Saturday, November 20, 2010

35 Big Twitter Hashtags for PR Pros

Twitter is an exciting place for new and seasoned PR professionals to come together and share ideas and opportunities in the profession. The key to optimizing your Twitter experience is to take advantage of its hashtag resource which links related topics together with a simple # at the beginning of a word, acronym or phrase.

Over the past few days, I've researched some of the top PR related hashtags and their benefits. For the new Tweeters out there, or those still thinking about taking the plunge, I hope you'll take advantage of these 35 big Twitter hashtags for PR pros!

Most Common:
#PR – Obviously one of the two most encompassing tags, it's the most optimal for 140 character tweets. Great for mixed industry related posts.
#publicrelations – This tag may be the same concept as #PR, but the tweet results are hardly the same. Great for mixed industry related posts.

Practice & Expertise Focused:
#branding – Lessons for #corporate or #smallbiz related work.
#personalbranding – Perfect for learning to promote your self.
#mediarelations – Helps develop stronger relations with news media
#reputationmanagement – Tips/case studies for building and maintaining reputations.
#marketing – Industry news and strategies.
#crisismanagement – Trends, strategies and case examples of good/bad crisis work.
#CrisisPR – Like #PR/publicrelations, this tag is just as effective while diverse.
#publicity – Often sporadic in content value when searched, the worth while tweets make up the difference.
#advertising – Great techniques and trends.

Social Media Focused:
#socialmedia – Great for most trends and strategies for social media.
#SM – A second social media tag.
#digitalmarketing – Great for emphasis trends, news and some job opportunities.
#SEO – Search Engine Optimization related content.
#SMO – Social Media Optimization related content.
#smcedu – Weekly chat (Mondays, 9:30 am PST) devoted to ensuring that college grads are media literate and capable of applying emerging lessons from social media in organizations.

PR Jobs:
#prjobs – The definite way to find career opportunities and advice.
#prjob – Despite the one character difference, the opportunities and advice often vary.
#EntryPR – A specifically important tag for finding entry level jobs that are available and additional advice.
#happoHelp A PR Pro Out constantly provides job seeking advice, internships, and job opportunities with a focus on networking. The next organized chat will be on Wednesday, Dec. 8 from 8-9 pm CT.

Professional Development:
#PRadvice – A pretty wide spectrum of content with direct advice tweets and URL links.
#prtips – A pretty wide spectrum of content with direct advice tweets and URL links.
#pr20chat – Weekly chat (Tuesdays, 8 pm EST) discussing public relations social media related issues for the future.
#u30pro – Weekly chat (Thursdays, 8 pm EST) focusing on issues surrounding PR professionals under 30.
#solopr – Weekly chat (Wednesdays, 1 pm EST) designed for independent PR professionals and those interested in learning more about this career emphasis.
#measurepr – Bi-weekly chat (Tuesdays since 2/2/10, 12-1 pm ET) focusing on all things measurement in public relations and social media measurement too.
#brandChat – Weekly chat (Wednesdays, 11 a.m. EST) with focused topics about branding and marketing strategies.

PR Students:
#PRstudents – Mostly for building student's credentials and a frequent source for internships.
#prstudchat – Monthly chat (different days and times) focused on students and professionals coming together to share thoughts.
#PRintern – Learn about current student internships that are available.
#prssa – The Public Relations Student Society of America.

PR Organizations:
#prsa – The Public Relations Society of America.

Journalism Related:
#journalism – Great for most journalism related posts.
#journchat – Weekly chat (Mondays, 7 pm CT) between journalists, bloggers and PR pros.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

2nd Street Baking Co. Against the Mayhem

Two weeks ago a justice was served in the name of copyright protection as the Internet made clear its stance on infringement. This came after blogger Monica Gaudio posted a scathing e-mail from New England based Cooks Source editor Judith Griggs claiming the blogger's unpaid article in the magazine was "public domain."

But there are two sides to every coin. The Internet tirade quickly engulfed the unknowing advertisers of Cooks Source into its rage. To quote the website, How Publishing Really Works, "You can't release the hounds and then expect them to behave like lap-dogs."

The businesses that were listed as the magazine's advertisers were pummelled throughout the next few days with angry calls, emails and threats to boycott. But one small town bakery somehow managed to succeed where even some large, corporate businesses have often failed in this situation; with an effective and timely crisis communications strategy.

2nd Street Baking Co. is a custom style bakery in the village of Turners Falls, MA. The business has been open now for three years under owners Christa Snyder and Laura Puchalski. Laura first learned about the scandal at approximately 1:30 to 2pm that Thursday, just as the story was breaking online. The baking company's email account began receiving dozens of emails from people all over the country as well as Australia and Canada.

According to Laura, most of the angry e-mailers had copied a form letter that was posted on Facebook to notify the Cooks Source advertisers that they were "supporting plagiarism" by advertising with the publication. The message threatened to boycott their company and its products unless 2nd Street chose to pull their advertisements. Other emails were more brazen and offensive with lines like "how dare you support Cooks Source."

Laura immediately logged on to Facebook to find out more. Seeing the numerous posts on the Cooks Source fan page and researching about the story, she became deeply concerned about the quality of the publication 2nd Street Baking Co. was supporting.

"Not only do we disagree with the way Monica's work was used without her permission, I worried that the association with Cooks Source would negatively impact our business," Laura told me in our email correspondence.

What does it take for a small home-owned business to fight against the mayhem? Engage your audience on their playing field. Within minutes of learning about the situation, Laura began to post a public statement on Facebook that they were pulling their ads.
"As an advertiser, we are disappointed in Cook's Source as we are pulling our ads from this publication. Many of us (as is the case with our business) paid several months in advance for advertising and are unlikely to get any compensation back. We ask that you please stop emailing our business, we agree that the publication made a grave error, but the blame should be placed with them. Please do not make small businesses like mine pay for their error in judgment. "
- Laura Puchalski
(2nd Street Baking Co.)

Laura then continued to post the statement about every 20 to 30 minutes for the first few hours on the Cooks Source Facebook page, with an additional posting on the bakery's Facebook page as well. She also began posting on Cooks Source's Facebook "Discussions" page where new threads would start-up like "Cooks Source Advertisers List."

"As I posted that we had pulled our ads, I would get dozens of responses immediately and the emails would slow down," Laura said. "Then as the statement got pushed further down the page and lost in the sea of other angry posts, the emails would start up again and I would have to post again."

In Laura's research, she discovered that Neil Gaiman had posted something about Cooks Source. She then used the bakery's Twitter account to respond to him in hopes that his 1.5 million followers would pass along the message that they had distanced ourselves from the publication.

"He did help us out in that respect, and also made a donation to the Food Bank of Western MA, which we very much appreciate," Laura said. "We were getting a huge response from people wanting to send us money to compensate our lost advertising dollars, or requests to order products from us in support of us pulling our ads.

Because 2nd Street could not ship most of their products and they did not feel it was morally right on their part to accept money from people, the owner's instead asked for support by donations to the local food bank.

Laura received an email response that evening from Griggs, confirming that the bakery's ads would be removed.

"I have tremendous respect for the power of the Internet!" Laura said. "It can be an extremely useful tool for promoting your business and communicating with your current and potential customers. Unfortunately it can also ruin you, as evidenced by the situation with Cooks Source."

2nd Street Bakery's story is a positive light where others have quickly fallen victim to this kind of chaos. So what public relations strategies can small businesses take away from the experience of 2nd Street Baking Co.?

Research your dilemma:
  • Make sure you know ALL the facts
  • Appoint a spokesperson who will serve as the point of contact between your business and the media
  • Identify key audiences - your local consumers, employees, the media and the Internet
  • Develop a communications strategy - including your plan of tactics
Take action in a crisis:
  • Act quickly to resolve the dilemma
  • Tell the truth
  • Don't editorialize
  • Be accessible to the press and other publics
  • Show compassion
  • Update your message as frequently as you can
I also asked Laura to weigh in on what she learned from this experience. In her own words:
  • First and foremost, remaining calm is always best. It is never a good idea to communicate from a place of anger, confusion, or fear. Keeping calm allows you to really think about what is happening around you and decide what the best approach to take for your business really is.
  • Acting fast to minimize the impact to your business is also helpful, and respecting your customers (and potential customers) and their feelings is important.
  • Knowing that the Internet is a powerful force of positive and negative publicity for your business is also important. It is the fastest way to reach the multitudes and get your messages across. In this instance, it is where this was all taking place so it was also the logical place to communicate our position.
  • And always be as professional as possible!
I also discussed an additional tactic with Christa and Laura that they agreed small businesses should consider.
  • Use your email to your advantage in this situation. Most email providers include an automated reply message that users can program in their absence. For a small business under the gun from a continuous number of emails, utilizing this means of response will save a lot of time and emotion while helping to quickly spread your message. It will also create less of a disruption for your limited resources.

As a continuing student of the public relations craft, my sincerest respect goes out to Laura and the people of 2nd Street Baking Co. for their inspiring work. It's not often people talk about the crisis communications scenarios that go right but theirs is certainly one worth telling.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Curious Case of Cooks Source and Poor Reputation Management

The Internet set to flames this past Thursday when New England based Cooks Source Magazine became the center of a copyright infringement and plagiarism controversy with blogger, Monica Gaudio. It's become an epic tale of rightful justice and poor reputation management under crisis.

After Gaudio discovered that the magazine had published a piece she had written about apple pie without her permission, she contacted the publication requesting an apology as well as a $130 (10 cents per word for her 1300 word article) donation to the Columbia School of Journalism.

Enter the now infamous editor Judith Griggs and her response to Gaudio:

But honestly Monica, the web is considered "public domain" and you should be happy we just didn't "lift" your whole article and put someone else's name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me... ALWAYS for free!"

Following the Nov. 4 Internet explosion upon the Facebook page of Cooks Source Magazine, Griggs allegedly wrote:

"Hi Folks!
Well, here I am with egg on my face! I did apologise to Monica via email, but aparently it wasnt enough for her. To all of you, thank you for your interest in Cooks Source and Again, to Monica, I am sorry -- my bad!You did find a way to get your "pound of flesh..." we used to have 110 "friends," we now have 1,870... wow!
Best to all, Judith"

And in what continues to reflect the lame duck communications of Cooks Source Magazine, the publication has released a statement on their website. The 862 word apology mostly focuses on the Magazine's own personal "victimization." Due to its length, I've highlighted two select portions of the statement relevant to this entry. You can read the full apology here.

"We have cancelled our Facebook page on Thursday, November 4th, 2010 at 6:00PM. It has since been since been hacked by unknown parties and now someone else unknown to us has control of it. Their inclusion of Cooks Source issues and photos is used without our knowledge or consent. Please know that none of the statements made by either Cooks Source or Judith Griggs were made by either our staff or her...

...Last month an article, “American as Apple Pie -- Isn’t,” was placed in error in Cooks Source, without the approval of the writer, Monica Gaudio. We sincerely wish to apologize to her for this error, it was an oversight of a small, overworked staff."

And thus, a simple analysis while highlighting a few very simple lessons to take away from this mishap. The first applies to anyone in the communications field:

Rule #1 (And the Golden Rule I might add): Don't plagiarize and know your copyright laws. As a business entity, constantly work to ensure high standards of ethical and legal business practices among all employees. Place additional emphasis on teaching proper decision making scenarios to apply their legal knowledge in. Apparently Cooks Source Magazine couldn't seem to grasp the simple logic of copyright law and it cost them.

Next, is the issue of social engagement with your publics.

Rule #2: Have a set policy for all employees when handling internal and external communications. Never assume emails are private. Once the information you publish is "sent," it's out there and anything can happen with that content. I think the Steve Jobs v. Chelsea Kate Isaacs incident gives some additional background into that principle.

Rule #3 (Also making Rule #2 obsolete): Be professional at all times when conducting all communications with your publics. This is where Griggs truly fails. Rather than acknowledging her mistake and diffusing the situation, she chooses to take a highly demeaning standpoint towards Monica. In her editorializing, Griggs also reveals her huge lack of understanding copyright infringement. The two factors, arrogance and ignorance, would only add fuel to the fire. As a rule of thumb, avoid writing aggressive, defensive responses.

Now what do you do when a reputation management crisis hits?

Rule # 4: Silence is not golden. Under crisis, engage your audience and publics. An important strategy to this rule would be to pre-develop protocol and train key communicators on how to actively and positively combat negative engagement online. Once the Cooks Source blaze took off, nothing "official" would be heard from Cooks Source Magazine for six days. Six days is a long time in the realm of the Internet. Aside from the Facebook status update from Griggs, the magazine would not respond to any media inquiry, including my own on behalf of the Society of Professional Journalists.

In a recent article on integrated marketing communications, I highlighted a very dangerous aspect that some "brands without efficient response to this form of dialog within the past year have in turn suffered drastically negative exposure at the hands of consumer social media." The same holds true for Cooks Source Magazine. Not responding only lead to further suspicion across the media and Internet.

Timeliness is everything.

Much like the Tiger Woods affair scandal, Cooks Source Magazine's withdrawal from public communication only lead to further investigations like that of journalist/blogger Ed Champion, revealing that the publication had repeatedly used copyrighted material from other outlets and personalities such as NPR, Paula Dean and the Food Network.

Rule # 5: Don't Editorialize. Be short and factual. I already mentioned this in Rule #2 but it honestly needs it's own rule. If your company or organization finds itself in an a difficult situation, it's best to know when to disengage from editorializing and instead focus on straight-forward statements.

Cooks Source not only takes on a role of personal victimization, but it also tries to assume an authoritative stance in the "official" statement. Cooks Source takes to condemning the "disreputable" internet for attacking them while "protecting" the advertisers of Cooks Source, the small businesses and farms in area that rely on Cooks Source and even, Gaudio? (From the Cooks Source Statement: The misuse of Facebook discussed above also applies to Ms. Gaudio: she did what she felt was the right thing, and doesn’t deserve this kind of treatment, either.)

Unless something is missing here, no mass congregation of the Internet has taken to attacking Gaudio. Of course, taking Cooks Source's above rationale into perspective, the running Facebook meme "But honestly Monica, (insert something ridiculous about Cooks Source)" might be misunderstood as an attack on the blogger rather than the obvious attack on Judith Griggs.

Further editorializing while inadvertently trying to draw attention elsewhere, the statement goes on to back-hand Facebook when referencing their corporate number.

"Interestingly, this phone number and any other contact info is not listed on the Facebook site, and has taken four people a number of days to track down."
(Note: It took one me less than two minutes to find the same contact numbers via Google search...)

Prior to that comment, the publication identifies their Facebook page being "hacked" and "someone else unknown to us has control of it." Aside from the Griggs Facebook quote above (predating the 6 p.m. cancellation on that date), no such hacking has truly taken place. This further indicates that Cooks Source is either ignorant of how the Internet, Facebook and social media works, or they could just be lying.

If the magazine had merely published strait forward facts, none of these assumptions would be in question. This brings us to the last rule.

Rule #6: Just tell the truth. By the time readers finally arrive at the "apology" segment of the statement, Cooks Source disclaims that the article by Monica was "placed in error" due to the "oversight of a small, overworked staff." Not only is this editorializing, it's makes excuses and takes a lack of responsibility. This case is hardly an "oversight" if reflecting the number of additional infringement cases that have surfaced as a result.

The Magazine's statement that their Facebook account was "hacked" with the inclusion of Cooks Source issues and photos without their knowledge or consent is also missing a few key points in their logic. A closer look at any one of the aforementioned issues and photos will reveal Facebook publication dates going back months prior to any alleged hacking.

The curious case of Cooks Source Magazine is definitely a paradigm shift in a positive direction for copyright protection on the "world wild web" and an encompassing example of what not to do when it comes to crisis communications.