifying incomplete information, correcting inaccuracies, and issuing truthful information in response to fabrication and rumor, and in prevention of a potential crisis.
So, how can we work more effectively within the tide of the information stream? Here are three things we can start working on today, if we’re not already doing them. If we are, this serves as a good reminder.
1. Tell it first. Many communications problems including potential crisis situations can be avoided when we are the first to tell the story in its true, accurate and complete form. In crisis communications, the rule of thumb is to tell it first, tell it all and tell it now. We must be committed to transparency by telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth without exception. By doing so we fulfill our ethical duty as professional communicators to be truthful, and to serve the public good.
2. Monitor the information stream. New and constantly developing solutions for popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and others allow us to monitor what people are saying about us, our product, company or brand. We must search out and become skilled at using these monitoring systems so we know what is being said, who is saying it and when. Information is the first line of defense for the warp-speed lie in the face of the pants-less truth.
3. Respond as quickly as possible. Reducing response time in the face of potentially damaging information is crucial. This is especially true if the matter and the conversation impact the public good, which we are sworn to serve. Take, for example, the whole “Apple iPhones are tracking our every move” topic that received global attention within hours of being published on a blog site. “Say what?”, the world responded. It took Apple a full week to formally respond to these concerns. Do NOT be like Apple in this example.
These are just a few things we can do to continue to be more effective in our work as communications professionals. For a good meditation, I review the PRSA Code of Ethics often. It’s all in there. Think about it!
Copyright 2011, Tracy L. Teuscher, The Buzz Maker! LLC.
As I shuffled into the office this morning, sluggish from an Independence Day weekend perfectly overflowing with sun, play, swimming, boating, food, beer, music, family, friends and major league baseball, I couldn’t help but think what a dang lucky bugger I am.
The Tribe Social Deck Experience
After wrapping up the patio roof project on Saturday afternoon, we executed the rapid-fire shower, shave and escape plan and headed up to Cleveland on a perfect summer day to enjoy a visit to Progressive Field, recently ranked #1 in an SI poll, and to participate in the Tribe Social Deck.
We arrived early and enjoyed a visit to A.J. Rocco’s, the downtown bistro at 816 Huron Road owned by the Cleveland Coffee Company. They’ve got a friendly staff, a dedication to making a difference in the community, a great selection of bottled beer, and the best homemade hummus I’ve had with the exception of the stuff my Greek friend makes.
Off to the Ballpark
After making a dent in our post patio-roofing hunger and thirst, we headed over to the ballpark. The tickets for the Tribe Social Deck were there waiting for us at the Will Call window at Gate B as Rob Campbell had promised, and we quickly and easily found our way to the Social Deck where Rob was waiting to greet us personally. Introductions ensued, and then Rob provided some printed information regarding the Indians team (Did you know that Travis Haffner is 10th on the Indians all-time HR list?), an overview of the technology options of the Deck and the schedule for the evening.
Our host had to leave for awhile and make his professional rounds up at the press box. In his absence, the five couples on the Deck enjoyed the game and socialized. (We were able to get away with this and remain engaged in home game action due to the TV in the corner broadcasting the game on a seven-second delay. Sweet.) The networking that ensued was as entertaining as heck.
Our Groovy Tribe Social Deck Group
Robert, previous risk management specialist, now Twitter marketer for hire, and his girlfriend Carol had come up from Columbus, where they both reside. Since my daughter attends college there at CCAD and we have family in that area, we yammered about everything from social media to the Columbus art scene and the number of tattoos we have. While yammering, Robert asked where I was from and I mentioned that I graduated high school in Richmond Heights (1982). To that, Carrie Wing, a graphic designer with Boondock Walker, whipped around from the seat in front of me and exclaimed that she had also graduated from Richmond Heights (1996, young whipper snapper)! Small world, she said, and that got us talking about the neighborhood and all kinds of old memory lane stuff (Go Spartans!). I also got to chat with Jason Burchaski who’s busy Blogging about his Cleveland experience.
Ketchup, Mustard and Onion
In between, we enjoyed a great game including the traditional mid-game race between Ketchup, Mustard and Onion in which Ketchup won handily (but I was rooting for Mustard). Following a lengthy 4-4 tie through most of the second half, the Indians earned an exciting 5-4 win in the 10th inning followed by a great fireworks display that Tribe Social Deck guests got to watch from the Visitors Dugout on the opposite side of the park. All in all, a great night.
My Small Wish List
I do have a small wish list of improvements for the Deck. First, the Deck is small. Although the seats have been installed in rows leaving good visibility and comfortable leg room, even for my guest who’s 6’2″, the seats have been installed in two rows of just five seats each – an odd number. That made it very uncomfortable for the last couple to arrive who had to be separated in order to be seated. No one likes that. It makes everyone feel bad.
Second, the flat screen TV in the right-hand corner of the Deck broadcasting the game was very small. I was wishing for something a tad bigger than what’s in my living room now, and that’s not saying much.
Lastly, I was wishing for at least one beverage coupon for each of us. A 12-ounce beer at the ballpark is $7.75. Eek gads. I know I sound like the thrifty, small business-owning post-depression era 40-something by saying this, but I can buy a six for that at home.
Thank You, Tribe!
But look, I’m grateful. Our host, Rob Campbell, could not have been more charming, and the Deck experience did what it’s supposed to do. It got us social media Tribe fan types to the ballpark to participate in something that is a marketing innovation with a side dish of networking and general summer brew-ha-ha. Sincere thanks go out to Rob and the Indians PR & Marketing team for giving us the opportunity, and I will look forward to next time. Like I said, I’m a dang lucky bugger.
You know those annoying baseball fans that watch as many games as possible, drive around with team license plate frames, and Tweet team news to their followers? Yep, I’m one of those. I’m a Cleveland Indians fan, or around these parts, a Tribe fan. Imagine my joy when I established my Twitter account and realized I could follow Tribe news from a number of sources including the official team Twitter account, @tribetalk.
So, what do you get when you mix good social media strategy and maxi zoom dweebie Tribe fans like me?
You get the Tribe Social Deck – a brandie-new concept officially launched by the Cleveland Indians on Opening Day 2010. According to my notes from Rob Campbell of the Indians PR department who sent me a personal invitation to participate after following my Tribe Tweets, the Tribe Social Deck is a section of the stadium exclusively for social media users that sits atop the left field wall at Progressive Field. An industry first, the Tribe Social Deck is most often an invitation-only opportunity (although you can apply here www.indians.com/connect) extended to folks identified by the Indians as social media influencers to attend a game for free.
What happens at the Deck?
From what I understand, attendees receive information from Indians staff that is typically only available to media in the press box. Although the section offers private Wi-Fi network set-up for Tribe Social Deck attendees, six power outlets and a flatscreen HDTV on the Deck, there are no requirements for attendees to Tweet or Blog post during the event. Attendees simply come, attend a home game, and connect with Indians staff and other social media folks in a relaxed environment and have a great time. According to Campbell, the Tribe Social Deck has been attended every home game since Opening Day 2010 with the exception of a few effected by inclement weather.
How did they get this thing started?
The Tribe Social Deck concept was collaboratively developed with the Cleveland Indians and Digital Royalty, and as far as we know, there has never been a section of a stadium exclusively dedicated to the internet and social media community. No one else is doing this, but I expect to see other sports teams modeling this concept. I mean, get this – every bit of coverage on this new social media experiment has been generated by Tribe Social Deck attendees. That’s right, every Tweet, every editorial, every Blog article – all generated by attendees. In fact, according to Campbell, the team never even issued a press release. (How totally brilliant is this? Of course we’re going to write about it…)
Yep, I’ll be attending a home game this Saturday July 3rd (I even get to bring a guest!) and I’ll report again following the experience. What a great way to build relationships with enthusiastic fans who are engaged in social media!
I attended the YouToo Social Media Conference a few weeks ago, and heard a number of incredible speakers including Kyle Lacy. Kyle had a great hammer of a message for us PR folks about the advent of technology that has opened the door for mind bending and expansive mobile capability, and the incredible speed at which our culture and much of the world has embraced the new mobile world.
“The World’s My Home When I’m Mobile”
We have become part of the dawn of the smart phone revolution, and frankly we all freakin’ love it. I couldn’t help but recall the immortal words of The Who, “Out in the woods, or in the city, it’s all the same to me when I’m driving free…the world’s my home when I’m mobile.”
Our phones have become our miniature mobile offices and we can use them for just about everything from alarm clocks to research centers. We can browse, email, Tweet, Facebook, LinkedIn, Blog and IM from just about any location and this has redefined the office.
How does this impact the field of communications?
For communications professionals, this is an incredible opportunity to connect, build relationships, communicate, listen and learn. Once we identify our publics and key stakeholders, and clearly define our goals and objectives, we can communicate with pretty much anyone, anywhere, at any time and in their preferred communication format, and we can also listen and learn.
Never before has the communications profession been offered such an incredible opportunity to really connect with people on an emotional level and tap into a two-way communication process that is valuable. Relationships. Yes, brothers and sisters, it’s still all about relationships. Now there are 4.6 billion cell phone users, and mobile web access is expected to exceed desktop web access within the next five years. As communications professionals, we are inevitably “going mobile”. Think about it!
Copyright, Tracy Teuscher, 2010.
The advent of robust, rapidly growing social media landscapes has made the job of determining the appropriate use of social media platforms a very big job for us PR folks. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m finding it tough to keep up.
Recent research indicates that there are already more than 100 million Blogs. FaceBook is expected to have as many as 300 million users by this fall with the fastest growing group the 55+ crowd, http://www.istrategylabs.com/facebook-demographics-and-statistics-
august-2009-55-grows-25-in-one-month/. Twitter, just launched in 2006, now has users from all over the world with 72.5% of all users joining during the first five months of 2009 http://www.sysomos.com/insidetwitter/. Because of the range and astonishing rate of growth of social media platforms, and the unique users and inherent management functions of each platform, social media management programs have recently been developed to help us keep track of it all. Well, that’s cool, but that gives us one more thing to learn how to effectively use! It’s exhausting!
What’s the good news for PR? Well, there is a lot of good news! Every social media platform available today was created to enhance interpersonal communications. After attending several educational webinars and reading every related white paper I can find on the subject (yes, I’m one of those people who read the directions before I build something), I consistently see several major rules relating to effective use of social media for professional communications, and they are consistent with the rules for PR best practice: Do your research, assess the uses of the medium by your primary stakeholders and media sources and their unique needs and goals, communicate with honesty and transparency, provide supportive data, be prepared for opposing opinions but avoid argument, and be prepared to measure and evaluate effectiveness.
Whether we are using social media to communicate with our stakeholders or we are using social media for media relations, the basic rules still apply: Do your research, be a reliable source, be an immediate responder, be a solution provider, and be honest and genuine. Learn as much as you can about the social media platform you are using and the unique needs of its users, and then make a contribution that attempts to meet those needs through ethical, meaningful communications. It is our challenge as public relations professionals to do this with an acute awareness regarding the responsibility we have to our profession, our clients, our company and our brand. By doing so, each social media environment offers a unique communications avenue to enhance awareness and build relationships. The world of social media is here to stay and it’s up to us to find our place in it – not because “everyone’s doing it”, but because we have something of value to offer. Think about it!
Copyright, Tracy Teuscher, 2009.
Tracy Teuscher is a Public Relations Consultant and President of The Buzz Maker™ Public Relations. She maintains active membership in PRSA serving the Board of Directors for the Akron Area Chapter of PRSA. She is also a member of the PRSA Independent Practitioners Alliance, the SBN Select Committee and her local Jackson-Belden Chamber of Commerce. For more information, visit http://www.thebuzzmaker.com