PRep school

A discourse and navigation of the tricks, tools, strategies, evolution and revolution of the social web in Public Relations

Good Advice Isn’t Hard To Find

A while back, I was asked by my work place to put on a seminar for a group of teens on social media. My first thought: what could I possibly teach teenagers about social media?

While they are too old for their birth announcements to contain hashtags (#itsagirl), this is certainly a generation who has spent/is spending a significant part of their formative years cultivating themselves online. Maybe they should be putting on a social media seminar for ME.

However, after doing a general survey of several teen facebook pages and twitter feeds, it was clear that some of these youths needed a good talking to. The amount of questionable content, profanity, poor grammar and general useless noise being sent out into the social-sphere was appalling.

As a starting point, I decided to put out a call on Facebook. What advice would you give teens on how to responsibly use social platforms? What do they NEED to know? In fine form I conveniently I received ten wisdom-filled responses. Here they are below:

“Facebook friends,
Tomorrow I’m teaching a seminar on the responsible use of Social Media to a group of teens. Knowing what you know, what advice would you offer them?”

  1. Two words: privacy settings
  2. Be weary of what you post online as it will be there forever
  3. Be prepared to accept that people will share with others outside your group of friends pictures, posts, and comments that you’ve written…
  4. Don’t forget how to converse face to face, and I don’t mean “facetime”
  5. We haven’t seen a full generation of social media usage - so we don’t know what the implications will be when our entire lives are online. So, be careful and respect your current and future self when you use it. But also embrace it, as it is the new standard for communication (apart from face-to-face of course). Have fun!
  6. Think through if what they post will hurt other peoples feelings
  7. Think about how what you show online might implicate decision-making in the future - university, career, relationships. People get passed over or lose their jobs, they get kicked out of school… and let’s not forget politicians and celebrities sharing nude photos…
  8. Naked pictures will always, ALWAYS come back to haunt you.
  9. Many employers check Facebook pages before deciding whether or not to interview/hire someone.
  10. Be accountable - NOT anonymous

On Brand, Character and Reputation

“A good reputation is more valuable than money.”

~ Publilius Syrus, Roman writer 85-43BC

            Remember the movie ‘Can’t Buy Me Love,’ starring teenage Patrick Dempsey?  What a great film.  For me, the storyline of this 80’s romantic comedy outlined one of the first examples that I can recall of an intentional attempt to build reputation.  Patrick Dempsey, a typical high school geek, is looking for a way into the ‘cool crowd’.  Through a series of events he discovers that his gateway into the social elite is by paying the most popular girl in school to hang out with him.  By creating the perception of a relationship with a ‘cool’ girl and latching onto her already well-established ‘cool’ brand, his reputation skyrockets from dud to stud.  Of course turmoil ensues when the couple’s secret agreement is uncovered.  However, at the end of the day, girl falls in love with boy’s true character and despite his low social standing they are able to drive happily into the sun set on a riding lawn mower.  Precious.

            Though a bit of a stretch from reality, all the basic lessons are there: character is who you are, defined by what you do; brand is the persona you present; and reputation is how the outside world perceives the sum of these two things.  Whether applied to a fictional movie character or a global corporation, the root of these definitions remains the same. 

 

            What we know about reputation is that it is valuable.  Though an intangible asset, a good reputation can produce any number of tangible benefits.  From building affective and behavioural loyalty, to attracting and retaining top talent, to enhancing goodwill or helping to sustain an organization through tough times.[1]  Though an organization cannot fully control the direction its reputation takes, it can certainly cultivate the right character and brand to assist in creating the desired, and hopefully accurate, perception from its stakeholders.  

            The character of an organization is intrinsically rooted in its values and beliefs.  It is composed of the attributes and features that make-up an organization, setting it apart from its competitors.  Character is reflected in they way an organization conducts itself, both publically and privately.  It is the true nature of a company, before public perception is formed and after it is stripped away.  When viewing character in regards to public relations, Robert L. Heath and Lan Ni tell us “(an organization’s) character depends on how well it can align its interests with those of consumers, audiences, and publics.”[2]  More simply defined by Basu and Palazzo, “character is the way an organization goes about making sense of its world.”[3]

            Though the nature of character does not concern itself with peripheral opinions and beliefs, reputation does nothing but. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines reputation as being the “overall quality or character as seen or judged by people in general.”[4]  Though a reputation may be reflective of character, it is not always an accurate representation.  An organization may do everything within its power to engineer a reputation for itself, but at the end of the day reputation belongs in the eyes of the beholder.  Perception may not always result in truth, but it will certainly be the root of reputation. American basketball coach, John Wooden summarized it best when he said, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

 

            Like character, brand is another tool created internally to support reputation.  An organization’s brand is its public face, encompassing the goods and services provided to differentiate it from its competition.  Defined by the American Marketing Association as “a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.  A brand may identify one item, a family of items, or all items of that seller.”[5] With this in mind, brand also has the capability to represent a set of standards to which a company should strive to maintain or surpass.[6]  The institute for public relations states that, “A good corporate brand, helps to identify the core competencies, assets, values and key attributes of the organization.”[7]  This can allow an organization the opportunity to expand its reputation beyond the original goods or services provided.

 

            Understanding the importance of reputation effects how business is conducted, how objectives are achieved, and how an organization will present its deeds and misdeeds to its publics. Doorley and Garcia define reputation with the formula:

Reputation = Sum of Images = Performance + Behaviour + Communication[8]

Though it may look simple enough, if a single element of performance, behaviour or communication is askew, a reputation can quickly move from strong to weak, good to bad, bad to worse.  In discussing reputation for the Institute for Public Relations, Elliot S. Schreiber examines reputation from the points of view of the organization and the stakeholder: From the perspective of the organization, reputation is an intangible asset that allows the company to better manage the expectations and needs of its various stakeholders, creating differentiation and barriers vis-à-vis its competitors. From the perspective of stakeholders, reputation is the intellectual, emotional and behavioral response as to whether or not the communications and actions of an organization resonate with their needs and interests.”  Schreiber goes on to say that, “Reputation may be the most important asset entrusted by shareholders and boards to the CEO and management team. As an intangible asset, reputation can help frame and manage expectations, needs and interests of stakeholders, and can be used to create barriers to competition. Squandered, it is an asset that is difficult to rebuild since it is based primarily on perceptions and realized or unrealized expectations.”[9]

 

            Reputation is so vulnerable to outside factors.  Though the best approach to achieving a good reputation is transparency, integrity, and an alignment with stakeholder concerns, an organization can only go as far as building a foundation from which the hope is a good reputation will emerge.   The Arthur W. Page society defines a ‘good reputation with the public’ as being established in the public mind as an institution of character that functions in the public interest[10].

            When comparing the ways reputation has been defined, the common thread is the idea that a character reflective of organizational values will be the largest contributing factor to building a reputation.  If a company claims be practicing corporate social responsibility but fails to engage in a dialogue with its community stakeholders, its eventual reputation will reflect its inconsistencies.  However, if an organization employs best business practices, both internally and externally, with integrity and a genuine interest in aligning its goals with those of its publics, then its reputation will be a valuable, and hopefully profitable, asset. 

 

            When all is said and done, my preferred definition and understanding of reputation comes from The Arthur W. Page Society’s guiding principles address the foundation of reputation by simply stating: Prove it with action.  Public perception of an organization is determined 90 percent by what it does and 10 percent by what it says.[11]

 



[1] Boyd Neil, CDPR114 class lecture, January 11, 2012

[2] Robert L. Heath and Lan Ni, “Corporate Social Responsibility,” Institute for Public Relations, February 28, 2010, accessed February 12, 2012, http://www.instituteforpr.org/topics/corporate-social-responsibility/

[3] K. Basu and G. Palazzo, “Corporate Social Responsibility: A Process Model of Sensemaking,” The Academy of Management Review, 33 (2008): 124

[4] “Reputation,” Merriam-Webster, accessed February 11, 2012, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/reputation.

[5] “Dictionary,” American Marketing Association Marketing Power, accessed February 11, 2012, http://www.marketingpower.com/_layouts/Dictionary.aspx?dLetter=B.

[6] “Define Branding,” Brick Marketing, accessed February 11, 2012, http://www.brickmarketing.com/define-branding.htm.

[7] “Elliot S. Schreiber, “Reputation,” Institute for Public Relations, December 2, 2008, Accessed February 12, 2012, http://www.instituteforpr.org/topics/reputation/.

[8] John Doorley and Helio Fred Garcia, “Reputation Management.” In Reputation management: The key to successful public relations and corporate communication (2nd edition).  (Abingdon: Routledge, 2011), 18.

[9] “Elliot S. Schreiber, “Reputation,” Institute for Public Relations, December 2, 2008, accessed February 12, 2012, http://www.instituteforpr.org/topics/reputation/.

[10] “The Page Philosophy,” The Arthur W. Page Society, accessed February 11, 2012, http://www.awpagesociety.com/about/background-history/the-page-philosophy/.

[11] “The Page Principles,” The Arthur W. Page Society, accessed February 11, 2012, http://www.awpagesociety.com/about/the-page-principles/.

The age of Overreaction?

Source: greenlikebathwater.tumblr.com via Jennifer on Pinterest

All Apologies

Corporate blogs have become a platform of choice for executives to address issues concerning their companies and organizations.  As a tool for reputation management a corporate blog gives a company and its leadership a personal, more human voice to speak with its audience.  A blog from the CEO or top management sends a message that an issue is being taken seriously and requires the attention of the people in charge in a timely manner.

Taking inspiration from a recent example in the news of an ESPN mobile headline entitled ‘a chink in the amour,’ in reference to rising NBA super star Jeremy Lin, I have composed an apology blog post that addresses a company’s unconscious use of a derogatory term.  In regards to Jeremy Lin, though I don’t believe the term was employed in a racist manner, the ethnic sensitivities still exist.  The statement acknowledging the issue and an apology by ESPN was posted on the ESPN website three days after the incident occurred.

In order to avoid causing offense to any readers, the corporate apology example I have drafted is in reference to a fictional line of cosmetics, ‘Cake Face & Co.’ and the release of a nail polish line called ‘Dead Head’.  Unfortunately, the name of the line has sparked an unexpected outcry and criticism from the ‘living dead’ (zombie) community as well as living dead supporters.  If you are a zombie and have taken offense to the term ‘dead head’, please accept the apology below as truth.

Cake Face & Co. Cosmetics sincerely apologizes for insensitivity in the naming of nail polish line: A message from the CEO

To our dear and valued customers,

Please accept our apologies for the inappropriate nature of the recent naming of the ‘Dead Head’ nail polish line.  Though there is no excuse for our insensitivity in using this term, please know that no malice was intended in the naming.  We now understand the sensitivity surrounding this term and do not wish to cause further offense to our customers, both living dead and otherwise.

As a response to the feedback we’ve received since releasing the line, we have decided to immediately withdraw all nail polishes associated with the line as well as stop all advertisements for the product.  Although this does not rectify our poor judgment in releasing the line, my hope is that it will demonstrate how seriously we are taking your concern.

Though upsetting, this issue has been a loud wake up call to Cake Face & Co.’s lack of understanding in regards to the living dead population, both as fellow citizens as well as active customers.  In order to ensure that a similar situation does not occur again our executive staff has been in close conversations with representatives from the Living Dead Alliance and Living Dead Citizens Group.  Our hope is that these discussions will result in educating our company to the needs and views of the living dead so that we are better equipped to serve them in the future.

I would also like to thank our customers for keeping us accountable in this issue.  Please continue to do so as we are committed to providing a high quality, innovative product that can be enjoyed without inclusion.  Despite this bump in the road, we are thankful for a customer base that has both supported us in our successes but also been firm with us when we have failed to live up to the high expectations set before us.

With sincerity,

Victoria Cake - CEO, Cake Face & Co. Cosmetics

(Cake Face & Co.’s demographic profile for the living dead customer):

Source: geektyrant.com via Jennifer on Pinterest

My hope is that the apology issued by Victoria Cake was able to meet each point of “The formula" laid out by Rosanna M. Fiske of the Harvard Business Review:

"Keep it simple. Get to the point and don’t deviate. Carefully consider the goals of your message: Is it to atone for your company’s errors, or is it a veiled attempt to appease investors? If it’s the latter, don’t even bother. You’ll just upset your customers and further muddle your company’s message.

Mean what you say, and say what you mean. If you’re truly sorry for your company’s actions, say so and leave it at that. By adding multiple clarifying phrases and long, self-lauding explanations, CEOs risk further backlash. Customers view these as “excuses” and only that. In the case of Netflix, Hastings should have clearly said, “Here is what we will be doing to fix this problem” and left it at that.

Reaffirm your company’s core values and commitments. In a crisis, many will jump to ask how a company could have gone so wrong. When faced with these circumstances, business leaders should reaffirm their commitment to the values that underpin their companies. People already know your business has gotten off-track. Now is the time to communicate how you intend to bring the company back to the values that guided it to success in the first place.”

For more information/examples on corporate blogs as a tool for reputation management:

Using corporate blogging as crisis management

Social Media Today – 10 best corporate blogs

Marriot stays committed to global travel after hotel bombing:

Five Reasons why corporate blogs fail

Top 5 corporate blog apologies

Kayak: We handled this poorly

Top CEO Appologies and lessons learned from them:

Clay Shirky talks on “How social media can make history”

"Now that media is increasingly social, innovation can happen anywhere that people can take for granted the idea that we are all in this together"

It just makes sense

A great quote by my Social Media professor, Boyd Neil, in regards to the value of a Community Manager to an organization, from his blog post Wanted: More Community Managers:

if you accept there is power in harnessing the energy of committed people — and their social graphs — to further your product strategy, service or cause, then giving someone the mandate to be your voice in online communities, to listen, share and help members of these communities just makes sense.

A Measure of Influence

We tweet, we post, we blog, but the question is, do we have influence?

Luckily there is a way to answer this question with several measurement tools offered online.  Probably the most well known tool available is Klout, but social media measurement tools are not only gaining in popularity, they are also multiplying in number.  Here’s a look at a few different (mostly FREE) options one can use to see how far their influence can reach:

1.)  Klout is making quite a name for itself.  In a recent article from Fast Company, Klout is named to have attracted marketers form HP, Disney, and Nike.  They even assisted luxury car maker Audi in their #progressis twitter campaign during this year’s Super Bowl.

What Klout Does:  Klout tracks activity on ten different social networks – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, FourSquare, YouTube, Blogger, Tumblr, Flickr, Instagram and Last.fm – to get a better understanding of a user’s online profile. 

To get your measurement sync your accounts or enter your username, and Klout will generate a ‘Score Analysis’ to reflect your influence according to: your True Reach, your Amplification, and your Network.

Klout will also give you a break down of topics you are most influential in, the people you most influence and who you are most influenced by, and most interestingly - your ‘Klout Style’.  According to Klout, I am a ‘Networker’.

2.)  Brand new to the measurement market is Kred.  Kread makes the claim of being ‘the first totally transparent social scoring system to evaluate influence among communities and reward generously’.  Since I have to wait for an invitation to join Kred, all I can do is relay information from their slide show:

Kred - Measurable influence. We all have Influence Somewhere View more presentations from PeopleBrowsr

According to an article on techcrunch.com, “Every person or account on Twitter has a Kred score, which is made up of two parts: the influence score and the outreach score. Your influence score is a measure of your ability to inspire others. It is a number on a scale from 1 to 1,000, and is based on how often your tweets are retweeted, how many new followers you are gaining, and how many replies you generate.”  The article also points out that what differentiates Kred from Klout is that Kred breaks down the point allowing you to see how each tweet is valued. 

Kred also takes into account things like degrees, honors, awards, and certificates and adds these achievements to your Kred score.

3.) Peer Index a another popular measurement tool, like the others it will build a profile that tells you:

  • PeerIndex: a measure of your online social capital
  • Comparisons: compare yourself to your friends and peers

But, its niche in helping you understand what topics you and others are influential about by measuring your:

  • Topic fingerprint: a snapshot of what you talk about
  • Topic resonance: how much other people find what you share valuable

I decided to test this out with my friend Andrew, who is becoming quite popular in the Toronto blogging scene. This is what I found out:

His topic finger print reads that in the timeline of the last four months he had quite high ‘resonance’ in leisure and lifestyle, as well as news, politics and society.  He also discusses cheese and cuisine quite frequently.  All quite true.  His overall Peer Index score was 43 (an average of his Activity (45), Audience (45), and Authority (43)). 

However when I put my own name in, Peer Index tells me that I have an ‘N/A’ ranking with Zero Activity, Audience, or Authority.  Humph!  Curious, and a little bit hurtful!

4.) The last tool I’m going to discuss is Lithium Social MediaMonitoring.  Unlike the other tools we looked at, which are offered for free, Lithium is a paid service. Though frequency of posts and areas of interest or authority are measured on Lithium, the insite is much more specific.  Lithium also offers sentiment measurement using a text analytic engine that employs natural language processing to identify posts with a strong brand sentiment.  Similar to Sysomos, insight is given on whether online discussion of the brand is positive or negative, and to what degree. An added feature on Lithium offers a ‘Quotes’ feature that focuses attention on specific posts that highlight the strongest examples of customer emotions, attitudes, and behaviours - important knowledge for any business.

Other services offered with Social Media Monitoring in Lithium’s Social Customer Suite are Customer Platform, Customer Intelligence Suite, and LevelUp for Facebook.

Despite the various tools and ways to measure influence, not everyone is convinced that these are the best way to know your true authority.  In his article ‘My Klout is Bigger Than You Klout - the truth about Influence ‘Measurement’, Matthew Rideout says, “There is a fundamental flaw with these systems, they measure outputs not outcomes. These influence scores will not necessarily correlate to real world business performance, or give any indication of whether or not social media is helping a business to accomplish any of its goals."   True or False?

Who’s Stopping the Mega Quarry?

photo source

Though Occupy Wall Street seems to be the main viral issue occupying our news feeds these days, there is another grassroots movement gaining  ground, as well as a social media prominence. However, rather then taking to the city streets (be it Wall or Bay), this collective gathering is happening 120km north west of Toronto on the farmlands of Melancthon and Mulmur Townships, in the County of Dufferin.  2,316 acres of farmland, to be exact.  The ‘Stop the Quarry’ movement spouted in opposition of an application filled by the Highland Companies for a 200-foot-below-the-water-table-open-pit-limestone quarry to be situated on lands they own in Melancthon Township (for more background information see U.S.-backed company proposes mega-quarry north of Orangeville).

Last weekend, as ‘Occupy Wall Street’ continued to maintain its place in the media spotlight and the occupy movements began spreading around the world,  support for the Mega Quarry opposition rose to 28,000 strong as another, more delicious, revolution stormed the Melancthon Township farmlands - Foodstock.  So, besides the better then average back wood bar-b-que, how are Mega Quarry protesters gaining attention?  And more importantly, how are they using social media to boost their support?

From a basic Google search I have discovered two main websites giving information and rallying support against the Mega Quarry: nomegaquarry.ca and ndact.com.  Though the NDACT (North Dufferin Agriculture and Community Taskforce) site provides more content in terms of back ground history of the Highland group in Dufferin County - offering downloadable PDF’s, maps, info sheets, and information on where and how to volunteer - it is nomegaquarry.ca that has developed an online presence across platforms like twitter  and Facebook.  Using the phrase ‘STOP the quarry’ as it’s profile identifier, the cause has currently acquired 4,686 Facebook likes and 1,727 twitter followers (while following 2,001).

 However, one of the movements most valuable and effective tools are their YouTube videos.  These short info-videos are well made and feature public Canadian figures.  They elicit emotion and highlight people in the local community and the potential impact the Mega Quarry might have on them and their livelihood.  These make for an easy one-stop shop for the average curious citizen to get all the information that Mega Quarry protesters want them to have.  Maybe convincing enough to turn the curiosity into real concern and potential engagement in the movement.  The end of the video posted below directs the watcher to three websites: ndact.com (as discussed above), canadians.org, and citizensalliance.ca (whose Facebook tab leads us back to ‘No Mega Quarry’s Facbook page).  Interesting that nomegaquarry.ca doesn’t show up there. 

The biggest problem that I’m seeing with the social media organization of the Mega Quarry protesters, is that there doesn’t seem to be any.  When trying to rally support, why not make it as EASY as possible for your potential supporters? 

This is an area where occupywallstreet.org got it right - centralizing all of their information in one place.  Wouldn’t it be great if there was a single site with all the information from each Mega Quarry protest group?  All the videos, photos, and news feeds?  What if nomegaquarry.ca served as a central hub to host all these other sites and their information?  Why doesn’t it?  

In essence ‘Stop the Quarry’ and the ‘Occupy’ movement are fighting the same battle.  Both are are protesting billionaire hedge funds whose influence has spread from economy to agriculture.  To each of these grassroots movements financial giants have stepped in, gratuitously taking what they want with little regard for the remaining population or the environment.  Both movements sprung from small groups of concerned citizens and have amassed, in no minor part to social media, to campaigns that the public is forced to stand up an take notice of. 

Hopefully ‘Stop the Quarry’ will take a lesson from it’s bigger urban brother in online organization, and though out-powered and out-financed the small voices of rural citizens will become louder as they continue to fight the good fight.  

You had me at your proper use of “You’re”.Via someecards
- Grammar is SO important.

You had me at your proper use of “You’re”.
Via someecards

- Grammar is SO important.

Octopi Wall Street!

(Source: facebook.com)