Archive for the ‘Public relations’ Category
I disagree with the Government of Canada on many things. So many I couldn’t begin to list them here.
So it’s with some surprise that I find myself… defending at least one of their actions.
A flurry of attention got given in my FB and other circles to this story recently:
“OTTAWA (NEWS1130) – The Harper government has been monitoring political messages online, and even correcting what it considers misinformation. One local expert says the government is taking things too far.
Under the pilot program the Harper government paid a media company $75,000 to monitor and respond to online postings about the east coast seal hunt.
UBC Computer Science professor and President of the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, Richard Rosenberg, says it seems unnecessary for the government to be going this far. “The government has a lot of power, that it feels the need to monitor public bulletin boards, or places where people express views and then to respond to that, seems to me going beyond a reasonable action the government should be taking.”
Rosenberg says knowing that the government is monitoring certain topics online could result in people being more careful with their identities when they’re posting about political issues on the internet.
He says it’s the first time he’s heard of this happening in Canada.”
There are 20 pages of comments on the story. Most are along the lines of this:
|Democracy dying a quicker death in Canada!
I guess the right to free speech, freedom of the press, the right to strike, belong to a union, belong to a professional group, a society, freedom to associate and every other right or freedom we have under our Constitution or the Charter of rights and freedoms will slowly be eroded by this government! Two generations of mine fought in two world wars to defeat tyrants and dictators, their legacy for us does not leave room for the same politics happening here. I work with people from all around the world and many have asked how Canadians can allow this to happen in our country. Some left their homelands to escape dictatorships and tyrrany but see it happening here. Something is dreadfully wrong here. This is no longer the Canada I grew up in, these are not the politicians my parents and grandparents would have supported.
It would be REALLY easy for me to write a post critical of the federal government’s actions. I’m not much of a fan of our current government. Except… isn’t this exactly what we tell organizations to DO?
One quick example: Radian6 has a book out called Nine Rules of Social Media. Chapter two is the rules of listening:
- Refine, refine, refine.
- Process what you hear.
- Don’t ever stop listening.
Later, they talk about “the rules of engagement”:
- You don’t have to talk directly to people to be engaged.
- Social media engagement policies and guidelines are a must.
- Be kind, be social, and be consistent.
I don’t think anyone involved with social media would find much to argue with with those rules, in principle.
Another example is the now ubiquitous US Air Force Blog Assessment Chart, made popular by Jeremiah Owyang.
And if I was being asked for advice from a client on a controversial file, I would think the fairly standard fare would include:
“Listen where people are talking about you. If you see plainly wrong information, consider whether and how to correct it. And engage in the conversation if you feel it will further your case.”
So if we social media folk tell our clients to listen all the time and engage when appropriate, why would we not want our government to do the same?
And if we want a responsive, attentive government, are they not supposed to know what people are saying in public forums and on public websites?
Whether or not we are in support of a government or a political party, surely we must be able to agree that it’s in our — and their — best interest to listen to and understand what discussions are being had in the online public square, and to understand what this means to the government’s policies and programs.
Where the government seems to me to be falling down is in explaining what it did and why. After a week (admittedly a week including a long weekend and a very difficult period of preparing to lay off thousands of employees) I received an e-mailed response from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade’s media office.
Here’s what I asked:
I’m a communications blogger interested in learning more about the program of monitoring and engagement DFAIT coordinated concerning the seal hunt. (see this story:
national/article/58287–or http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/ harper-government-monitoring- online-chats-about-politics Canada/20091222/seal_) monitoring_091222/
I would appreciate the opportunity to learn what tools were used, what criteria were used to gauge success or failure of the initiative, and whether it was judged successful or not. I would also appreciate seeing some examples of how and when the government engaged in discussions to correct misinformation.
Here’s what they told me:
This pilot provided a tremendous opportunity for the Government of Canada to test new media monitoring and communication tools as a way to be better informed about what Canadians are saying about important public policy issues.
There were two objectives to this pilot: to correct misinformation about Canada’s seal harvest, and to train Government of Canada employees to detect and correct misinformation about this industry. Both objectives were met.
Topics for monitoring and correction covered the two main myths regarding the seal harvest: the myth that the harvest is inhumane, and that it is unsustainable.
Not much detail there. So I guess if there’s a lesson to be had, it’s that doing good work (at least one can assume it was good work) deserves a good story to be told.
It seems like just a year or so ago that Netflix found itself in the New York Times apologizing for hiring actors to pretend to be excited about the company entering the Canadian market. And didn’t the US Federal Emergency Management agency have to apologize for pretending that its own employees were journalists, when it faked a news conference? Oh yeah, they did!
But hey, those guys are amateurs. They are certainly not “Canada’s home for hard news and straight talk”, a network that is “unwavering in their commitment to uncover the real stories impacting the lives of everyday working people and their families“.
So when Sun News wants to cover a citizenship ceremony, what ends up happening? The minister’s office sends down the orders to put together a ceremony at the Sun studios (not where Elvis and Jerry Lee hung out, sadly), and when they have trouble putting together enough warm bodies to make the ceremony look legit… the ceremony gets faked, with public servants posing as new Canadians. Here’s the video, in all its cringeworthy glory. Keep in mind as you watch it, that six of these people are not “new Canadians.” They are federal employees.
I’m guessing the two small people on the end aren’t the public servants. They appear to be children, although in this topsy-turvy world who can tell? Here’s the story as reported in the Globe and Mail, obtained through Access to Information requests by the Canadian Press.
The story’s money quote:
When a bureaucrat sent Sun News a list of possible citizenship ceremonies to cover in Ontario, a network employee suggested another scenario. “Let’s do it. We can fake the Oath,” reads an email from a sunmedia.ca email address, the name blacked out of the document.
I suppose I should draw the lessons, although I can’t imagine I have to:
- Journalists shouldn’t create pseudo events or cover them as real events.
- Public servants should have more integrity.
- Hard news and straight talk don’t mix well with “Fake the Oath.”
Let’s all be a bit better than this.
The political appointee Candice Malcom appeared on Sun News today to apologize for the event. Sun News host Pat Bolland claimed that they knew nothing of the fakery. For what it’s worth, I never would have suggested the strategy followed in the wake of this muffup. Here’s the video:
UPDATE 2: Sun News Network’s David Akin weighs in with his take on the event.
Christopher Barger has found himself in some pretty hot seats — including leading the social media team at General Motors during its bankruptcy. In addition to being a senior vice-president at Voce Communications, Christopher is also a blogger for Forbes. But will all that have prepared him for 30 minutes in an entirely new sort of hot seat as the inaugural guest author on the FIR Book Club?
This is a new idea that I’ve been working on with Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson, the hosts of For Immediate Release (if I may say, the pre-eminent PR and social media podcast out there.) Since last year, I’ve been doing book reviews for FIR, and really enjoying the opportunity to get into some great (and maybe not so great) books on PR and social media.
So now we’re taking the book review idea a step further, and poor Christopher is our guinea pig.
Christopher is the author of the hot-off-the-presses book “The Social Media Strategist” from McGraw-Hill Ryerson.
According to the McGraw-Hill site:
Conquer the unique challenges of driving social media success within a large company
From the social media director who built successful programs at both GM and IBM, The Social Media Strategist provides the tools you need to meet all the challenges of building a social media strategy in a large company, which include corporate culture, legal barriers, and the kind of bureaucratic resistance that that are unique to large organizations.
The Social Media Strategist explains how to get legal departments to say “yes” to social media programs; get employees engaged without exposing the organization to risk; build “buzz” that parallels business goals; and avoid the internal turf wars that can doom new initiatives.
I am starting to read the book now, and will have an audio book review up sometime soon.
And on January 27, we’ll do the first FIR Book Club with Christopher as our inaugural guest, using the services of Blog Talk Radio.
In a fast-paced 30 minutes, we’ll talk a little about his book, and then give listeners — that’s you! — the opportunity to talk with Christopher and me about his book. Listeners can call in or they can participate in a chatroom on the BTR site.
Keep watching this space and the FIR site for more promos and information as we get closer to the 27th.
WHAT: FIR Book Club #1
WHO: Christopher Barger, author of The Social Media Strategist, with Bob LeDrew, FIR book review editor
WHEN: 2:00-2:30 pm Eastern time, January 27, 2012
WHERE: Blog Talk Radio
WHY: For lively chat with a leading social media thinker
Now, there’s no doubt that this isn’t the first walk-out, or the first time there was distinct squirminess in an interview.
Or, Mike Lazaridis on the BBC:
Ann Coulter on Fox News:
Carrie Prejean on Larry King:
So what’s going on here?
In my opinion, these incidents stem from agendas that don’t meet in the middle. In many cases, interviews have become nothing more than glorified promotional opportunities. Hollywood has this down to a science, flying dozens of journalists to junkets for movies with the tacit — or perhaps not so tacit — understanding that the coverage will be uniformly chirpy and positive. Angelina Jolie probably took this to its apogee when she had a lawyer write up a contract (which The Smoking Gun obtained) for interviews promoting her film “A Mighty Heart” (ironically, about journalist Daniel Pearl and his wife):
Another example? The US Federal Emergency Management Association held this 2007 news conference to talk about wildfires in California:
You’ll note that the reporters don’t identify themselves. That’s because they’re FEMA employees. There were no reporters, and when it came out, the head of FEMA was not amused.
The upshot of this is that celebrities and leaders — in Hollywood, politics, business — grow accustomed to dictating the terms under which they will be covered. To a certain extent, that’s all well and good. Hopefully, no PR practitioner would recommend doing every interview and answering every question.
But in celebrityland, the prevailing belief seems to be that all the questions will be softballs and that the intent of the interview is more or less entirely promotional. And, if you read Eric Snider’s “I was a Junket Whore“, you’ll discover that the revenge on those who break that contract — or even expose it — can be swift and intense.
The bigger question is what this means for you and me, the person who does interviews that aren’t nearly so visible, who isn’t recognizable like a celebrity. This means that regardless of what you THINK the conditions of an interview are, be prepared for them to change. Don’t assume that because you’re a good person, you’ll be treated fairly. Don’t assume that because you think your story is positive and interesting that the person on the other side of the pen or mic will as well.
One of the things that strikes me about the video examples above is that people handled the shifting interview agenda REALLY badly. They saw that the ground had shifted under their feet, but they were unable to regain their balance and respond, so they walked. One way to ensure the interview agenda never shifts is to fake it, as FEMA did. Another way is to do what San Francisco’s BART transit system did earlier this month, by uploading its own version of news about how they shut down a protest:
Control is good. But in the real world, it’s better to acknowledge the limits of your control and to prepare for interviews that go out of your comfort zone than it is to be rigid and break when the wind shifts.
One of my hobbies is doing book reviews for the podcast For Immediate Release. I really enjoy doing this (convenient, since I don’t get paid), especially when I get a book as good as Measure What Matters by Katie Delahaye Paine.
Here’s my review:
If you choose to purchase this book by using this link, I get compensated through Amazon Associates:
And if you liked this review, you can read other reviews and subscribe to the FIR Reviews RSS feed here. Of course, the whole FIR universe (FIR, FIR Live, FIR Cuts, and their standalone interviews) is well worth a listen.
Shockingly enough, I appear to have missed an opportunity for self-promotion.
I started off 2011 with yet another contribution to the world of podcasting. Not happy with doing The Kingcast, The Contrarians with Joe Boughner and Susan Murphy, and PR and Other Deadly Sins with Mark Blevis, I’m also the new “book review editor” for one of my absolute favorite podcasts, For Immediate Release.
Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson, the hosts of FIR, have been pioneers and examples of how business can use podcasting to inform, to engage, and to entertain too. Now approaching their 600th episode, they’re respected and followed by many people. Their past and present columnists, including Lee Hopkins, Sallie Goetsch (rhymes with sketch), Michael Netzley, and Dan York offer great content — to the point that I’m still a little intimidated to be sharing the webspace with them.
But never having been one to let my own inadequacies hold me back from grasping the coattails of the great and good, there I am.
You can check out my audio reviews of Deadly Spin by Wendell Potter, UnMarketing by Scott Stratten, and most recently Resonate by Nancy Duarte on their site. For a permanent fix of these reviews, there’s an FIR Reviews feed you can subscribe to. Or you could just subscribe to the For Immediate Release “Everything Feed.” If you work in public relations, communications, marketing, social media, or have a professional interest in those fields, you will find it a source of great news and analysis.
I’m looking forward to continuing to review books for FIR as well as posting new entries to the Translucid Bookshelf, and I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I do making them. If you have books you think I should review (even if it’s YOUR book), please let me know about them.
I guess I’m not finished writing about information security after my post about University of Oklahoma researchers losing years of cancer research data on a stolen laptop.
I got pointed back to the topic when I learned that there was another stolen laptop incident in New Orleans, at Tulane University. The details are these. While the university closed for the Christmas holiday, a staffer in the human resources shop thought he would get some work done on the W-2 forms necessary to produce for each of the more than 10,000 people employed by Tulane. Fine. He brought home the records on a laptop. The records were unencrypted. Uh-oh. The employee left the laptop in his car and went out of town. Uhhhhh-oh. The laptop was stolen. Now records including Social Security numbers, salaries, and other information that is classified as confidential by the university are in the hands of the thief.
There are obvious lessons to be learned, and obvious mistakes here. I’m not going to go into those. They should be self-evident.
But here’s where I am going: as organizations, you need to ensure that your employees are (a) aware, and (b) trained to act on, the sensitivity of your data.
I’ve worked at two post-secondary institutions, and there was very little talk of IT security. One opportunity to refresh my education was when Canada introduced the Personal Information and Protection of Electronic Documents Act (known to normal humans as PIPEDA). That required some extensive training for anyone with access to the database program our fundraisers used (which I had, subject to limits). But overall, I’d wager that this is how things are at most organizations:
So if I’m right, why aren’t employees more sensitive to these issues? Because there’s plenty of information out there suggesting that this is a BIG problem. One 2009 report for Dell by Ponemon showed that three-quarters of IT directors surveyed knew of a case in which their organization’s data had been put at risk because of a lost laptop (not even COUNTING all the other IT threats). Another Ponemon survey showed that nearly 4 in 10 data breaches occur because of lost or stolen laptops or mobile devices. That same study pegs the cost per record of stolen data at over $200US. (If that math works for Tulane, that’s a cost of two million bucks.)
So what’s to be done?
I’d bet that most organizations have IT security policies in place. Tulane has one. I’ve read it. All 14,000 words of it.
I’ve found countless other ones like it for universities, colleges, and other institutions and organizations.
It it reasonable to think that a 14,000 word policy is going to be regularly read — even by the IT staff or the HR staff? I don’t think so. I’d suggest that organizations of all shapes and sizes need to bring some resources to bear to make their employees far more cognizant of the risks to the organization and to themselves of sloppy data security.
If communicators are going to be counsel to their organizations, they should be scanning the horizons for threats. This su
re as hell is one. And I think that we communicators ought to lead it, rather than wait for the IT or HR staff to come to us.
As Maximus might say: Who’s with me?
While politics isn’t a huge part of my business life (unlike my compatriot Mark Blevis, for example), I am an armchair political quarterback of the first water. So this post by Maclean’s magazine parliamentary correspondent and blogger Aaron Wherry really caught my eye.
Minister of Industry Tony Clement is possibly the most passionate user of Twitter within Canada’s federal cabinet (although there are others.) And he should be given credit for not cutting and running despite being in charge of some controversial files, including changes to Canada’s census, an attempted takeover of Potash Corporation by Australian firm BHP Billiton, and most recently the government’s awarding of $300 million to Pratt & Whitney Canada to assist the company in carrying out research & development on new aircraft engines.
The announcement of this funding led to some stiff media criticism, and last night, as Wherry illustrates, Minister Clement took to his Twitter account to joust with several people, including journalist Andrew Coyne and economist Stephen Gordon (who had been intensely critical of Clement’s decision to discontinue the mandatory long-form census).
The exchange lasted about two hours and ended at about midnight. I think it’s remarkable (in a good way) that Clement is doing this. But it makes me wonder about a couple of things. The Stephen Harper government has been painted as exceedingly locked-down in terms of communication, and there has been a long history of clashes between journalists and the government. But here’s a senior cabinet minister slugging it out with a journalist and others in the public twitterverse.
So I tip my hat to Minister Clement. I think it’s great that he’s doing this. And now, some tips that I think his tweeting can teach us all:
- Use the tool that you are comfortable with. It could be argued that a blog might be a better tool for Clement. But for whatever reason or reasons, Clement likes Twitter. So he’s using Twitter. You can’t force a minister to do stuff. But I don’t think anyone’s twisting Clement’s arm to do this. He’s engaged. So work with that.
- Don’t cut and run when things get tough. Clement has gone through some bruiser battles on Twitter. But he’s still there, and while he may end a given exchange, he doesn’t go to ground when critics appear. You have to brace yourself for the critics and be ready to respond.
- Remember that you control your message, no matter the medium. In the exchange from last night, Andrew Coyne presses hard for Clement to disclose departmental research. Note that Clement doesn’t say “no.” He ignores the request. He could provide it at a later time, or he might not. Or Coyne could do an Access to Information request to obtain the research.
- Choose a medium you can communicate in. Clement appears to be a tech savvy guy; he also appears to like cut and thrust. That makes Twitter useful for him. Furthermore, he uses the shorthand and conventions of the medium to his own advantage. He shortens words, uses hashtags, etc.
- Choose a medium that matches your urgency and frequency needs. I mentioned in tip 1 that a blog might be better for Clement in terms of putting out fleshed-out arguments. But the conversationality wouldn’t be there, and the need to polish the writing would be higher. A podcast would require some sort of equipment (even Audioboo would require a mobile device), and it doesn’t have the immediacy of a tweet.
I hope these tips are useful. If you have any more to add, please leave them in the comments.
I get lots of invitations to events related to public relations, usually from local chapters of professional associations like CPRS or IABC or business groups like the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, or from companies like Ragan Communications. Quite often, the pricing structure for an event – a breakfast, a webinar, a professional development session, whatever – goes like this:
- Members $40
- Non-members $55
- Students $20
For example, Ragan says on its site
“Ragan Select members always get the lowest prices & access to all ragan.com content.” (emphasis theirs)
This is a sensible structure in some ways. Members pay a membership fee, so this is pitched as one of the benefits of membership — reduced admission costs to events. Makes sense. Also makes sense to give students a break on attendance. I didn’t have much money when I was a student.
But I was thinking about this as a way of recruiting new members. Associations cost money. Unless you’re a student, joining CPRS will run you nearly $400; IABC is a bit cheaper. And unlike the old days, there are a ton of PD events out there that don’t require a membership: Social Media Breakfast, TEDx, Case Study Jam, Third Tuesday, Ottawa Brain Drain, Podcasters Across Borders…
So if you’re an association, and you want to bring in new members, is the best way to recruit to charge people more? Might you not be better served by holding special “non-member events”, where you gave the noobs a discount? Or an event without a charge at all? And for that matter, given the negligible amount of revenue that student attendance at these events likely brings in, might it be worth it to not charge them at all?
If you don’t change your pricing structure, do you risk losing people who want to pay “à la carte” for their professional activities? Is it the membership fees that pay for things like the massive research library that IABC offers (to members and non-members, at different prices)? Without those fees, what happens to the research? Or to the associations themselves?
It feels like a truism to say that the pace of change in public relations and communications is break-neck. The advent of social media has accelerated that pace crazily. Many people in the industry are having difficulty with the way the practice and principles of public relations are being challenged by new media tactics and by the move to make “symmetrical two-way communications,” to quote the Grunigs, approach reality.
The local chapters of associations are led by dedicated volunteers looking to make connections, and in some cases names for themselves. Is the “way forward” now to volunteer for associations, or to do “personal branding?” Is the way forward going to make PR professional associations irrelevant?
I don’t know the answers. But I find the questions interesting.
One of the things I talked about was learning from others, and building on their ideas. In folk music, that’s “the folk tradition.” But given that you can’t copyright an idea or a concept, there’s no reason that businesses embarking on a social media initiative — or any sort of communications, for that matter — shouldn’t learn from others.
And case studies can be a powerful way of doing just that. Conveniently enough, there are good people who are compiling lists of case studies online. Some of these lists are in wiki form, so you can easily add your own; others are more conventional sites. Either way, use them. Why not save yourself making the same mistakes others made, and find brand new mistakes to make! As Samuel Beckett so famously put it: No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
Here are some places to find useful case studies in social media:
Penn Olson’s 30 social media case studies
Peter Kim’s list of over 1000 social media “examples” (the inspiration for Web 2.0 examples in Canada)
UPDATE: If you prefer your case studies in the live and in person format, and you’re in Ottawa, you should check out Case Study Jam, a little meetup that I’ve been helping to organize with a cast of ones, including Joe Boughner, Amy Boughner, Melanie Bechard, Della Siemens, and Nick Charney. You can get a sense of what a CSJ is like from Robin Browne’s handy-dandy audio playlist!
And one more thing to think about: If you have an example of how your company or a client did something interesting, why not write something up about it and submit it to one of these lists? Sharing is caring.
Photo credit: The Cake Engineer on Flickr, licenced via Creative Commons