What Does One of Those Plastic Bank Tube Thingies Have to Do with PR?

Nothing really.  But an incident that recently occurred involving a plastic bank tube – or pneumatic carrier, as it’s referred to by pneumatic carrier manufacturers – brings to mind why good customer service at the most basic level really counts and can even avert a PR fiasco.

Recently, as I was trying to put the plastic tube back in its holder after depositing money at a branch of my bank, the tube slipped out of my hand and rolled under my SUV.  I tried to open my door to retrieve it, but the holder was in the way.  So I told the teller what happened and that I would pull up to try to retrieve it.  Then, I heard a loud crunch.  I had completely smashed the tube with my tire, and before I could get out to retrieve it, a furious bank security guard chased after me, yelling about my demolishing the tube.  I told him that I had already informed the teller about this situation and that she knew I was trying to return it to its holder.  I then walked back to the drive-through intercom system, and the teller told me that it wasn’t a problem; they had replacement tubes on hand.

So where’s the PR part of this story?  Well, thinking that I was a first-time carrier crushing offender, I posted my story on popular social media channels.  Soon my “friends” and “followers” came forward, one even confessing he had been too embarrassed to share his story (involving a pharmacy drive-through carrier) until I posted mine.

And then the questions came about where I bank.  Being sensitive to my fellow PR colleagues who often are forced to clean up social media messes, I avoided the “Where was this angry security guard?” inquiries, along with the questions about  why the security guard reacted the way he did.

But had I posted the name of the bank, or even created an “I dropped a bank tube at (insert bank name here) and was chewed out by a security guard” Facebook fan page, well, it could have caused a bit of a PR headache.  At the same time, the bank’s PR pros, who would ideally catch the chatter while monitoring the social media sites, could quickly respond.

Still, it’s best for employees at every level, especially those dealing directly with consumers, to always remember that one disgruntled customer can impact the views of hundreds and even thousands of social media users within just a few hours.

Everyone is watching these days!

Posted by Lisa Dimond Vasquez, Principal, DoubleDimond Public Relations.

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Protecting Your Reputation: No “Spin” Involved

Mark Twain is said to have coined the phrase,  “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.”  Twain died in 1910.  One wonders what he would have thought of a world dominated by social media because his comment is truer today than ever.

Just a decade ago, it was a much different situation.  Public relations counselors would occasionally get calls from potential clients who needed to dispel a bad reputation – mostly earned, unfortunately.  This is not the best time to contact a PR firm.  It’s much easier to begin a PR firm-client relationship with a company that already has a good reputation – or even a reputation that is essentially a blank slate.

The problem isn’t that a company’s bad reputation cannot be turned around; it just takes time and is often hindered if a company doesn’t want to change its practices – just the negative perception its practices have generated.  In these cases, the PR firm ends up spending a lot of time trying to convince company executives that there are no magic wands that can make reality disappear.  The company actually has to change the way it does things.  Perhaps due to the overuse of the word “spin” to describe what PR people do, these company executives expect a miraculous turnaround.

But now, it can be even worse for companies who are not prepared.  Disgruntled former employees, disappointed customers, and competitors can fill online “review” sites with negative comments – earned or not.  Damaging blog posts, photos and videos can spread to literally millions of people before their content can be disputed or explained away.

Entire businesses have sprung up to deal with online reputation management.

And yet, the basic PR approach still applies:  Build a positive reputation to begin with, and it will be easier to control any attacks on your reputation down the road.  No “spin” involved.

Posted by Margot Dimond

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Mobile Marketing for Your Business

Ever wonder what all those shoppers in the mall are doing on their phones?  They are probably trying to make a purchase and haven’t yet found what they are looking for.  They are checking their phones to see if they can find what they need in a nearby location.

Hang out with a group of smartphone users, and you will see that consumers are increasingly comfortable purchasing on-the-go.  It’s called mobile marketing, and your business could benefit from this cost-effective marketing option.mobile marketing

Think about it:  When you are out shopping for a specific item, that’s when you are most likely to consult your smartphone to find the best place to buy it.  And that’s when a business has the best chance of selling that item to you – that very day!

Max Byer has just posted this collection of mobile marketing statistics on the Business 2 Community website.  Here are a few points that stood out for me.

  • Worldwide, more people own a cell phone than own a toothbrush.
  • More than half of all mobile ads result in a phone call.
  • A mobile unfriendly site will send a majority of customers to a competitor’s site.
  • Half of all smartphone owners have scanned a QR code, with almost one-fifth of the scanners making a purchase.

You can read the entire list here.

Posted by Margot Dimond

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Nonprofit Organizations and Social Media

Nonprofit OrganizationsNonprofit organizations are lagging in the use of social media for outreach to their constituents, according to a recent survey by software and service company Sage, covered in an article in this week’s PR News.

Almost two-thirds of respondents in the study said they don’t use any digital tools to manage social media programs. Not surprisingly, more than half of the respondents weren’t happy with their social media efforts.

Since social media marketing would seem to be made for nonprofit organizations and their communications programs, this is an unfortunate situation.  But from my point of view as someone who has handled public relations for many nonprofit organizations – large and small – there is no mystery as to why this is happening.

While there are many large nonprofit organizations, there are also many more than have limited budgets and operate with a small, multi-tasking administrative staff whose work lives are stretched pretty thin.  Very few charities have an in-house public relations person – let alone a communications staff.

Outsourcing these activities is the answer for these organizations, but they often opt for pro bono work by an outside agency, where necessity dictates their taking a back seat to paying clients.

To be effective, social media marketing takes strategic planning, time and dedication.

It can be a vicious circle:  nonprofit organizations who don’t communicate with their publics on a regular basis miss out on fundraising opportunities, and lack of fundraising opportunities keeps them from adequately funding their communications programs.

Nonprofit organizations that eventually become financially stable have one thing in common: they have leaders who think big and look to the future.  they invest in a public relations program – and in today’s world, that program includes social media.

Post by Margot Dimond

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New Takes on Social Media Users

A couple of interesting news items on social media came across my desk today.  One was an article in a business journal about a social media contest the publication is sponsoring.  It noted that of the 32 entries it had received to-date, 28 were from small businesses.  Very few of the larger companies the writer contacted for the article were actively pursuing social media.  Of those who did, most reported using it to communicate with employees or existing customers.

Social MediaThis has been our experience as well.  Social media is a boon for smaller businesses, for whom traditional advertising and marketing can be cost-prohibitive.  It’s an inexpensive way to reach potential customers quickly and efficiently and, in many cases, it can lead to rapid increases in sales and profits.  It also works well for larger companies that sell directly to consumers.

For large business-to-business firms, social media is less likely to produce immediate results.  The hierarchical structure of most large companies can make them less flexible when it comes to communicating, and flexibility is the hallmark of social media messaging.

The second piece of news is a report on Facebook fan pages in PR Daily. Apparently, brand promotion through Facebook is a dud with millennials – those cherished consumers born between 1980 and 2000.  According to a recent survey of college students, while 86 percent of millennials visit Facebook every day, only 1 percent visit a brand page daily.  If they are fans on Facebook, it’s usually for an organization they are personally involved with, such as a nonprofit organization or a sorority.  This seems to be yet another example of social media tools being used to communicate with people who already know you.

Posted by Margot Dimond

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What social media sites are best for my company?

Social Media SitesI worry that I’m falling behind in doing social media marketing for my company.  Just when I think I have a handle on all the types of social media, I hear of new ones and wonder if I should try them.  What’s the best way to decide what’s best for my company?

I can understand your confusion; it seems there is an endless array of sites out there, and it can get confusing and frustrating to try to keep up.  But it sounds like you are approaching this challenge tactically, rather than strategically.

Think of this as you would a home improvement project.  Your social media sites are your tools.  Do you look at the tools you have and decide what you can do with them?  Or do you look at what needs to be done, make a plan of action, then get the needed tools?  I think most of us would agree that looking at what needs to be achieved is the way to go.

It’s the same with promoting your company.  Determine what you would need to achieve your goals.

  • What kind of company are you promoting?
  • What products or services does it offer?
  • Who is your target customer?
  • When you communicate with them, what response do you want?

Once you do that, you’ll have a better idea of what social media sites will actually produce results for you.

The Social Media Examiner asked some of their top social media specialists for their 2012 predictions.  If you can wade through all 30 predictions, you’ll find some good insights.

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Pinning down copyright issues

Pinterest has become one of the fastest-growing social networks on the web, with millions of users.  The site allows you to share images from the web using a “pin it” button.  Your images are then published on your Pinterest “board” – a collection of images centered around a topic that you have chosen, such as home design or recipes.

copyright issuesHowever, the nature of the site is bringing up issues of copyright, leading some to fear being sued.  As has been widely reported, one lawyer/photographer deleted all of her Pinterest boards after looking into the legality of Pinterest.  One of the things that concerned her most was Pinterest’s Terms of Use statement, which includes this sentence on “Limitation of Liability”:

“YOU ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT, TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, THE ENTIRE RISK ARISING OUT OF YOUR ACCESS TO AND — USE OF THE SITE, APPLICATION, SERVICES AND SITE CONTENT REMAINS WITH YOU.”

In short, if an artist or photographer sues for copyright infringement, you can be held responsible for hiring a defense lawyer for yourself – and even for Pinterest!

Some of us remember when record labels began suing users of the Napster site for violating copyright by sharing music.  Will this go that far?

These legal concerns have led Pinterest to create a “nopin” HTML meta tag that Website can add to opt our of having their photos and media pinned.  That seems to put the burden on the creator of the work, not the user, so it’s unclear how that will work out.

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The Importance of Being Silent

Two things happened this morning that made me think about our new “very connected” world.  The first was a (thankfully, positive) discussion with a journalist about something that had happened years ago, but that is still present on the Web.  “Nothing ever goes away anymore,” he said.  So true.

The second was an incident of someone I knew, planning to forward an outraged response to an email she had received, but accidentally sending her response to the original sender instead.  Ouch!

In the first instance, it does amaze me how a simple Google search of my name produces items from jobs and volunteer activities long forgotten by me – but not by the Web. In the second instance, who hasn’t meant to forward an email with a comment to a friend or business associate, yet accidentally sent it to the originator?

We have a tendency to think that famous people – actors, politicians, media figures – are the only ones who have to worry about this.  After all, they have such a large audience, and in many cases, a wrong phrase or embarrassing video gone viral can put the brakes on their careers.

But we all have audiences we care about, and we should be mindful that what we do and say may become public.  Obviously, we should behave well anyway; but a slip in demeanor nowadays can have wide-ranging and long-lasting consequences.

As public relations counselors, we’re often tasked with encouraging our clients to communicate – to tell their story, present their message and respond quickly and clearly in a crisis.  But we now have to add a caution to our communication trainings.  After all, anything you say publicly “can and will be used,” will never be forgotten, and may define your forever.

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Don’t let this happen to you!

In a recent Twitter campaign, McDonald’s sought to promote the fact that the chain bought fresh produce from farmers.  First came the #MeetTheFarmers hashtag on Twitter; later in the day, the company launched #McDStories to generate positive stories from consumers.  Almost immediately users began tweeting stories about food with worms, food poisoning, and other such appetizing fare.  The large number of negative tweets caused a flurry of press coverage, embarrassing the company.

McDonald’s is not alone in experiencing a social media disaster.  Australia’s Qantas, car-maker Honda, and clothier Kenneth Cole are just a few more examples of corporate social media marketing plans gone awry.

Social media offers a great new venue for widespread exposure – especially for companies selling to consumers.  But it’s a double-edged sword that can also offer an opportunity for widespread embarrassment – as disgruntled employees, disappointed customers or professional gripers vent their frustrations in a very public way.

Understandably, seeing campaigns such as McDonald’s fall apart may make a marketing executive shy away from using social media to promote his company’s products or services.  But this type of unintended consequence can be avoided by remembering two important things:

1.  Have a Strategy.  As with any other public relations/marketing tool, you should know why you are doing the campaign.  Does it advance your brand?  Is it a good fit with your marketing goals?  Does it reach the right people with the right kind of message?  All of these questions should be asked before any campaign – of any type – is launched.

2.  Be an Emergency Manager.  A big part of emergency management takes place before the crisis happens.  Good emergency managers think, “What’s the worst that could happen?”  If there is a good chance your brand could be hijacked and trashed, you may want to try something else.  Even if you can’t think of a worst case scenario, have a crisis plan ready for handling any negative fallout.

Finally, monitor your campaign on a regular basis, so you will know how it’s going, and be ready to spring into action if things go awry.

There are always risks when doing social media marketing, but if well-planned and monitored, it may be well worth it for your company.

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How will your company use social media?

Company social mediaI’m in charge of new business development for our firm, and my son, who does social media for a website design firm, says our company needs to be active on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  I’m not so sure.  What do you think?

Social media marketing is a relatively new and exciting development in the world of public relations.  It offers a dynamic set of social networking tools – blogs, microblogs, social bookmarketing, media and content sharing sites – that can be used to promote your business.  What, if any, of these tools you will want to use depends on the kind of company you represent and your overall communication goals.

In a recent survey of its members, PR Boutiques International, an international network of boutique public relations firms, 44 percent of respondents cited the power of social media as the major trend impacting communications in 2012.  However, rather than predicting that social media will be the PR “magic bullet” for all clients, respondents viewed it as a tool that must be strategically integrated into the enterprise’s communication program.  (Full disclosure:  DoubleDimond is a member of PR Boutiques International.)

There are endless creative ways these resources can be used.  Just make sure you use them strategically and assign someone with the responsibility for managing the function.

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