Archives for posts with tag: social media

There are reams of material available for communicators in print and online on developing, maintaining and controlling approval processes in organizations for materials such as newsletters (internal or external), press releases, fact sheets, etc. Lots of articles complaining about them too!

What I’ve yet to find is something solid on how to explain why an approval process is necessary and important.

Approval processes for materials aren’t for covering your a** (CYA) or even a professional courtesy, e.g., “We thought you’d like to know we are sending out a press release on our most important product launch in YEARS, take a glance at if you like.”

Approval processes are integral to many areas of an organization and how it is run. Approval processes maintains the professionalism, brand and message promoted internally and externally to various important stakeholders such as <gasp> CUSTOMERS! A couple of things to keep in mind when that approval email lands in your inbox, and why it is probably a good idea to open it up in a timely manner and answer it:

  1. Quality control: We are all beautifully human, and the most careful and professional communications executive, who writes materials every day for work and for pleasure and has had six other people look at the piece before sending it out, makes mistakes. Little, silly mistakes that he or she didn’t catch because they have stared at that press release for five days. After a while, you don’t see those small mistakes. The approval process helps catch those types of errors, which can negatively affect your organization’s…
  2. Professionalism: Despite the fact that we are beautifully human, we have standards and often pretty high ones, for the materials we read on websites, Facebook, Twitter and on Google. Even as a public relations professional who has committed more gaffes than I care to admit to (but will go ahead and do so, because it’s true and I depend on the approval process), if I see a press release or website content with typos, even one, I wonder, “Did anyone take a look at this?” I try to be understanding, but part of me is wondering what is going on behind the curtain and if the organization is on point.
  3. Branding and Messaging: I can write a release or a white paper or an op-ed and think I have hit all of the important messages, but there may be something emerging that I don’t know about that needs to be added to the piece for context. Or I may mention something in the piece that should be removed for legal, proprietary or other reasons. Perhaps the entire piece needs to be put on hold. How would I ever know if I didn’t send the piece for review and if no one opened it to read it and let me know the deal? Every piece that goes out, internally or externally, should reinforce correctly and clearly, the organization’s brand and key messaging. You have to check communication pieces just as carefully for message as you do typos and grammatical errors. Nothing should leave the communications/public relations, etc., department without strongly supporting the organization and its mission.

I’m not advocating not allowing a communications or public relations department to function and operate without being watched carefully – but approval processes are important. The importance transcends a department’s autonomy, what people perceive their job responsibilities to be, (i.e., I work in Finance, so I’m not sure I need to bother reading this), or assuming that everything is okay, (i.e., I’m pretty sure Bob read this…). Everyone in an organization, not just the communication department, is responsible for how it is perceived and what represents it. And it all starts with taking ownership and responsibility in the approval process.

 Flackchick wants to know: How does the approval process work in your organization? Or how doesn’t it? What would you like to change, and what do you like about it?

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Recently, I’ve discovered that several people were following me (@nlinton) on Twitter. Of course, I clicked on their profiles to find out more about them to possibly follow them and I found out that they protected their Tweets. This has happened three times in the last week.

I can understand why. Kind of.

There are a lot of spammers, scammers, porn bots, crazies and people looking for casual, anonymous and STD-laden Internet sex-hook-ups on Twitter. I have been Tweeting for a year and I’ve come across all of these issues. But I can’t say that it has happened enough to compel me to protect my Tweets. Minors probably need to. I would not want my kids being contacted by just anyone online through Twitter.

I am much more selective on Facebook and LinkedIn, where I only accept requests from people I know or have met personally. For instance the other day I received a LinkedIn request from a woman who worked at a company in Marietta that I wasn’t familiar with and isn’t in my industry. I racked my brain for more than an hour trying to figure out if I met her somewhere or knew her from a past position. I logged into LinkedIn to look at her profile. No picture. One job listed and it was only a company and title, no specifics. No past positions. No schools. No shared connections. No information about her whatsoever.

I didn’t feel one bit guilty about declining the connection. LinkedIn is a work in progress, and I am always tinkering with my profile, but it is foolish to run around sending invitations to people and you haven’t put in the basics on your profile.

I also don’t feel bad about blocking my Tweets from people who follow me, but protect their Tweets. So, I’m telling you upfront that if you choose to follow me and I go to follow you and find out you protect your Tweets, you won’t be hearing from me anymore.

It just seems strange to me to use Twitter to follow people Tweeting conversationally, reading the links they share, yet not wanting to fully engage yourself. If you want a more selective social media experience there are forums to do this. I don’t think this is what Twitter was designed to do. And it makes me think that maybe YOU are the spammer or a bot or crazy, and have nefarious reasons for hiding your Tweets – like you don’t want to make too many people mad doing what you are doing, report you to Twitter and risk getting your account suspended!

If it is a personal safety or privacy violation issue, I think Twitter is far safer in this respect – without having to protect one’s Tweets – than say LinkedIn, Facebook or MySpace.  Tweeting conversationally and sharing links won’t open you up to serious issues.

As far as the spammers, bots and other crazies are concerned, regular pruning of the people following you can prevent a lot of issues. I do it at least once a month. Of course, people who come out of the gate being obnoxious (follow me!, retweeting the same crap over and over, obvious spam and other foolishness) get the boot immediately.

I’m still learning about this Twitter thing. If someone can provide me with a good reason for hiding Tweets, let me know, I am open to other’s opinions, etc. I just don’t see the point.

By the way, follow me on Twitter @nlinton. LOL! And have a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday.

In the U.S., we are still exploring the possibilities of Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare, but in Asia and South America, everyone is Bubbly.

Bubbly is a five-year-old mobile and social app developed by firm Bubble Motion, which is based in Silicon Valley and Singapore. Simply put, Bubbly is a voice-based Twitter. Its tagline is, “It’s like Twitter with a Voice.”

According to Bubble Motion’s CEO Tom Clayton, Bubble Motion explored a variety of mobile voice-messaging services when social media networks such as MySpace and Facebook launched. This led to the media of audio messages targeting a much larger audience of followers.

Launched in February 2010, with no marketing dollars used to push the service and early adoption by Bollywood stars to promote their careers and new projects, Bubbly currently has a total of two million users, 1.2 million of which are paid subscribers.

Anyone can sign up for Bubbly to follow a friend, family member or favorite celebrity or brand. Posting messages and following is free, and once a new message has been recorded and sent out, users get an alert. If they choose to listen, they pay for the airtime.

Most messages are less than 30 seconds long, and there is currently a cap of one minute.

To post on Bubbly, a user dials a short code, like *7, records a message and hangs up. To listen, tap in another code, like *2. It works on any handheld device, and messages can be posted to Bubbly while still withholding phone numbers for privacy.

Bubble Motion skipped launching Bubbly in North America and Europe to focus its efforts in Asia and South America, particularly India, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia and Brazil. People in these countries typically have access to cell phones, but far fewer have access to the web, which makes this type of mobile blogging service an easy sell. India has the fastest-growing population of mobile phone users in the world, as cell phone operators add millions of new customers each month. By 2012, it’s estimated that India alone will have 650 million cell phone users.

No, it’s not coming here anytime soon, but I think it is important for communicators to keep up on what is going on in the industry no matter where in the world it is happening. These new innovative services and applications not only tell us where we are currently with social media and how we use it, but where we are going.

For more information on Bubbly, visit http://www.bubblemotion.com.

A personal situation I encountered a few weeks ago prompted me to write this piece on ethics. A person I thought I knew very well and trusted turned out to be not-so trustworthy. To make matters worse, she thought that the personal relationship between me and the others she wasn’t being entirely honest with would negate the unethical and duplicitous things she was pulling in trying to secure new business. She was wrong.

As public relations professionals, we are faced with ethical situations all the time. The very often sensitive nature of the information we are privy to and the challenges we encounter in our organizations and agencies force us to make tough decisions. We often have to give the media and other target audiences information that will make them disappointed, angry or both, or give honest answers to tough questions that put our clients and/or organizations in a negative light. We often do this under duress, in the midst of a crisis and on the turn of a dime. We have little time to think and prepare our answers and the information we need to provide.  It is even harder when the emergency situation impacts people’s health and lives. “No comment” is never a good option and even less so when it involves highly sensitive and emotional situations.

New forms of media also put us in difficult situations. Blogs, message boards, Facebook, My Space, Twitter, give us immediate and powerful ways to communicate with our audiences – but it also allows us to use those tools to influence the perception of brands, companies, clients and organizations in misleading ways. Recently a large public relations firm was exposed for using interns to post positive reviews on its client’s apps on the Apple store.  Now, PRSA and IABC have explicit guidelines for ethics in our profession. And gaming an app rating system isn’t explicitly listed as a no-no within the ethics guidelines provided by these organizations, but…

The management that developed the client plans executing this “tactic” knew it wasn’t right. They knew it was dishonestly influencing people’s decisions to use or pay for and use an application and the “strategy” was flawed. They ignored their gut and pulled this stunt anyway, getting quick results for their clients and eventually being exposed, along with the clients, for being dishonest.

Step outside the pressure of getting a client, getting results, getting the media off your back, and think beyond the ethics guidelines of a PRSA or IABC (although they are a great start!): Does what I am about to do pass the gut test? Do I feel good about this? If what I am about to do was written out fully and posted in the company lunch room, on the organization’s website, my church bulletin or my child’s school newsletter, would I feel embarrassment?

We operate personally and professionally in a social and natural environment. We also expect people to be straight with us. We have to be in return. We are bound by duty as a result of this to be accountable to the environment we live and work in. Everything you do should pass the gut test.

And if that isn’t enough to convince you, read this!

In reading articles and blogs in the last few months, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Increasingly, I see people differentiating “social media” press releases and “traditional” press releases. Traditional press releases are releases as they have always been written – inverted pyramid, catchy title, AP Style, etc. Social media press releases are those that are search-engine friendly, with the same characteristics as a traditional release, only with keyword-rich content.

Egads! Why, in 2010, should there be two different types of releases written? Why aren’t they one in the same???

Public relations professionals should ditch this way of thinking completely and relearn how to write press releases. All press releases should have keyword-rich content and be optimized for search engines to pick them up quickly. SEO-friendly press releases are more likely to be found by those seeking information on a client/company/product or service, improves rankings online and in News search engines, drives traffic and increases link backs to a Web site, and will result in increased media opportunities. It gives a news release an edge over just sending it out on a newswire and/or shooting it to a dubious Cision-produced media list with a zillion contacts.

If you aren’t writing a press release using these steps, you need to hit “delete” and start over:

  • Research keywords for your target audience: the subject, product, industry and/or service.
  • Make sure these keywords are written into the first 250 words of your press release.
  • Ensure a keyword or two is included in the title.
  • Write keywords into the news release copy.
  • Include keywords in links back to your site

Optimized press releases are ranked by search engines such as Google and Yahoo! These sites are updated regularly with new content less than 30 days old, ensuring that people will come across the news release.

Take an additional step beyond sending the release out on a news wire and to a media list by submitting the release to an online press release service. Pandia.com provides a list here.

And lastly, as an industry, let’s stop comparing how things were done before the Web became such an integral way we live, work and play, and simply adopt methods that work with it and make it work for us. PR professionals need to act in the present and look proactively to the future to best serve our companies and clients.

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with learning more about Yammer. Yammer is an intra-company/enterprise version of Twitter, designed with the goal of helping companies and organizations evolve into more productive and integrated organizations.

Launched at TechCrunch50 in 2008 (also known as TC50), a conference and tradeshow that showcases the best Web 2.0 start-ups, Yammer won the grand prize, and now claims to have more than 50,000 companies around the globe using the tool. Yammer won’t drop names, but they state that Fortune 500 companies, Hollywood studios and many small to mid-sized companies now Yammer, and the Web site lists Fox, Adobe and Hill and Knowlton as users.

Yammer is the result of founder and CEO David Sacks and engineers at the other company he founded, Geni, wanting an internal communication tool to connect with employees throughout the organization.

How does it work? It all starts with one simple question: “What are you working on?” Co-workers post and share update on their projects. Company news can be sent instantly. People in an organization can send links, ask questions and get help from anyone in the company. Everyone on the network can see who is following who, who is the most followed, and ultimately, who are the movers and shakers in the company.

Yammer also serves as a company directory in which every employee has a profile, and as a knowledge base where past conversations can be easily accessed and referenced.

Basic Yammer service is free, and companies can pay to claim and administer their networks. All communication within the company is completely private and secure – not even Yammer employees can see what is going on within individual organizations. The privacy of each network is ensured by limiting access to those with a valid company email address and information isn’t shared with third parties.

Yammer now has the ability to create groups within a company in order to communicate with different teams inside an organization without broadcasting what is said publicly. Companies can also host Yammer inside their corporate firewall. It is available on iPhone, Windows Mobile, Blackberry and Android.

I think this is cool and this says a lot. I have worked at companies where they utilized internal instant messenger tools and I thought it was the biggest pain in the behind. The main reason was that I didn’t feel it used the way it was supposed to be used. What was supposed to be another tool in your arsenal to be more productive and help others mainly became a method of someone keeping track of when you turned your computer on and off, or firing off twenty-million questions a day when they could just pick up the phone and come over to discuss a project.

Not exactly best practices for workplace productivity.

With the appropriate buy-in from The-Powers-That-Be (Yammer can be started by any employee, but I wouldn’t recommend that unless that employee is THE decision maker and can do what they want), Yammer can help end the dreaded silos that occur in many companies, facilitate efficiency in working across various groups in an organization, and fairly and equally promote exemplary work among employees. Yammer could also serve as a blueprint for new employees entering an organization on how it operates, its culture and how to succeed.

An additional use, particularly for public relations departments in organizations that are reluctant to use social media to communicate to external audiences, is to introduce a tool used internally to showcase how, say, Twitter works, and what is can do. Baby steps are necessary for many in upper-management, and this could be a start to embracing social media.