social media spanking

How Not to Commit Social Media Suicide

By Public Relations, Social Media

I met with a couple of bright young women today, eager to launch a new business and putting some early thought into social media strategy to support it. One of them expressed concern over committing a social media faux pas — or, as she called it, “social media suicide.”

I thought that was funny and said (truly, I’m not even making this up) that she’d just named the title of my next blog post. . . .

Here are five ways to avoid committing social media suicide:

  1. Think before you publish. Seriously. Sometimes, if you recognize you’re reacting in the heat of the moment, it’s best to let a reactive post sit overnight. Sleep on it. Often viewpoints are clearer the morning after.
  2. Be true to yourself. If you are consistent, believe in what you share and maintain control of your own account, there’s little to be sorry for.
  3. Pay attention to what’s being said. If a national disaster is occurring, don’t be the lone voice sharing your drivel about what you are having for lunch.
  4. Don’t (for the love of all that is good and holy) tweet, thinking you’re DMing, take pictures of your junk (of any variety) and share them online. Jeez!
  5. Don’t ignore reply messages, mentions of your brand, direct messages or other contact to give you a frame of reference for the tone of the conversation.

It seems pretty dramatic, but social media users are a ruthless bunch. Paying attention is important. See: Five Ways to Avoid a Social Media Spanking.

“Coal Cares” Crisis: What Peabody Energy Should Do Now

By Crisis Communications, Media, Public Relations, Social Media

Today’s news includes the story of a hoax launched as an attack on coal company Peabody Energy. In short, an activist group calling itself Coal is Killing Kids developed a false campaign including a news release, a Coal Cares website and a Twitter account. The campaign positions itself as a Peabody Energy sponsored initiative (it’s not) to provide free inhalers and discounts for asthma medication for children living within 200 miles of a coal plant.

Close reading of the content on the site quickly reveals the true intent of the site’s creators. From the site:

Coal Cares™ is a brand-new initiative from Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal company, to reach out to American youngsters with asthma and to help them keep their heads high in the face of those who would treat them with less than full dignity. For kids who have no choice but to use an inhaler, Coal Cares™ lets them inhale with pride.

Yikes. Peabody Energy should be in full crisis communication mode, prepared to react to this action. The company, however, seems to be under the impression that a social media-based initiative can be fought with traditional public relations. They’ve released a statement, and placed it on their website. The story has been picked up by CNN and Wired Science; CNN noted that “A Peabody Energy spokeswoman did not immediately return a call or an e-mail from CNN” and Wired Science mentions the company’s “immediate response” with the aforementioned statement released to the media.

Unfortunately, Peabody does not seem prepared to react and respond appropriately, using digital communications to combat a digital communications-based attack. Here are six things the company should do right now.

  1. Launch a website with a blog (I’d say launch a blog on their current site but it’s clear the Peabody Energy website needs a complete overhaul and there just isn’t time for that). The blog will provide a platform for the company to respond to questions and publish content correcting the misinformation the company says is being shared by the Coal Cares campaign.
  2. Appoint an active, visible spokesperson who will be accessible and is authorized to engage with the media and the public to address questions quickly.
  3. Create and post videos of the Peabody Energy team talking about the company’s efforts to run a safe and clean coal operation.
  4. Mobilize the coal community (employees, partners, political allies) and enlist their support in “liking” a multi-platform campaign and content designed to share positive stories about the company.
  5. Offer Vic Svec, the leadership team member with a Twitter account, counsel and coaching to leverage the effectiveness of that account and the ability to use Twitter to engage and share content that casts Peabody in a more positive light.
  6. Begin today working with the leadership team to help them understand the culture of transparency, the power of the social web and how they can use it in their own interests, and developing a social strategy that can be executed by members of the Peabody community so future attacks won’t have quite the same effect.

Coal is a difficult industry to defend, but it is not indefensible, nor is it an industry we can do without. Peabody deserves the chance to set the record straight and to have the tools to do so in the same platforms as their detractors. One thing social media makes available to all of us is a level playing field; you just need to know the rules of the game.

Five Steps BHG Real Estate III Should Take Right Now

By Social Media
BHG Real Estate III has a new Web site, too

BHG Real Estate III has a new Web site, too

You may have heard something about Real Estate III, now BHG Real Estate III, and its new relationship with Better Homes & Gardens.

You can find a wealth of local news coverage about the arrangement, if Virginia real estate is of interest.

There has been a small social media spanking underway on CvilleNews. Several people pointed the situation out to me as a potential case study for this blog. I’ve written about this kind of digital communications misstep before and how to avoid it, in Five Ways to Avoid a Social Media Spanking. The story, in short, is that Denise Hood, marketing director of Real Estate III endeavored to correct some misinformation about the company’s new franchise/endeavor/relationship with BHG in a way that was, let’s say, not thought through all the way.  Read the comments on this post for the full firestorm.

I am sending a virtual hug to Denise Hood. I’ll bet she hasn’t had a worse day at Real Estate III than this one. It’s tough being in communications and having to engage in social media without being given the proper support, training, caution or insight that many of us have gained through years of study and practice in the social media space.

But that’s that. And BHG Real Estate III needs to move on.

Five Steps BHG Real Estate III Should Take Right Now

1. Define and refine messaging around the new relationship so it is crystal clear to even the most casual reader.

2. Conduct message training, not only for the people responsible for BHG Real Estate III communications but for all its agents, employees and other stakeholders. It’s critical the whole organization understand and be able to talk comfortably about the company and how it has changed and will change.

3. Invest, immediately, in social media coaching for Denise Hood and anyone else in the organization who engages in social media or media relations on behalf of the company.

4. Develop a strategic digital communications plan designed to focus the organization’s monitoring of all media, to define the process and guidelines for social media engagement and identify the goals for evaluation.

5. Engage, again, with those who have taken you to task (and yes, Denise, I mean you), by admitting that your initial engagement wasn’t the best, that you were merely being loyal and defensive on your employers behalf, and that you’ve learned from all this. Don’t go away. Stick around. There are people engaged in social media who want to help you be successful and only by developing relationships in the online community will you benefit from that, and by extension, so will your company.