Tag Archives: Social Media

Is Your Brand Ready for A Social Media Crisis Based On Today’s Politics

Social media drives narratives.  That cannot be said enough.  Social media can also create a crisis where none existed.  Many brands are finding this out firsthand in the current politically charged and polarized environment.

Today’s consumers expect brands to tell a story and share their values including their political values.  Many brands have for years avoided taking stands on political issues and politicians as they knew such a stand would antagonize some consumers and cost them sales.  Yet more and more brands are finding that they can’t sidestep political issues.  Consumers are taking to social media demanding to know where a brand stands on an issue or political personality.  We have seen this just recently with consumers taking to social media to demand of brands where do they stand on FOX News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly and stories of sexual harassment.  This social media outrage has led numerous advertisers to pull their advertising from his show.

Very often brands are caught unprepared for the social media outrage that creates a crisis for them.  They need to be proactive, especially in this socially media driven world where a tweet on Twitter can be more powerful than the best devised public relations campaign and lead to numerous negative media stories.

What should companies do?

  1. Identify potential issues that consumers care about and might demand to know where the brand stands on the issue.
  2. Identify potential activists, antagonists, supporters, and media that would be involved in such a media crisis.
  3. Practice stimulations of a potential social media crisis driven by the brand’s stand on a particular issue.
  4. Respond at once when the crisis erupts.
  5. Engage on social media. Remember brands are all about engaging consumers on social media about various positive news items.  But too often, they fail to do that when a crisis hits.  That is a mistake.

A crisis can happen at any time.  In today’s polarized world social media often both creates and defines a crisis.  To survive such a crisis, a brand must be ready.

 

Brad’s Wife and Cracker Barrel: What Not To Do During A Social Media Crisis

Social media creates news – both positive and negative.  Businesses of all sizes are finding out that social media posts can create a crisis where one did not exist.  How a business responds to such a post can determine if it becomes a crisis or not.  The saga of Cracker Barrel and Brad’s wife is a vivid example of what not to do when a social media crisis erupts.

A Milltown, Indiana man named Bradley Byrd claimed his wife, Nanette, was fired from the Cracker Barrel in Corydon, Indiana on his birthday after 11 years of service. Byrd posted a question on Cracker Barrel’s Facebook page asking, “Why did you fire my wife?”

From there, the internet took over.  Visitors to the Cracker Barrel Facebook page are unable to post on the wall, so they’ve turned to the company’s posts to find out what happened and to show their support for Brad’s wife. Some of the comments are quite funny.  #JusticeForBradsWife and #BradsWife are trending.  The media is reporting on the social media outrage.  Yet Cracker Barrel is remaining mum to the growing story both with the traditional media and on social media.  While companies will not state why an employee was terminated, Cracker Barrel is not even acknowledging the comments and is acting as if nothing is happening as it continues to post advertisements on social media.  That hasn’t stopped the social media outrage or other businesses from jumping in and making use of the tagline Brad’s wife.

Cracker Barrel is coming across as uncaring, unresponsive, and ridiculous all at the same time.  Consumers are angry at a lack of any response or acknowledgement from the company which results in even more outraged posts.  That is a place where no business wants to be.

So what should Cracker Barrel do?

  1. Acknowledge the posts on its Facebook page. A simple statement saying thank you for your post.  We appreciate hearing from you and while we value your opinion, employee records are confidential and something we cannot comment on.  Such a statement would at least demonstrate that Cracker Barrel is paying attention to what people (many of them customers) are posting.  By ignoring them, the company is basically sending the message that it doesn’t care what people (customers) think.
  2. Post testimonials online from employees on what a great place Cracker Barrel is to work for and how the company cares about its employees.
  3. Post online how much the company values its customers and their opinions.
  4. Depending on the reason for the termination, Cracker Barrel should rehire Brad’s wife and even use her in advertising.

What Cracker Barrel is doing is what no company should do when facing a social firestorm – nothing.  This allowed the story to go from social media to traditional media, making Cracker Barrel a butt of late night jokes and the object of consumer anger.  As a result of not having a crisis management plan in place for a social media crisis, Cracker Barrel has allowed Brad’s wife to get the last laugh and serve as a warning to businesses on what not to do during a crisis.

What Businesses Can Learn From This Year’s Political Conventions – Social Media Is King

The 2016 political conventions are upon us. Unlike political conventions of the past, the suspense is gone on who will be the nominee and no intense battles over party platforms are fought out at the conventions. The political convention in this day and age is in many ways an infomercial for the presidential nominee and their political party. Yet millions of Americans still tune into the convention. Yet the way they tune in to obtain coverage is one studied intensely by businesses so that they can copy the methods to reach the consumer.

Political communications leads businesses in new ways to reach consumers and position their brands. In 1920 and 1924, radio came of age covering the Republican and Democratic conventions. Businesses paid note of that and the increasing number of Americans who owned a radio. The result was that businesses began reaching out to Americans via radio – sponsored shows like Little Orphan Annie(the forerunner of product placements) and direct advertisements. In 1952, as Dwight Eisenhower and Robert A. Taft battled it out for control of the Republican Party, millions were glued to the convention proceedings on television that was just reaching its potential. Again businesses took note that a new way to reach consumers had emerged.

So what can businesses learn from this year’s political conventions?

Social media is king. The television networks have all cut back on their coverage of the conventions (a trend that has been going on for a while now with all of the suspense gone). Americans are paying attention to the conventions not with traditional sources of media (radio, television, or print) but via social media – Twitter and Facebook. This confirms something we have seen over the past several years – social media sets narratives. In fact a tweet or Facebook post often reaches more people than a television broadcast of the proceedings. Beyond that, people react to what they are seeing on social media. The takeaway from this convention season for businesses – social media is only growing stronger as are the ways to use it. A shrewd business leaders will copy what they are seeing at the conventions and use the methods.

Business always follows politics in terms of how to reach consumers. It has been this way since politics became the competitive and partisan profession it is today. Each election cycle offers business leaders lessons on new ways to reach the consumer and make their brand standout. The next two weeks will provide many examples of this – just stay tuned.

CEOs – Pay Attention To These Lessons From Donald Trump

Businessman and reality television star, Donald Trump appears to be the Republican nominee for president in 2016. This became all but official with the exit of Texas Senator Ted Cruz from the Republican presidential race following a devastating defeat in Indiana. Love Trump or hate him, he has shown on the stump some valuable public relations lessons that CEOs would be wise to copy. Trump demonstrated:

  1. Consumers will buy a brand that is consistent with its brand story.
  2. The power of social media.
  3. Stay on message no matter what.

When Trump entered the Republican race for president few took him seriously. There was much speculation that he was running as a publicity ploy and would not actually qualify. If he did run, experts stated he would need to refashion himself from the politically incorrect, Donald Trump that everyone knew from the tabloids and Celebrity Apprentice. Yet he did the complete opposite. He doubled down on his politically incorrect brand with his feud with FOX’s Megyn Kelly, calls for banning Muslims from entering the United States, and building a wall to keep illegal immigrants out. Corporate sponsors of Trump’s bailed in the wake of the controversy. Yet Republican voters loved it and catapulted him into the lead and eventually crowned him as the nominee. Contrast this with Hillary Clinton who has reinvented herself several times this campaign cycle and has yet to secure the Democratic nomination against Bernie Sanders and has created greater doubts among voters about what she believes. Being consistent to one’s brand is essential for success. Consumers buy into a brand’s story and Trump understood that. Business leaders need to remember that.

Everyone knows that social media has changed our world. Large numbers of consumers report getting their news from what they read on social media compared to traditional news. Trump understood that. He understood the power of utilizing Twitter to reach voters over the heads of traditional media. One tweet from Trump received more media coverage than television commercials combined of his top rivals. Beyond that, Trump utilized a way to connect with voters over the heads of the media and not through traditional advertising but rather via social media. This created a greater sense of loyalty and feeling of ownership with Trump by voters. Business leaders need to understand the power of social media that Trump demonstrated and harness it to reach their consumers and rely on it more than just traditional advertising.

Finally, Trump understood an age old communication lesson, keep your message to just several points and keep referring to it over and over again no matter what happens or what you are asked. Throughout the campaign, Trump has been consistent with his message to the exasperation of his rivals and the news media. In debates and interviews regardless of what was asked he referred to his main message points while his rivals were thrown off message consistently. Business leaders should remember stay on message regardless of what is asked and always make any question fall back to your main message points.

Donald Trump has reshaped politics in 2016 without a doubt. But he has also taught some valuable communication strategies that CEOs and business owners should study and utilize.

Maria Sharapova Learns New Lessons of Crisis Communications – Social Media Drives Narratives

Social media drives narratives and brands react to the social media narrative. This means that many of the old rules of crisis communications no longer apply as social media drives a crisis regardless if everything was handled correctly or not in addressing the situation with the media and key stakeholders.

We saw this happen this week with tennis star, Maria Sharapova. Sharapova, the world’s highest-paid female athlete, admitted that she had tested positive for the recently banned drug, meldonium while doing a standard drug test at the Australian Open. The five-time Grand Slam champion announced that she had tested positive and that she had been taking the drug for health reasons since 2006. The drug had just recently been banned. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced that it was provisionally suspending Sharapova as of March 12, 2016. From a crisis communications response, Sharapova had done everything right. She was proactive in announcing the scandal herself rather than allowing it to be announced in the media and losing a news cycle. Normally that would have defused the situation considerably, save for social media.

Social media, particularly Twitter exploded with attacks on Sharapova and implications that there were even darker scandals that she was hiding and hoping to avoid coming to light by her admission. Many traditional media outlets as has become commonplace began picking up the Twitter comments and doing speculative stories on what other scandals involving the tennis great might emerge next.

Sponsors of Sharapova who have stood by stars with far worse scandals – Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, Kobe Bryant, and Lance Armstrong bailed from their sponsorships of her. First Nike announced that it was suspending its relationship with her. Porsche and TAG Heuer quickly followed suit. Others are expected to join them. The major reason wasn’t because of Sharapova’s admission but rather the social media outcry, particularly on Twitter. Brands react more to social media outrage than traditional media coverage and traditional media coverage now follows social media outrage to keep a crisis alive.

This leads to the point that in crisis communications, no longer must a crisis communications strategy be developed to deal with the media and key stakeholders, now a social media policy must be included in any successful plan. Bloggers and key influencers on Twitter and Facebook, as well as, the average person must be addressed via a clear social media policy during a crisis. If not as we are seeing a firestorm will ensure and brands will bail. Maria Sharapova is the first but certainly not the last to fall victim to the new rules of crisis communications in the social media world of today.

Marketing Is Real Time: Don’t Overlook Social Media

Social media drives narratives. It is becoming the new way that brands reach consumers. An active social media presence is essential for any brand. Brands do shout outs on Twitter and Facebook when they are referred too. Yet one brand had a missed opportunity – Eveready/Energizer batteries.

In the Republican presidential debate, candidates were asked what their Secret Service code name would be if elected. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush who has been called low energy by Donald Trump and others said, “Eveready. It’s very high energy, Donald.” Even Trump was forced to laugh.

This was a perfect opportunity for Eveready or its parent company, Energizer to take to social media for the shout out. Instead there was total silence. Energizer has not utilized its Twitter account since August 3rd. Other brands such as Harley, Scott Walker’s choice for a Secret Service name or Duck Dynasty that acknowledged Mike Huckabee’s duck hunter choice also were slow to take to social media.

Brands should remember from this, marketing in this world of social media is 24/7.

Why Businesses Should Include A Public Relations Strategy In Their Plans

Less than one percent of small and medium size businesses have a public relations strategy. The challenge is that many businesses simply do not understand what public relations actually is and what it will do for them in terms of business growth and branding. Many business owners and executives equate public relations component with paid advertising. They do not recognize the difference and value of ongoing media coverage which puts them out as thought leaders in their industry that customers will seek out and which is the best way to enhance a business’ brand.

Small and medium size businesses looking to grow and position themselves as leaders should look to public relations and its value in supporting growth. A modest budget combined with an ongoing program will reap consistent rewards. To educate prospects who are not familiar with public relations, I compare public relations activities to mortgage payments. When you carry a mortgage, you make a monthly payment until you own the home. Public relations activities should build awareness and attract attention over time.  These efforts ultimately enhance a business’s reputation and standing in its market.

One of the biggest things businesses seek to determine is ROI for publicity efforts. Media placements, which include articles, story links and video news coverage, need to be utilized and pushed via social media, sent directly to prospects and integrated into sales packages to reinforce branding and enhance business development. Simply gaining media coverage without reusing it is where many businesses fail.

Many small business owners succumb to “shiny object syndrome.” They hear about new marketing tools, strategies and services, and want them even though they have no idea how these services actually work or if they will work. They gravitate to this while public relations and its tremendous value is not prioritized.

Businesses often fail to see how publicity helps generate interest, support salespeople, enhances SEO, creates high quality social media content and positions experts as leaders.

Finally, businesses need to know that publicity is an insurance policy for protecting their brand and reputation. A crisis situation can happen to any business at and given time. If a business crisis hits the media or online, failure to have the ability to respond or properly react could mean the demise of a business. Having a public relations and crisis communications strategy in place when a crisis hits protects brands, businesses, products and people.

As we head into the fall and many businesses think about their marketing pushes, they should also include public relations in their planning.

Jared Fogle / Subway Saga: The Crash and Burn of a Spokesperson

Jared Fogle has probably eaten his last Subway sandwich for a long time to come. If the restaurant chain has anything to do with it, Fogle will never step foot into another Subway ever again.   Fogle who served as Subway’s public face for 15 years pleaded guilty to child pornography charges. Federal prosecutors said Fogle travelled to have sex acts with at least 14 children. Subway announced it was terminating its relationship with Fogle in a terse statement released on Twitter and Facebook. The Fogle/Subway case shows the dangers of celebrity spokespersons becoming interchangeable with a brand and also on how not to handle a crisis situation.

Jared Fogle shot to fame when his story of losing over 200 pounds went public. Fogle based his weight loss on visiting a Subway restaurant and ordering a low-fat sandwich. From that sandwich on, he dropped more than 200 pounds in about a year while eating Subway’s turkey subs and veggie subs with no mayonnaise and cheese. When Subway learned of his story, he became the face of Subway promoting their healthy alternatives to fast food. His story became the Subway story. Consumers identified with his everyman story and could relate to his weight struggle. Franchise owners reported increased sales when commercials and other promotional material featuring Fogle ran. All told he made over 50 television commercials for the chain. The company hyped him as the perfect family man whose values were those of Subway. To the public, Fogle and Subway were one and the same. Fogle, was known as “Jared from Subway.” His Wikipedia page calls him “the Subway Guy.

On July 7th, that all came crashing down for Fogle and Subway. The FBI, Indiana State Police and the U.S. Postal Service raided Fogle’s home seizing electronic equipment with the clear implication from media reports that he was suspected of being involved in child pornography. A Florida woman came forward and said that Fogle had made remarks to her that were so inappropriate and shocking that she had contacted law enforcement officials. This happened two months after Russell Taylor, the former executive director of the Jared Foundation, which Fogle started to raise awareness to and combat childhood obesity, was arrested on federal child pornography charges. Overnight, Fogle became the punch line for late night comedians with Subway included in the jokes. There was also a sense of public revulsion.

Subway announced it was merely suspending its relationship with Fogle. That was the company’s first mistake. It should have immediately terminated its relationship with Fogle. Whether true or not, there was no way that Fogle could ever again be an effective spokesperson for Subway and the longer the public perceived that Subway was looking to bring him back the more tarnished the brand was. There are three things that a brand or individual never fully recover from – a scandal with animals; a scandal with race; and a scandal with children.

Finally hours before Fogle was due to plead guilty Subway announced via social media, “We no longer have a relationship with Jared and have no further comment.” No expression of sympathy for the 14 victims of Fogle. No expressions of condemnation at Fogle’s actions and the fact that he had lied to the public and Subway when the allegations surfaced. Additionally they referred to Fogle as Jared reinforcing in the public’s mind that longtime association and sense of chumminess with Fogle. That Subway doesn’t even use Fogle’s last name in its post about is a sharp reminder of just how associated with each other the two entities became. Social media has been sharply critical of Subway for its response.

Erasing the image of Jared with Subway will not be easy. After all the two have been associated for 15 years. Yet had Subway terminated its relationship when the investigation began, the company would have been six weeks ahead in rebranding and distancing itself from Fogle. Now they face the worst of both worlds – Fogle is gone and damaged beyond repair; the company must rebrand, and in its handling of the situation came across as curt and uncaring for child victims.

The Fogle/Subway saga is a cautionary tale for any brand that becomes identified with its spokesperson. The brand sinks or swims with that person’s reputation. And in this world of social media, people expect brands to express remorse and regrets during a crisis such as Subway has faced with Fogle.

Planned Parenthood in Crisis Mode

Planned Parenthood is in a crisis mode and attempting to launch a public relations counterattack after an undercover video surfaced that seems to indicate that the organization sells fetal tissue from abortions to researchers for a profit. Such action if true would be illegal.

The video was released by the Center for Medical Progress on Tuesday. It shows two undercover CMP activists posing as employees from a biotech company having lunch with Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical research, and discussing about which body parts are in demand. In the video, Nucatola is seen and heard discussing Planned Parenthood’s policy of donating fetal tissue to researchers. The activists ask Nucatola whether clinics charge for the organs, which she skirts around.

The language is graphic. “Yesterday was the first time she said people wanted lungs,” Nucatola says. “Some people want lower extremities, too, which, that’s simple. That’s easy. I don’t know what they’re doing with it, I guess if they want muscle.”

Nucatola discusses how they are able to get other organs without “crushing” them. “We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”

Conservative politicians rushed to condemn Planned Parenthood and demand a cutoff of federal funding and investigations into the organization. But even some in the medical and research community expressed deep reservations about Planned Parenthood and Nucatola. Planned Parenthood is denying it sells organs for profits and is attacking the Center for Medical Progress.

This whole lessons for those in public relations.

  1. In this day and age of smartphones nothing is ever off the record. Someone may be recording a client without the client knowing it and it that tape may appear on social media or in the media. In addition to Planned Parenthood, think Mitt Romney and Donald Sterling.
  2. Various issue advocacy groups on both sides of the aisle are sending undercover members to businesses and associations hoping to catch executives saying something embarrassing or awkward. This trend will continue.
  3. Social media and non-traditional news sites are becoming dumping grounds for stories that once they go viral, the traditional media picks up and reports with a vengeance since they felt they have been scooped and must make up for that lapse.
  4. A good defense is not always a good offense. Planned Parenthood’s response to this video has been more to attack the Center for Medical Progress and conservatives who are criticizing the group rather then to provide a detailed rebuttal and provide Nucatola to the media for questioning. The organization seems to be sidestepping the major issue raised in the video that is leading even supporters of abortion to question it.
  5. Emotional issues such as abortion need to be dealt with sensitivity. Planned Parenthood in its response has come across angry which doesn’t sit well with many people even some of its supporters. A more nuanced response addressing concerns people might have would have served the organization much better.

Social media, bloggers, and citizen activists drive the news in this 24/7 news cycle. Brands and organizations need to realize that and that they may be a target of this and the old rules of journalism don’t apply with these people. Failing to realize that may put you in the same boat Planned Parenthood is in currently.

Social Media Drives Narratives

Social media drives narratives. This cannot be stated enough. Yet despite the power of social media and brands realizing its importance, they forget about its power and potential to create a crisis. Very often their social media strategy does not reflect their tradition public relations strategy.

A case in point was celebrity chef, Paula Deen. A photograph of Deen dressed as Lucille Ball and her son, Bobby with a brown face supposedly as Desi Arnaz was tweeted on Deen’s Twitter account. This is occurred as as Deen has been waging a public relations campaign to rebuild her brand after accusations of racism in 2013 practically sank her brand. The public outcry was tremendous with Deen the focus of outrage and ridicule. It was later stated by Deen that the photograph was from several years ago and her social media manager who was responsible for the tweet had been dismissed. Yet the story received widespread media coverage.

Whether an innocent mistake or not, the damage has been done to Deen, reinforcing the image in many people’s minds that Deen is a racist and justifying to sponsors yet again why they were wise to sever ties with her. This as Deen has been going to great lengths to rebuild her image with a carefully orchestrated media and public relations campaign. With that one tweet all the work she had done was undone and its back to the drawing board for Deen.

Brands often forget that their social media strategy must correspond with their traditional media strategy. If it doesn’t that becomes a story.

Brands also forget the power of social media. The Deen photo was taken down yet it had been screen captured and re-tweeted thousands of times. Once something is posted on a social media site, it can be captured even if it is taken down. Nothing is ever permanently deleted from social media.

Social media also creates the news stories that the media cover. The Deen photo would never have received the coverage it did save for social media driving it. Very often the media doesn’t even consider something to be newsworthy until it explodes on social media. This is why every social media post needs to be handled with the care that a brand would handle a press release and needs constant monitoring. But it isn’t just Deen who forgot the power of social media. Both the recent Brian Williams’ story and Bill Cosby story were the result of social media. Veterans’ organization had tried contacting NBC and other media outlets for years about Williams’ fabrications and were ignored. Only when the story appeared on social media did it obtain coverage. Likewise the allegations by numerous women against Bill Cosby did not receive strong media coverage until they appeared on social media. In both cases the media went into a frenzy to compensate for not covering them originally feeling they had been scooped by social media.

Brands know the power of social media in reaching consumers and playing a role in their marketing efforts. What they must never underestimate is the power it has in driving narratives and causing a media firestorm. To do so is to do it at their peril.