The Latest Social Media Tragedy: a story told through Storify

Some of the biggest news in the PR industry has revolved around brands’ major mess-ups. Just this past month, we watched one of the cruder examples of social media carelessness unravel with US Airways. After sending a pornographic picture response to a disgruntled customer, the brand’s Twitter page erupted like wildfire as the tweet went “viral” – igniting responses across all platforms and gaining attention from major media outlets such as CNN and USAToday. There was much speculation surrounding the cause of the tweet, and the incident brought forth some great creativity from today’s biggest Twitter personalities. Ultimately, the issue was a huge lesson-learned for brands and their PR representation – solidifying the tweet as a case study in social media worst practices.

I experimented with Storify to explore the social media brand-catastrophe, which both initiated and thrived on the social stage.

https://storify.com/BreckenSwanberg/us-airways-and-the-tragic-tweet

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Dreams of travel

I’ve been experimenting with Google Maps and want to share a map of some of my favorite places.  You’ll find my hometown, Machesney Park, IL – a small farm town that embodies the true spirit of a “fly over state.”  Returning home for long weekends can be the most relaxing form of therapy for me.  Next you’ll find Nashville – my favorite city in the States, perhaps the world.  A country girl at heart, I adore the culture and people in that town.  Their downtown bars and live music will be some of the most fun you can have south of the Mason Dixon.  Finally, you’ll see Bangkok.  I met someone this year who has had a profound impact on my life, he is blessed to call Thailand home and after learning about their beautiful culture, I am excited to someday visit and explore for myself.

 

Measuring Success – a chat with the PR pros

I recently participated in the #PRProChat – a monthly gathering of public relations professionals coming together to discuss industry trends and brainstorm strategy for topics of issue.  Hosted by Carrie Morgan, a Senior Digital PR Consultant specializing in PR, social media, content marketing and SEO, the chat brought together professionals from across the country fostering a lively discussion and networking opportunity.  The professionals were more than welcoming to me as a student, and a few other Seton Hall students joined the discussion as well!

This month’s chat was focused on measurement.  I was particularly interested to see what upper-level PR managers had to say, as measurement is something we struggle with in our own student campaigns and a hot topic in many class debates. The chat started with the basics – asking participants “how do you measure the results of your PR?”.  This question was largely answered that it depends on the client/situation.  Goal setting with the client was a key factor in every answer throughout the chat.  The professionals stressed that clear communication is absolutely necessary, because success has different meanings to every client. We then discussed the barriers and challenges in measurement, tools or tips to make reporting success easier, and questions to ask clients to identify relevant metrics to use when reporting.

A few of my favorite insights from the chat are below, as well as my own thoughts in the chat.  I will definitely be participating next month – join me!

This response was clear and to the point.  Gerard made the point that, because “success” has so many meanings, to measure it you have to relate everything back to the original objectives you set with your client.  They should have been SMART objectives (see below!), and if they were, you will be able to know through quantitative data whether or not you met them.  It is important to discuss qualitative data with clients, but having a line to measure clearly “yes, we met this” or “no, we did not” helps ground PR giving it more credibility through measurement.

I also thought this insight was helpful:

All too often both PR pros and their clients get wrapped up in the thought of placements in major outlets – sometimes larger outlet coverage doesn’t make sense for the brand or its objectives, and sometimes media coverage shouldn’t be a focus at all! All looping back to the point: base success on your objectives.

 

 

Branded Content Takes Over Traditional Media

At my previous internship with Quinn & Co. Public Relations, my duties as an intern included monitoring both traditional and social media for up-and-coming PR trends. Branded content isn’t a totally new concept, as an industry we’ve been moving towards a less invasive, more natural form of advertising for some years now. But with major traditional news outlets now incorporating sponsored content into their reporting, the trend is becoming a staple for brands in every sector. As PR professionals, it’s important we take notice.

Branded content (also referred to as sponsored content, native advertising or, as Mashable puts it, “just good advertising”) blurs the lines between what is advertising and what is entertainment. After all, Online Media Daily noted in 2013 that, statistically, you are more likely to survive a plane crash than to click on a banner ad.

The ad world did what it had to do to evolve with the ever critical public eye. In my opinion, it is an evolution of the traditional PSA, catering to the needs of the public and happening to have your brand associated with the content in the process. Brands key in on topics their public is interested in, and produce content (whether a story, a blog, a video…you get the idea) for entertainment rather than to push a product. Many brands have already been doing this, and doing it well – check out some examples below.

512309138_df285c492a (1)Now, PR Daily reports that a new survey by D S Simons (a strategic video communications firm) shows more than half of media outlets have sponsored content woven into their reporting.  Last year, the New York Times announced that they were jumping on the bandwagon, launching their first-ever native ad from Dell along with their website redesign.  The Times made good on their promise to clearly distinguish sponsored content from journalistic reporting – the Dell articles are clearly labeled “Paid Posts.” But not every news outlet is so blatant.

It is one thing for a brand to publish their own blog with branded content, but now that the trend is finding its home in traditional media, we have to ask ourselves if this takes away from the transparency and authenticity of the journalistic profession.  If we allow the big players in the world of advertising to pay for placements in our traditional media sources, doesn’t that in some ways defeat our constitutional right to free press? Now I don’t think the movement is quite so “Big Brother Taking Over the Media” dramatic, but it is something to keep in mind as we watch the trend evolve.  The Times held onto their credibility and responsibility to the public by distinguishing that the posts are paid, but we should watch for outlets which are subtly incorporating brands into reporting.

Photo Credit: Hamed Saber via Compfight cc

The Revolution: pros, cons, & a little faith that the two will balance out

Yes, we are in an ‘Age of Transformation,’ as Mark Briggs suggests in his introduction to Journalism Next. With innovators continually propelling us into new worlds of communication, we are connected in ways which, just 5 years ago, wouldn’t seem possible.  But the divide is not about whether or not we are experiencing a revolution, it’s about the indication, the effects, the “what this means for our world as we know it.”

I am intrigued by the idea that there are no longer “gatekeepers” dictating our news.  Whether it be via credible journalists, your neighbor with a possibly-too-strong opinion or a bystander unknowingly describing one of the bigger events of the decade, the news is out there ready to be selected, altered, shared however we see fit.  As The Economist reports, instead of managing conversations, journalism is now open to the flow of conversation that was already happening.  I stand firm in the argument that this is a positive revolution that involves more people in the stride towards a more culturally-aware world.

However, while we are quick to praise the idea of a continual conversation between a hybrid of journalists, bloggers and “average people,” I think that skeptics like Seth Ashley and Nicholas Kristof offer fair warnings about the negative effects this revolution also presents.  With news no longer dictated by “gatekeepers,” we’re free to choose the news we want to hear, see, read about from a collective broadcast of sources.  This, as Kristof points out, allows us to choose news that we agree with – the news that enforces our previously conceived prejudices resulting in polarization and intolerance.  Don’t agree with the “spin” on a story?  A quick Google search will certainly land you on a page offering a version that you agree with.  A double-edged sword – the very reason this revolution is so, well, revolutionary, also sets us back a few steps in the journey towards unbiased, free, truthful news.

There is an opportunity here for companies and news organizations to step up and take advantage of this open newsroom.  As David Scott urges in his book The New Rules of Marketing & PR, companies need to ditch the one-way communication and instead take advantage of the conversation that is now happening between organizations and their publics.  Producing quality content that educates, informs and entertains will help balance out the mess of contradicting information which is now available.  Likewise, journalists need to continue to adapt and share their voice on platforms where the public now resides.

While this revolution in news has eliminated ‘editing gatekeepers,’ it has also shown the importance of editors ensuring unbiased reports.  But the skeptics are giving the public a little less credit than is deserved – for every polarized account of news, there are educated, culturally savvy people doing their own research, formulating opinions, and contributing to the conversation.  This is the Age of Transformation, and I have faith in humanity that we will make the best of it.