Extraordinarily Tone Deaf Twitter “Promo” from Vanderbilt Football

As a social media strategist or manager, it doesn’t take deep institutional memory of controversy or even a particularly sensitive ear to be a decent human being with some common sense.

Yet, here we are with another case study of common sense in short supply:

Vanderbilt University’s football twitter account has been hyping the 2015 season and today tweeted the above “promo.” Even if the team had a squeaky clean record, the language is cringe-inducing. The volume of the conversation on ending sexual violence on college campuses has increased nationwide and schools, departments, administrators and communication teams have to be listening.

However, Vanderbilt Football doesn’t have a squeaky clean record. Two of its football players were convicted of rape in January of this year.

So when the promo tweet went out, the reaction from social media was swift.

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Three minutes later it was deleted. Then the standard apology.

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Well, I think we all assumed you didn’t mean it to be about sexual assault…

Why do organizations of all shapes and sizes seem to not be able to see past the end of their noses and make mistakes like this?

My theory? No one is empowered to speak up and say, “that’s a bad idea.” Groupthink is a powerful force and if an individual feels like they’re in the minority, it can be hard to go against the flow and disrupt the perceived cohesiveness of the group.

Organizations have to foster a culture where the discussion about content includes asking and answering to, “what’s the worst that could happen?”

What does that take?

  • Creating a team that’s diverse and brings a variety of perspectives to the table. You can imagine a locker room talk scenario in the Vanderbilt social media team where this idea came up. As football “insiders,” they knew what they meant and didn’t have to explain it to each other. (Honestly, I’m not sure what they meant in a football context.)
  • Building time into the content approval process to think it through and consider the worst case scenario. I’ve been part of many teams where you’re moving so fast that it’s hard to find time to stop and think and it’s easy to make mistakes. That’s dangerous.
  • Leadership that’s committed to all of the above.

And, of course, a society that doesn’t condone and tolerate rape culture would be great, too.

How did that tweet get there? It’s not magic and unicorns.

As an intern or young professional, you may assume that because you know how to use Twitter that you are ready to step into doing so on behalf of an organization. However, strategic social media is a lot more complicated than personal social media and there’s no magic social media unicorn… 

This side of social is not necessarily intuitive and the learning the process is an important part of doing a good job for clients. We’re ramping up some social media work for a client right now and that has me thinking about the process I use and how to convey that to my team.

Continue reading “How did that tweet get there? It’s not magic and unicorns.”

Snowmageddon Week 5 Linky Loves

toddler snow

As I finish this week’s list of best of links, we’re watching another snowstorm dump inches and inches of snow. We had so much snow in December and it stayed for so long. I’m not a happy camper. Part of the reason is that, regardless of the flake factor, the work goes on. Part of that work for my students is their blogging project! Yay!

This week’s links are a bit of a hodgepodge. You can learn more info about these “linky loves” and the background on the students’ assignment here.

Continue reading “Snowmageddon Week 5 Linky Loves”

Bad Judgment Creates Twitter Crises

In the last month we’ve seen two really high profile mistweets. In fact, they occurred one right after the other in the same week.  In both cases, the tweets were apparently meant to be sent from personal accounts, but instead were sent from the corporate accounts.

In case you missed it, the first was from KitchenAidUSA. It was tweeted the night of the first presidential debate.

 

The second was from StubHub (pardon the language). You can read more about this situation here.

 

Of course KitchenAidUSA and StubHub aren’t the first corporate accounts to have this happen (remember Chrysler?). What really stood out to me about both these tweets was this:

If you’re a company that’s hired someone who would tweet EITHER of these tweets (even on a personal account), you’ve made a bad hiring decision. Both of these twitterers used unbelievably terrible judgment. These are not the kind of tweets that should be sent out ever on a social network. Ever. Much less by someone who “does” social media for a living. The first error in judgment was KitchenAid and StubHub not taking their respective social media seriously and ensuring the people in place to manage corporate channels had the skills, sense of strategy and maturity to do so.

The second error in judgment was, of course, on the part of the individuals managing those accounts.

I’ve mistweeted from client accounts before, it’s pretty easy to do (and pretty easy to avoid). In each case for me, the tweet was not relevant to that client’s audience or the kind of content typically shared on that platform. But they were not offensive. Guess why. Because I do not tweet offensive things.

The mistweet issue is certainly one that, if you’re helping manage a brand account, you have to pay attention to. But I think the bigger issue in the KitchenAidUSA and the StubHub case was that the individuals responsible for those accounts showed a complete lack of judgment and shouldn’t have been in a position of responsibility.

No, I’m not suggesting that you have to tweet like you’re a corporate brand, but everything you tweet is part of your personal brand. And that should be just as important to you as if you were tweeting on behalf of a client or an employer. It’s through your personal brand that you can demonstrate your expertise, your professionalism and your good judgment. And it’s because you bring expertise, professionalism and good judgment that you’ll be a valuable employee. One that doesn’t tweet something that results in your boss having to apologize to the President of the United States of America.

As usual, a Chipism sums it up… In an interview last week, Oregon Ducks Football Coach Chip Kelly said this about Twitter (after the Washington State coach banned his players from using it).

What do you think? How do you think about your own presence on social media and how does that relate to managing a company or client account? I’d love to hear your experience.

To Twitter on Its 5th Birthday

Twitter celebrated its 5th birthday last week. Unlike the five year old in my house, I’m fairly confident Twitter’s party didn’t have an Optimus Prime pinata and a Autobot cake… Twitter’s loss.

Milestones always seem to me like a good time to reflect and ruminate. Of course, I wasn’t there on day one, but I’ve been on Twitter for a while (just over 4 years), and it’s certainly had a big impact on me. A few things that stand out in my mind:

  • I joined in April 2007, but didn’t really start tweeting regularly  until June 2008. Like all applications, it takes time to find your groove, figure out how it fits into your work flow. Does it make life easier/better/more satisfying? My rule of thumb for new Twitter users is to give it 30 days and try to follow/be followed by about 100 people.
  • I’ve sent almost 20,000 tweets in that time. As of today (July 18), I have 5100 followers and 2,690 friends. I learned long ago that these stats had to be about my experience with Twitter and not arbitrary rules about follower ratios or similar nonsense. No, Twitter is not “all about me,” but if the tool doesn’t bring value, then why participate?
  • I average about 15 tweets a day. That’s probably pretty “noisy,” but many of my tweets are connecting to people, not just blabbing for the sake of blabbing. I’m not going to lie, there is definitely blabbing. The @’s and RTs dominate. In fact “rt” is my top word in my tag cloud, followed by the very optimistic sounding: thanks, great, new and good.
  • Twitter, for me, is my go-to platform. It’s the one I use the most and provides the most return on investment for me. Besides, I learned about four of the last five dead celebs from Twitter – now that’s value!

Check out this stellar infographic chronicling Twitter’s history. And share! What do you love (or hate) about Twitter?

by visually via

PR Sucks and Other Fallacies.

“…PR people are ruining social media…”

“…P.R. people drive me crazy…”

“…PR sucks…”

Okay, that last one is more of a paraphrase than a quote, but you get the point. PR has taken a bit of a lashing recently.

Beyond being tired, cliche and trite, the “PR Sucks” meme is an informal fallacy – a straw man argument. The assertion of  most of these pieces is that because much of PR (particularly agency work and especially over the last 20 years) has been focused on earned media (media relations), that PR people are not suited/incapable/really bad at social media strategy and implementation. That media relations models don’t work in the social world, so clearly we’re ill-suited.

But media relations of course is only one specialized function – this argument reveals more about the respective writers’ (lack of) experience or limited view of PR and its role in management than it does about the nature of the public relations profession.

The “PR Sucks” argument doesn’t get at the actual discussion we should be having. I would love to see the discussion focused on creating understanding what PR is and what it is not. Limiting public relations to any singular function – whether it’s media relations or event planning or speechwriting is not productive. The authors of such posts are being incendiary on purpose, of course. “If we flame them, they will come and comment and link back! yay!”

But in the process, the broad brush with which they paint is not flattering to them or to those they caricature. And disclaimers like, “some of my best friends are PR people…” doesn’t help.

Defining public relations is complicated to say the least. The nuance and context within which a public relations professional works is hard to pin down and even the scholars don’t agree. However, since this is my blog, I’ll offer that the best definitions of PR have three things in common:

  • The importance of research
  • The primacy of relationships
  • The central requirement of listening and responding

One of my favorite definitions is from Rex Harlow:

Public relations is the distinctive management function which helps establish and maintain mutual lines of communication, understanding, acceptance and cooperation between an organization and its publics; involves the management of problems or issues; helps management to keep informed on and responsive to public opinion; defines and emphasizes the responsibility of management to serve the public interest; helps management keep abreast of and effectively utilize change, serving as an early warning system to help anticipate trends; and uses research and sound and ethical communication as its principal tools.

Another from Carl Botan:

Using communication to adapt relationships between organizations and their publics.

Finally, from the Encyclopedia of PR (which I didn’t know existed), Robert Heath offers:

Public Relations is a set of management, supervisory, and technical functions that foster an organization’s ability to strategically listen to, appreciate, and respond to those persons whose mutually beneficial relationships with the organization are necessary if it is to achieve its missions and values.

“Beneficial” relationships are not necessarily positive or the relationships that you enjoy building and maintaining. In fact, stakeholders may be the readers and viewers of media outlets, but they may also be employees, vendors, investors, neighbors, activists, government agencies, etc. Our focus in PR is not exclusively on the customer.

Creating a shared space for dialogue and feedback has been part of our job all along. Those “shared spaces” have taken real world shapes in the form of town halls, open houses, public comment opportunities, trade shows, desk-side briefings, CEO tours, and so on. But the online equivalents are a natural fit.

The problem, it seems, is the lack of understanding and “world view” of communications management by the PR Sucks crowd. Oh, and there are plenty of PR people who also lack understanding and “world view.” They’re the spammers, the bad pitchers, the flacks, the “smile and dial” publicists. But they are also not the norm.  Nor are they public relations professionals.

I lectured this week on the history of PR and I’m always invigorated by Arthur Page’s position on the role of public relations. Every time I get to this part of the lecture, I’m struck by how clearly his six principles often resonate with me and the work that I do as a public relations practitioner.

  • Tell the truth: Let the public know what’s happening and provide an accurate picture of your organization’s character, ideals, and practices.
  • Prove it with Action: Public perception of an organization is based on 90% doing and 10% telling.
  • Listen: Understand what the organization’s publics want and need. Keep top decision makers and other employees informed about company products, policies and practices.
  • Manage for Tomorrow: Anticipate opportunities and challenges, eliminate practices that create difficulties. Generate goodwill.
  • Conduct PR as if the whole company depends on it: No strategy should be implemented without considering its impact on the public.
  • Remain Calm, Patient and Good-Humored: Lay the groundwork for PR miracles with consistent, calm and reasoned action to information and contacts. Cool heads communicate best. (my favorite)

I would love to hear from you. What do you think?

photo by Richard Sunderland

Ducklings Take Flight! My Favorite Posts from Winter Term Students

My Strategic PR Communications students were immersed in blogging this term. In fact, they wrote a minimum of fifteen posts over the course of about eight weeks. And they did a great job. Keeping up that kind of schedule is demanding, as you bloggers know. I want to showcase some of my favorite posts from the term. I have at least one favorite from each student.

Best of the Best

These six students really took flight with their blogs. The posts I’ve selected here stand out as the very best.

Daniel McCrone had two great posts. Daniel’s a really good writer, so I encourage you to hang out on his blog and check out some of his other posts, but these were my two favorites:

In Twitter Symptoms May Vary, Daniel explores the five stages of twitter from an older post by Rohit Bhargava. And in Behind Every Success There are Hundreds of Failures, Daniel philosophizes a bit on the psychology of “dead week” and how the spectre of failure ultimately drives so many students to demand the best they have from themselves.

Rachel Koppes‘ post Recipe for Twitter Success is an insightful look at how to make the most of Twitter and be someone worth connecting with. Rachel strives to make each tweet “epic” (which I love!), but also finds ways to share her personality and make meaningful connections with people. Whether you’re brand new to Twitter or just want to refresh your thinking, this is a great post.

I love Mackenzie Davids‘ blog. I know from having her in class a couple of times that her love-hate relationship with social media has not kept her from jumping in and trying things out. So her post Social Networking Relationship Status: It’s Complicated was a perfect description of how Mackenzie, and many young professionals, struggle with how much to reveal and how to use these tools effectively.

Mackenzie had a second great post recapping her experience in the portfolio review process – Practice Makes Perfect. She gives some great advice by sharing what she learned. I can tell you from looking at the evaluations from her reviewers, that whatever she did, worked.

Caitlin Jarvis has a passion for nonprofits and helping them communicate more effectively. Her blog was a terrific platform for exploring this passion and digging into how nonprofits are using social media. It’s for students like Caitlin that this assignment really “clicks.” It was clear that she has a knack for blogging and she had some outstanding posts. I encourage you to read more from her blog, but my favorite of the bunch was her recap on the Red Cross’ “rogue tweet” – Going Rogue: Mistweets Happen. Caitlin went out of her way to connect with someone at the Red Cross on Twitter to provide an added perspective to her post.

I’m not much into sports – especially professional sports – but Nicole Hyslop knows her stuff and did an outstanding job of bringing PR into her discussions. One post I particularly liked was @ProfessionalAthletes: #PleaseRead. As you might guess from the clever headline (love it!), this is a post with some Twitter tips for the pros. She has four easy tips ostensibly for pros, but are really useful for even us mere mortals.

Andy Jenness, one of the grad students in the course this term, brings such a unique perspective to his blog. As an active member of the Grande Ronde tribe, Andy took his blog as the opportunity to apply the principles we talked about in class and explore other stuff on his mind. His post Tribal Ethics was an outstanding one to me. Andy ponders how, if at all, social media changes the way the Tribe needs to think about how its ethics standards (passed pre-social media) might need to change to include online behavior. Interesting food for thought.

Also Awesome

Every one of my students this term had stand out posts. Here are some more of my faves.

Like many seniors, Stephanie Sahaigan is excited and nervous about the job search. Her post, The Real World is Approaching, takes the advice from The Hiring Hub and applies it to what she’s thinking and feeling about post-graduation.

Heather Lee loves event planning and her blog focuses on that as a career aspiration. Her post Top Keys to Success in a Hard Market has some great advice whether you are a small business owner or, like Heather, are planning a career providing services to them.

Katie Brennan, the other grad student in the course, has a diversity of interests and used her blog to share them. I really liked this post about creativity in business – What Do You Know about Mr. W? (watch the video Katie links to, it’s great!).

If you review the students’ blogs, you’ll find lots of them talk about the dreaded job search. Crystal Barce does a good job recapping and applying six tips in her post Interview Tips Every PR Rookie Should Know. A tip post is good if the tips are applicable. Crystal show how to do just that.

Ayan Jama uses her blog to demonstrate her interest in integrated campaigns. Her post Pistachios Get Celebs Crackin was useful and insightful, showing how the PR team complements advertising and branding. The particular celebs on this campaign are pretty risky, it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. Ayan has some great insights.

I love music. My favorite parts of Julia Neff’s blog were her links to and video embeds of the music she loves – which ranges from Bluegrass to Dubstep. Julia also has some great PR and communications advice for musicians, too. In her post The Seven Deadly Sins of Playing a Live Gig, she riffs on another blog of a similar title and adds her own take. The advice isn’t necessarily intuitive, which makes Julia’s insights that much more valuable. You should also see her recommendations for Bluegrass tunes to turn your frown upside down.

Reality shows about PR make me cringe. A lot. Isabelle Morse-Dias shares her guilty pleasure and ponders Kell On Earth: Beneficial to the Industry?. Isabelle raises some good questions and while she may not have an answer, it’s clear that these shows are popular as much for the PR as for the glam industries they service (like high fashion). I have to say that Kell on Earth is not nearly as bad as PoweR Girls, that show was horrid.

In You Can Pay for School, But You Can’t Buy Class, Alaina Revoir talks about George Clooney, the celebrity statesman. She has an interesting perspective and ends by saying that she hopes her future will include work for an individual or company with a vision outside themselves.

Photo by Dave Briccetti

Wishing For Spring Linky Love

What an amazing week! There’s nothing like watching a revolution via social media to bring the power of shared communication, collaboration and instant connections into full view. Besides the revolution in Egypt, I found lots of great content this week to share with you.

This infographic is very busy, but has some good info about how people are using social media in crises and emergencies. Pretty remarkable, yet very intuitive.

I’m sorry, the story of Sony’s social media blunder, to me, just doesn’t have the weight or consequence that some of the other recent social media blunders (like Kenneth Cole’s). But it is worth noting how far and wide a single tweet can travel.

This Q and As on Quora is really interesting and has some good lessons about blogger relations with some of the most read tech blogs. I’ll note that most of the answers are not from PR people, which gives them a little different perspective.

Running low on blog ideas? Some great ideas from Kenna Griffin at The KRG to convince you (and she’s right!) that blog ideas are everywhere.

How is Facebook changing the way family history is documented? How will you be remembered on Facebook? This is a really interesting post from GROW Blog and guest blogger John White.

GROW is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs. This post is another good one (a guest blog, too) about how one blog post helped Antonia Harler get a job in social media. This stuff is powerful, you guys. Listen up!  You can follow Antonia on Twitter, too.

Lindsay Olsen, my favorite PR recruiter and mom of an adorable little girl, has a post about what questions your resume should answer. I picked up a few tips here, too. Worth a read, even if you look elsewhere for your weekly response post topic.

Grammar Girl’s podcast is a great listen and this episode is on how to use first, second and third person.

Now for something a little more philosophical from Presentation Zen. Garr talks about how there are really only two mistakes we should fear – not starting and not finishing. And yes, there are beautiful photos and some slide design ideas to go with.

Finally, a couple of posts on the horrid Groupon Super Bowl ads. This one from Spin Sucks criticizes Groupon’s “apology” and this one from Liz Strauss says clever is only clever when it doesn’t offend and offers some advice for Groupon to heal its black eye.

Enjoy! and in the meantime, hopefully this spring-like weather stays around. So thankful we didn’t have snowpocalypse here. 🙂

Get Well! Linky Love

Been a bit under the weather this week, but lucky for you there’s still lots of great stuff to share. Enjoy!

Popular Shoe Company Makes Most Offensive Egypt Tweet Yet (Business Insider): Kenneth Cole made a bad, bad choice with this tweet. It’s surprising. For a company who has a focus on social responsibility and human rights – at least that was my perception – this kind of thing makes all the previous good seem inauthentic. Lots of years of good undone in one tweet.

Sizing Us & Them, A Lesson in Transparency from Rich Becker: This post is a great read with some terrific insights about the idea of transparency. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot, so this post really resonated with some of my own ideas. It’s a little “heavier” than some of the linky love posts that I send your way, but if nothing else, take some time to read it.

My Tweets are My Own is a Bogus Line from Lauren Fernandez: Just because you include a disclaimer, that doesn’t mean that your online content doesn’t reflect back on your employers, academic institutions or even your teammates. Be intentional.

The 46 Stages of Twitter: A fun, tongue-in-cheek look at the adoption cycle on Twitter.

Ten Useful Hacks to Make Things Happen from Valeria Maltoni: Valeria has ten different dilemmas/problems that we can encounter in day-to-day work like, “you miss the big picture,” or “your idea doesn’t get done” and then ten ways to overcome those problems and get things done. Great advice.

Top Six Things to Know for an Interview: Great advice from a new blog by Porter Novelli specifically directed at PR interns and entry level folks. Don’t forget to do your homework!!

There’s No Such Thing as a Social Media Campaign from Adam Vincenzini: I couldn’t agree more.

Is Blogger Outreach the Missing Part of Your PR Plan from Scott Hepburn: I really like this post. I’ve had good success (and lots of fun) working with bloggers. Scott outlines how to make it work for you.

…and because we’re in week 5 and stress is running high, I thought you might enjoy these tips on turning around a bad day and making it a good day (and yes, you can respond to this for your weekly post, J452).

image by Amy the Nurse

Grin & Bare It Linky Love

Wow! I actually had to stop looking at my feedreader. Way too much good stuff to share this week. Enjoy!

What skills (tangible or conceptual) do public relations students need as they graduate from college?

I asked this question on Quora, the newest shiny object that social media peeps are paying attention to. Check out the great responses I got back. And share your thoughts!

Please, Facebook: Help shameless recruitniks help themselves by Andy Staples at Sports Illustrated.

A tongue-in-cheek open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, asking for a Facebook shut down to save all those football recruits from themselves. An interesting look at college football and social media.

The History of Social Media from Mashable

I love infographics. This one is a timeline, going back to the first email that was sent. An interesting response post could be just to share your thoughts about how these tools have changed your life (if they have) and your place in this history.

10 Ways to Whip 20-Something Employees into Professional Shape

If you haven’t figured this out yet, there are lot of stereotypes (many rooted in truth, as stereotypes tend to be) about millennials (those under age 26 or 27). PR faculty here (including me) have some done some research on Millennials and I can tell you that this article has some great advice based on what I know. But what you do think?

Social Media to the Rescue: Getting Your Brand Back on Track When Crisis Strikes by Amber Naslund and Jay Baer

I gotta say, I’ve been impressed with the excerpts I’ve seen from this book. This one shares eight tips for dealing with crisis online. Based on my own experience, I’d agree that these are useful tips – simple, but not simplistic.

Seven Ways to Gain PR Campaign Momentum

Even if you’ve got the best idea in the world, you have to have client buy in and team motivation, this article has some tips for both.

The Four Keys to Tweet Success from Mark Schaefer

Four solid tips. Whether you write about this post or not for your weekly post, you should read it.

Can You Pass the Social Media Relations Quiz? from Kevin Dugan at Bad Pitch Blog

Too often building media lists is done half-assed. Trust me, I get crappy pitches pretty regularly. This is a great checklist for thinking about before you make the pitch.

Should I Care About Quora? from Marketing Profs

I might be a little obsessed with Quora at the moment (see first link). Here’s some reasons why it might be worth paying attention to.

(Headline story: spent two days this week at the dentist with my 4 year old. Good times.)

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