No Social Media Plan Puts Your Company at Risk

“Build it and they will come” is Hollywood fantasy, not social media reality. To grow and engage an audience, build relationships and create conversations takes sustained focus, constant attention and a strategic plan.

Social media are not free. This mindset is a barrier to creating an effective social media strategy and leaves an organization vulnerable to all sorts of problems. Managing, maintaining and evaluating social media channels takes time – a lot of it.

One of the biggest risks of not having a plan is that an organization isn’t able to allocate the right resources.

I totally get it. In small business and nonprofits, particularly, resources are tight. It’s common for an employee (and often a junior-level employee) to be given the responsibility of managing an organization’s social media channels on top of other responsibilities.

So what happens if that person doesn’t have enough time – or the support, or the skills – to manage the organization’s platforms?

Questions may go unanswered, negative feedback or reviews may go unnoticed, content is low quality or inconsistent and the results are (at best) mediocre.

Languishing social media channels – abandoned Facebook Pages, dried up Twitter streams and deserted blogs – are almost always the result of lack of time and budget for social media management.

All of the great things that social media can bring to the table quickly become lost opportunities that can actually hurt your business. If social media is a priority, it’s crucial to identify and allocate resources to effectively manage, maintain and grow the channels.

Concept of fake threat when businessman float in paper ship and sharks in water appear to be goldfish

A solid plan won’t magically add time to the day (I wish!) But it can help budget resources that align with the internal capacity of staff or find the budget to outsource help.

Ready to create a plan? I found a few resources that will get you pointed in the right direction:


Photos are important but you should relax

This week I took about 80 staff portraits for a couple of different websites – the Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation (NEDCO) is a client and I’m managing the launch of a shiny new website and I’m a long-time volunteer at HIV Alliance.

Taking that portraits in such short time frame brought up a couple of things that I thought I’d share.

My takeaways:

  • Man, we are uncomfortable in our skin. Too this… not enough that… “hope you brought an extra camera because I’ll probably break it.” Taking pictures always reminds me how beautiful people are. We have warm smiles and beautiful eyes, we’re friendly and genuine. Sure, we have a little gut, and our noses look weird at that angle, but who cares? 
  • It makes me very, very sad when say people haven’t had their photo taken in years. Biz portraits aren’t so important, but family/friend/life photos and capturing memories is. Your family and friends want photos of you. You will want photos of you. Document your lives! It’s nice to hire a professional once in a while to capture the great above-the-mantel portraits, too.

Continue reading “Photos are important but you should relax”

Ask Good Questions and Listen to the Answers: A Source’s Plea to Young Journalists

I get interviewed quite a bit. Once every couple of months or so I’m asked to speak as an “expert” about PR, social media, technology, trends or any other random number of things, mostly by student reporters and TV reporters. I love to talk, so if a reporter shows up prepared, listens and asks good questions, I truly enjoy the process.

Regardless of what kind of content you’re creating (doing journalism, writing e-newsletters or blog posts or feature articles for the company magazine), being a good interviewer will help you tell a better story.

Continue reading “Ask Good Questions and Listen to the Answers: A Source’s Plea to Young Journalists”

Celeb PR Not All Red Carpets and Paparazzi: Ask Scarlett Johansson

I can’t pretend that I don’t respond with amusement (and bemusement, for that matter) when a student says that he or she wants to do “entertainment PR.” I know it comes from our celeb-obsessed culture and they hope it means working on red carpets, setting up press junkets and coordinating with the personal stylist to ensure the dress and jewels are fierce.

I know that there’s plenty of that for the select few who rise to that level (and we’ve all seen the awkward publicists hovering and herding on the red carpet at awards shows).

Continue reading “Celeb PR Not All Red Carpets and Paparazzi: Ask Scarlett Johansson”

What Applebee’s Should’ve Done: Armchair Quarterbacking a Social Media Crisis

The armchair quarterbacking as to how Applebee’s should’ve handled their total social media meltdown last week has begun. “They should’ve…”, “If they were smart, they’d…”, “Oh, you never do that!…”

First of all, if you’re not up-to-speed on the disaster that Applebee’s created, this is an excellent recap. You should read it.

As in most cases like this, the variables are hard to track and you’ll find speculation and rumors galore (not to mention rantings and rationalizations). So, for the sake of my argument, let’s start with a basic assumption: the server violated company policy by posting the image of the customer’s receipt.

With that in mind, here’s what I see as the problems with Applebee’s responses:

  • Firing people has a greater chance of making you look like a big, stinky jerk than not firing someone. This is especially true when the “facts” are in question and the violation is something that a lot of us have done (or can certainly understand why one would do so).
  • Not having a crisis plan with a social media component is stupid. Of course, not having either a crisis plan or a social media plan to start with is also stupid. Considering the shallow, promotional blather on the Applebee’s Facebook Page prior to this incident, I’m guessing it had neither.
  • The Applebee’s response on Facebook – from the contrite posts to the verbose comments to the time stamp of the responses (3 am? Drunk Facebooking anyone? This was an unfair comment based on time stamps reflecting time zone differences.) – violated social media management 101. But when you have no strategy and you don’t know how to talk to people, that’s what happens.

Awesome photo by Decoded Science, which has a nice recap, too. 

So, what should Applebee’s have done?

  • Not fired the server. I’m sure the company panicked, was trying to “set an example” and any number of knee jerk responses. Likely the action was taken by the franchisee and not the company (indicating the franchisee experience with social media and access to it is totally divorced from the corporate presence), adding a layer of complexity. But not firing the server would’ve saved a lot of headache. 
  • Issued an update early (as early as possible!) that said something like, “We value our relationships with our employees and our guests. We wouldn’t be here without them. We feel compelled to share our view on the photo shared by one of our servers. At Applebee’s, we’re committed to doing the right thing for everyone involved. We have apologized to the guest. In addition, we will immediately begin social media training with all our employees across every Applebee’s franchise, starting with the one in St. Louis where this occurred. We want our employees to be smart about risks not only to our business, but to their customers and to themselves. We also want employees who are empowered to share.”
  • Created a social media policy, which could be shared on social media channels.
  • Been transparent, authentic and, yes, human, in all its interactions.
  • Followed up with social  media training and demonstrated the company’s commitment in tangible, visible ways. Like maybe sharing photos featuring and taken by employees?

By responding quickly and framing of the discussion, rather than letting it get completely out of control, Applebee’s gets to come out looking like the good guy instead of the big, stinky jerk. By treating everyone involved – the server, the guest, the Facebook fans – like people, the conversation would’ve stayed civil and “on topic.”

Taking a longer-term view, Applebee’s clearly had no social media policy that was relevant to employees, had very little strategy in place (how many photos of food & promotional nonsense can you post?) and does not appear to have a crisis communications plan that included social media.

As with most things like this, there were a lot of things Applebee’s should’ve been doing well in advance of any incident occurring to build goodwill and provide a culture in which something like this wouldn’t have happened (because employees understood their role) or if it did the company could’ve activated a plan to minimize damage and maintain relationships.

Come sit in the armchair with me and do a little quarterbacking. What would your advice to Applebee’s be?

Shining the Spotlight on the Best of Student Posts from Winter Term

The term has come to a close and we’re all off on spring break at the University of Oregon. As usual, in J452, our students blogged twice a week for seven weeks. It’s so fun to watch students find their voice and really get into the groove of blogging. This term was no different. The students did a fantastic job. I was consistently impressed with the quality of their posts.

Special note: This term, I had the pleasure of team teaching this class with Mandy Drakeford, our newest adjunct instructor. So the list is a bit longer than normal (we had 32 students between the two of us). But I hope you’ll take the time to check some of them out.

Photo via flickr by /dam

Finally, a New Conversation!

I am beside myself. I’m so excited about my spring term Strategic Social Media class that I think I am starting to annoy people. My reasons for this enthusiasm are threefold:

  1. I get to design my own class about a topic that I love.

    I love social media. I am not so good at the technical stuff, that’s not what I mean. I love the idea of social media. The visionary philosophies and the challenging discussions that go on every day about the whys and the whens. I love the potential of social media and I am fascinated by the drawbacks.

  2. The level of discussion is not about how-tos and technical aspects with a dash of strategy, it’s a whole new level. That means that we’re ready for a whole new level.

    The first time we talked about blogs in my principles of PR class, I invited a guest speaker. I had the sense blogging was important, but didn’t know much about it (this was 3 years ago). The next term, I tried the lecture on my own. The looks were glazed over and the response was tepid. I often get a similar response on day one in Advanced PR Writing, but by the end of the term I have a roomful of evangelists. That’s exciting to me. It’s these evangelists that are ready to take the next step with a class like this one.

  3. I get to challenge myself with new ideas and new conversation with a roomful of students who are interested and excited about this topic. People who register are doing so on purpose. I expect great dialogue and look forward to new connections.

If you’re interested in the course, or just following along, you can check out the blog (in progress!). If you’re a UofO student, the class details are in the schedule. It’s a J4/512 class on Mondays and Wednesdays at noon. I hope to see some of you there.

Waggener Edstrom Staffing Launches Facebook Page

Amybeth Hale (aka Research Goddess) announced this week the launch of the Waggener Edstrom Staffing Facebook page. From Amybeth:

I am happy to announce that the Waggener Edstrom Staffing Facebook page, Careers with Waggener Edstrom, is live! If you are a Facebook member, I would encourage you to add this page to your Favorites, become a Fan, and/or share the link with your Facebook PR contacts – check it out!

Some of the items featured on the page include:

  • A photo album introducing the members of the Staffing Team
  • A listing of upcoming events at which various staffing team members will be in attendance (viewable once you log in)
  • Our WE Connect blog RSS feed, showcasing several of our Waggener Edstrom bloggers
  • Notes listing some of our current agency openings
  • A list of our agency awards
  • Several quotes from our candidates complimenting our Staffing team
  • …and more to come.

We have lots of duckies at WaggEd in the Northwest. Check out this Facebook page and get in the know.

Guest Post: Surviving a Dull Economy

This guest post is from Anthony Cain (’06), currently an account executive at Staccato Design in Portland, Oregon. He posted this as a Facebook note and has graciously agreed to let me share it with you here. Want to connect with Anthony? You can find him on Facebook or via email at: anthony(at)

After hearing countless tales of unemployment woes and an overall industry hiring freeze, that I feel it is important to reach out to those who may be losing hope of finding that golden job.

Those of us who are lucky enough to be employed during these slow financial times want you to know it hasn’t always come easy. Most of us have had jobs and left jobs, but overall, we have all had to keep motivated and keep believing in our chances of finding that perfect fit. Its all in how you market yourself. Since most of you are graduates of the University of Oregon, you should know- the industry wants you! I have found that a degree from the UO, especially in Business or Journalism, will get you far.

Just keep submitting those resumes. Keep leveraging those contacts, both students and faculty alike. Set up informational meetings. Take an executive to coffee. Believe me, it’s all we drink!

Finally, never give up! You should always be networking! I will list a few helpful organizations that could potentially assist you in finding that great job. I will also tag a few industry ‘insiders’ that may have some helpful insight.

Good luck!

Whirlwind Week: Updates Coming

Just a few short days after my last post, I was called on a difficult assignment. Three wildland firefighters injured in a helicopter crash in the Trinity Alps in northern California, seven missing and feared dead. Their employer, Grayback Forestry, devastated and being bombarded by media calls. I partnered again with my friend Leslie Habetler and we answered the phone and answered questions non-stop for 4 or 5 days. I arranged interviews and spoke on the company’s behalf.

I’ll have several “after action” posts, I’m sure, detailing my experience and what lessons I can share with my readers. Right now, I’m a little exhausted and trying to catch my breath from being on site at the southern end of Oregon for 10 days.

In the meantime, the Medford Mail Tribune had a terrific story and image gallery of the memorial service from Friday, August 15 that was a moving tribute for the men of the Iron 44. Take a look.

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