Clear Messages in a Cluttered World...


*The following blogs originally appeared on Schroder PR's Public Relations Thought Leadership site, presented on SaportaReport

A visit to Hawaii can teach a PR person a lot about the important practice of consistent storytelling

Posted on February 12, 2013

One of the most valuable tools modern public relations professionals employ is the ancient art of storytelling. At Schroder PR, we remind our new clients that if they bombard their prospects with numbers and facts, they will likely curtail their interest in working with them. Telling well-shaped stories, however, will attract clients and increase their desire to hire you.

I was reminded of the power of storytelling this past weekend, as we were hiking through the rain forests of Oahu in Hawaii. Driving to a remote location in the hills above Honolulu, our BikeHawaii guide, Jeremy, pointed to an “immersion school” nestled on the forested hillside. Within those walls, dozens of Hawaiian students take classes each day – all taught in the Hawaiian language. The only course in which the English language is spoken in these schools is English class.

A dozen years ago, only 0.1% of Hawaii residents spoke the native language, but a revival is now preserving the endangered language that only has five vowels and eight consonants – the smallest alphabet in the world.

Throughout our hike, our guide told stories about the land we were exploring and about the trees and bushes that were brought from foreign lands and were now choking out the native plants. Hula at Oahu's Polynesian Center

When we attended a luau at the Polynesian Center, the emcee told stories that were handed down through 75 generations of his ancestors, back to the islands’ first settlers 1,500 years ago.

“Hawaii never had a written language,” he said. “Our history and culture was preserved only through story telling.”

Hawaii’s stories were often delivered through dance and song. Today, visitors are treated to these stories through the hula dance. This important verbal vehicle not only preserved the islands’ cultural tradition through repetitive performance, it increased its imprint on the minds of the Polynesian settlers by incorporating accompanying visuals of hand gestures and hip movements – each of which had its own meaning.

Though marketing and PR professionals have many more vowels and consonants available in our languages and countless more vehicles through which to deliver the messages in ever-emerging technologies, we are aided in same tools the Hawaiians have used for generations.

Whether teaching our clients how to deliver a speech, to produce a video or to take advantage of the latest social media platform, we often stress the importance of repetition, music, body movement, hand gestures and story telling.

No matter where you are in the world, if someone drapes a lei over your shoulders or says “Aloha” or begins to dance the hula, you immediately think: Hawaii. In our business, that’s called excellent branding, developed on the most remote islands in the world and preserved through some of the best storytelling ever developed on our planet.

– Chris Schroder, Schroder PR

Working in the Great Divide: PR and Journalism

Posted on January 28, 2013

When I was a reporter working for several daily newspapers in the 1980s, we instinctively fell silent when a company salesperson would walk by our desks. In those days, journalists were purists: newspaper salespeople wore nicer clothes, drove fancier cars and made lots more money, but we were more comfortable in our glow of righteousness.

Occasionally, that same cloud would enter our very own ranks. We were happy when a fellow reporter got a promotion to editor or if they took a job at a bigger newspaper. But every once in a while, a reporter would walk into the boss’ office and announce they were becoming a spokesperson for a politician or a company – or worse, that they were going to work for a PR firm. When that occurred, a pall would drift over our team for days. Usually, the departing reporter – his or her personal belongings packed quickly in a box – was awkwardly escorted out of the building shortly after announcing they were going over “to the dark side.”

I once worked for an editor who would take such an occasion to warn the remaining reporters that if they ever took a job in PR, they’d never work for a newspaper again. It was a hollow threat. That same editor a few years later welcomed back a writer who found he didn’t have the mettle for billable hours and client service.

I was reminded of this Great Divide this week when I read a Facebook post by a digital editor of the Fulton County Daily Report, a fine paper for which I used to work. Grayson Daughters wrote:

“I'd re-post articles from the SaportaReport here, such as the one by Saba Tesfanesh Long, on the domino effect of the now-open U.S. Senate seat in Georgia, but as I never know WHO the author of a Saporta Report article is working for/consulting for/receiving a paycheck from to write said articles, interesting as they might be, I've decided not to do that any longer. Sorry, kiddies.”

None of the writers at SaportaReport are able to afford to work full-time for this experiment in new journalism, even though – given the chance – we might prefer to. But Maria Saporta, whom I consider Atlanta’s most trusted journalist, holds our feet to the fire to make sure we disclose any potential conflicts to our readers, so they can make their decisions as to whether we are providing worthwhile commentary on issues of importance to metro Atlanta.

The ironic truth is when I worked for the Fulton County Daily Report in the 1990s, I had two jobs there: In the mornings, I would sit upstairs in front of an IBM laptop and manage the advertising staff. After lunch, I’d drift downstairs to my Apple computer and help edit news stories, scan photos, write headlines and design page layouts for the next day’s front news section. I didn’t even have to bathe in between gigs!

I love journalism and newsrooms. My heart aches when I pick up the morning papers in my driveway and see them barely breathing from a lack of advertising. Journalism was a noble profession. It still is. It’s just a challenged one.

Not only does social media offer an informational platform to anyone who can write or post a photo, my Wall Street Journal features a weekly editorial column by a former presidential aide who raised hundreds of millions of dollars this past year to unseat Democratic candidates. When I watch my Sunday morning television news panels, I listen as journalists debate lobbyists and PR professionals.

The lines are so blurred these days, it’s difficult for regular readers to know the difference, except for the occasional italicized disclosure at the bottom of articles, stating that the writer works here, represents someone there or authored a book on a subject that possibly sounds impressive.

And that, I guess, is the point: We’re all human. Each one of us is a bundle of beliefs, biases and contradictions. When newspapers were founded in 18th century America, they were started by someone with a particular voice who pushed an entertaining – and hopefully profitable – point of view. Readers bought several papers, but they tended to believe the ones that aligned with their own political leanings.

Somewhere along the way, journalists began to proffer a higher calling: objectivity. News stories could not express an opinion; they had to be balanced. Only editorials could opine. But that was just too high and mighty of a brand to promote. Reporters and editors are humans. They make decisions about which quote to feature first and how to end an article. According to the dictionary, those are not objective decisions, they are “dependent on the human mind for existence” and, thus, subjective.

I really enjoy public relations. We assist organizations in shaping messages that help customers understand what services and benefits the firms offer. Our profession even provides a decent enough income that some of us can afford the time to work part-time in our first love, journalism.

Judging by recent analysis, our website is attracting thousands more readers this month than we did in any month last year. We think we are building momentum – and trust. We are proud of our efforts. We do have families and other jobs and hobbies and groups to which we belong. We provide paragraphs at the ends of our articles reporting what other endeavors in which our writers are involved. It is not a complete description of our personalities or beliefs. It is merely a glimpse into our souls.

Thank you for reading our columns. We appreciate your feedback. If you choose to share our columns with your social media friends or co-workers, thank you for doing so. If you choose not to, well, that’s also fine. You have exercised your own judgment – and here at SaportaReport that is a right we respect very much.

– Chris Schroder Schroder PR and SaportaReport!

Private Blunders and Public Apologies

Posted on January 21, 2013

We all make mistakes, and I’d like to think we all apologize when we’re in the wrong. Fortunately, not many people notice when I make a mistake – but when newsmakers such as Lance Armstrong, Manti Te'o, Anthony Weiner or a CEO of a major corporation make a blunder, the whole world pays attention.

The reputation of an organization or a celebrity is an intangible asset, but it’s an extremely important and valuable one. Many CEOs, actors and sports stars face a crisis situation with the potential to seriously damage their good reputations. When in this situation, a public apology is often the beginning of the road to redemption – whether through a statement, a press conference or an appearance on Oprah or Katie Couric’s television show.

This hoax was perfect for Internet comedians – this GIF was one of many out there.

I thought about writing this post when I read that the alleged “mastermind” of the “dead girlfriend hoax” of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o – Ronaiah Tuiasosopo was going to tell his side of the story this week. Te’o has already scheduled an interview with Katie Couric. In a sermon last Sunday, Tuiasosopo’s father, a pastor at Oasis Christian Church, told his congregation that he was learning to say “No comment” in 20 languages!

With my crisis training at Schroder PR, the first thing I thought was – that’s the last thing he should say! Maybe 20 years ago, “no comment” was the advisable go-to response for responding to hard-hitting questions, but not anymore. The world has changed. When the public reads that phrase now, it assumes the party is guilty and being evasive.

I do think it’s smart that the whole Tuiasosopo family is planning to meet to figure out when and how to tell Manti’s “side” of the hoax story. They should get the complete story gathered in an understandable narrative and then decide who is going to be the family spokesperson. Whoever is behind the hoax, “No comment” isn’t going to pass muster with the public and the media – both of which feel duped. Tuiasosopo isn’t well known, or even a little known, and he and his family are already under the media spotlight. It will be very interesting to see how they plan on responding – and hopefully apologizing.

Another recent fiasco in the news is Lance Armstrong speaking about his use of performance-enhancing drugs. He sat down with Oprah (who else) and addressed the doping scandal, years of accusations of cheating and the drugs throughout his career.

Lance apologized on the show – and that’s worth something right? An apology to all those he inspired, competed against and beat probably came to welcome ears. Throughout the first night’s interview, Armstrong appeared “defiant, distant, difficult” and “arrogant, unaware, flippant.” He obviously had a coach – and the plan was to appear open and honest. If you saw the interview, you could tell it was rehearsed, until he apparently went off script on the second night.

On some level, Armstrong seemed to understand that he had to make a perfunctory admission – but that’s all he gave. In my opinion, a person who is genuinely sorry doesn’t say they looked up the definition of the word “cheat” and then declares he doesn’t think he meets that definition.

Another interesting part of the interview was Armstrong referring to himself in third person. He seemed to be trying to distance himself by calling himself “Lance Armstrong,” and trying to separate “that part of my life” from “this part of my life.” Given his celebrity, we all expected him to be media-trained, but I can imagine his PR team wasn’t thrilled with the way he appeared on camera. Even with the best team and the most media training – you can’t prevent someone who has no remorse from giving a fake apology and diminishing his or her brand.

There may not be just one way to publicly apologize, but we definitely have witnessed a lot of examples of what not to do. In giving an apology, choosing the appropriate venue or outlet is important. Armstrong could’ve conducted his first interview since being stripped of his titles with anyone – but he chose Oprah, assumedly because he thought it would be the best chance for an image revival.

CEOs have internal and external audiences – including investors, employees, customers, competitors and media – to worry about. Waffle House CEO Joe Rogers Jr. recently came under public scrutiny when he was accused of sexual harassment. He managed it remarkably well, telling his employees about the scandal before it broke in the media. In his apologies to the media, he spoke of the pain and embarrassment he’d caused his wife and family – showing sympathy for others, not himself. He accepted wrongdoing, although he denied any sexual misconduct.

Once a press conference, television appearance or other event is scheduled, it’s important to prepare an open and transparent apology. Showing respect for victims and accepting blame should be a perfectly human response, but demonstrating genuine action that corrects any wrongdoing would be divine.

Sarah Funderburk

As we were telling a potential new client yesterday, it’s all about what’s “between the commas!”

Posted on January 15, 2013

In the summer of 2005, I was struggling to find the right words when an important new client’s chief marketing officer proudly handed me a large three-ringed binder that contained the official branding statement for which his firm had obviously paid a handsome sum.

“This is our Branding Book,” he said. “It contains our Branding Statement.” My client had obviously paid thousands of dollars to engage his top executives in months-long process of introspection that resulted in the delivery of this heavy book that had since sat prominently on his bookshelf.

“What do you think of it?” he asked me.

I faced a big dilemma. Speak honesty and risk insulting his large investment and possibly lose a wonderful client. Or tell a white lie, praising the lofty branding statement and then from then on be saddled with infusing that into public relations documents.

“It’s a nice statement,” I said, after staring at the 10 words for what seemed like an eternity. “It conveys a soaring feeling, but it does not distinguish you from any of your competitors. You will never ever see that sentence ‘between the commas.’ ”

“What do you mean?” he said, looking at me with puzzlement. “What do you mean by ‘between the commas?’ ”

“It’s not a natural phrase that will end up being used in any story we place in newspapers or magazines. We’ll need to come up with something more accessible,” I said. And we did. The phrase we eventually sculpted for the firm not only appeared in many publications, a Google search today returns nearly a thousand references to those exact words – all associated with our client.

Just yesterday, we were meeting in our Peachtree Street office in Midtown with a potential new client. I was excited to see my associates begin to participate more in the interviewing process. At one point, our editorial director was answering a question about whether we could help this 10-year-old firm with branding.

She was telling the story of how branding is important, but needs to be accessible. She said, “it’s really important to develop what is ...” She paused and looked at me and asked, “Did you make up ‘between the commas?’ ” I smiled and quickly said, “I think I may have,” before she continued explaining the concept to our guests.

I’m quite sure someone else said those words before me. Thanks to a Google search, I can see that other people have been quoted using those words, but they are dated after I first uttered them in my clients office eight years ago. I think some band has a song by that name now. And a bright young college student started a blog by that same name last year after crafting the phrase herself in a high school newspaper column.

No matter its origin, the concept is simple and very important. Today’s business professionals are often very good at what they do, but they stumble when telling people what that is, exactly. Skilled at their crafts, a professional must also communicate clearly what benefits their potential new clients will receive when hiring them.

It’s one of the most important gifts we give to our clients: the confidence to quickly express in a few actionable, expressive words what they do that distinguishes them from their competitors. If we are successful, the reporters who write about our clients will appreciate those words and place them in the first paragraph of their stories, right after the name of our client ... between the commas.

If we’re effective, years from now, when our clients Google themselves, those words should be tucked in the first line or two of results – even if Google doesn’t present its concise results with punctuation marks.

– Chris Schroder

Announcement by The Associated Press to include Samsung-sponsored Tweets is part of an evolving platform

Posted January 7, 2013

The Associated Press announced it will begin having sponsored tweets on its Twitter feed and Samsung will be the first company to take part in it.

Twitter has had advertising for some time in the form of Promoted Tweets – tweets purchased by advertisers that appear in targeted users’ Twitter feeds. The Promoted Tweets are denoted with the sponsor's name or a little orange box and white arrow so they can be clearly identified on users’ feeds.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Twitter updated its terms of service in 2010 to ensure that advertisers only promoted their tweets in this Promoted Tweet format rather than infusing spam-like promotions through individual users’ accounts. AP’s Samsung announcement seems to fall somewhere in the middle.

Samsung will provide sponsored tweets through AP’s primary Twitter account during the upcoming 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Leveraging Samsung as a sponsor for this high-profile tech event might help expand advertising beyond an individual Twitter feed and make sense to the public.

AP stated in a release: “The effort builds on AP’s expansion into new advertising for mobile and social media.”

In the past, new advertising platforms for mobile and social media has developed traction with the media and and sometimes backlash from the public. Do you remember the Instagram debacle of 2012? Perhaps ‘debacle’ is an exaggeration, but Instagram’s moment in the spotlight certainly caused a stir among my social media community.

Infographic and GIF from describes Instagram's impact. –––>

When Instagram announced new terms of service in December 2012, users took to their social media accounts to complain. The new terms of service implied that Instagram would be able to take users’ photos and use them in promotions. The social media community panicked. My own social media feeds were flooded with pleas from others to delete my account to protest the insanity.

Instagram quickly retracted the new terms and released an apology and clarified what it had intended. Titled, “Thank you, and we’re listening,” the blog post stated that legal documents were easily misunderstood and that it would clarify its meaning in a less elusive, and more concrete manner. Instagram experienced the downside to presenting the public with a big idea rather than exact details – especially when it comes to people’s privacy and their understanding of advertising.

As Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, has seen in the past, people become uncomfortable with social media and advertising worlds colliding. In Instagram’s blog post apology, it made a simple, yet – I believe –necessary statement: “From the start, Instagram was created to become a business.”

Because we have incorporated our personal lives so much into social media, it is often forgotten that social media exists as a business commodity first and foremost – perhaps because ways to monetize the new media platforms often come months and years after their launch. Unfortunately, the medium has grown so quickly, it may take a while for perceptions to catch up. The Associated Press and Instagram are not the first to discuss their advertising tactics with social media and they will not be the last.

As the WSJ article eloquently states in its coverage of AP’s announcement, “plenty of media companies have very popular Twitter feeds and commercial departments keen to find new revenue sources.”

As social media’s audience and influence grows, we cannot expect money to stay out of the conversation. If we want our media to continue meeting our needs, we cannot always seem so astonished and offended when they announce they need money in order to do so.

  - Bailee Bowman

Many things have changed since Schroder PR begin 10 years ago; many have not

Posted January 2, 2013

Ten years ago this week, Schroder PR opened its doors to provide writing and media relations services to a few select clients. Since then, a lot has changed in the business of public relations, but a few enduring principles remain more important than ever.

When we opened our doors to the public in 2003, we were already serving a few commercial real estate developers and soon were hired by one of the two largest law firms in town.

At that time, the primary request of our clients was that we carefully craft well-written press releases and provide them media counsel. Since then, the media world has exploded to an immediate online delivery of news from many news sources – including posts by many writers who have had no professional news training and are not professionally edited.

A decade ago, clients were still trying to understand the potential of the “world wide web” and we were often asked to help re-write their websites with new copy that would attract a prominent listing in developing platforms called “search engines.” Google was still a small private company that was a couple of years from going public.

The word blog was less than five years old in 2003 (it was coined in 1999 from its original term of weblog). Managing partners of large firms were trying to understand how to follow and regulate their use by leading-edge partners in the firms. It wasn’t long before our clients were asking us to assist them to host blogs on their own websites.

Networking and business development is a vital part of any business, particularly a new firm such as ours. Back then, the primary tool of business development was the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Book of Lists. A few days after we opened our doors, a new web-based platform was launched that changed everything. It was called LinkedIn. Today, LinkedIn is a primary business development tool, though we still usually begin our new year making lots of notes in the printed Book of Lists, which is also available in electronic form.

Email and instant messaging had long replaced the idle chatter and gossip around the proverbial water cooler. Then in 2004, we all re-learned an entirely new way to peer into the lives and thoughts of others with the launch of Facebook. Although office productivity initially took a big hit with its growth, we now spend many hours a week updating business pages on Facebook for our clients.

In 2003, we began helping clients produce videos to explain their service offerings. New computer editing tools brought down the cost of this formerly cost-prohibitive medium. Ten years ago, we were still advising clients to trim their videos to five to eight minutes in length. Then in 2005, YouTube launched and video exploded. Today, based on Pew and Poynter research, we caution clients to edit their videos to no longer than 60 seconds and we help manage their YouTube channels.

While Schroder PR has always been an advocate for concise use of the English language, we all learned to edit even tighter in 2006 when Twitter reduced our world of communication not to 140 words, but 140 characters!

As Schroder PR moved offices several times around Midtown Atlanta, we were careful to always provide a cork bulletin board above the desks of our teammates so they could post personal photos and important lists. Now we primarily use the cork boards to soften the sound in more efficient working conditions while our team is busily posting photos and lists for our clients on Pinterest, which launched in 2010.

While many things have changed in 10 years, many principles still endure. Yes, our team spends much of our time monitoring social media for our clients, but we still spend a surprising amount of time editing press releases that we can post online. Yet, we rarely send press releases to reporters. Today we boil story pitches down to one-page backgrounders full of bullet points or send short emails or Twitter pitches.

Though we have so many new tools with which to communicate, we’ve found there is an increasing need to have regular face-to-face meetings with our clients. Client service remains the most important facet of our business and in this new year, we hope to spend more time in person with our clients than ever before. That’s where the magic in this business really happens.

The proper use of the English language is still paramount. Each of of our teammates has an AP Stylebook on their desks. We did try the electronic version for a while, but the book is still our bible.

When we start working with a new client, we still spend the first few weeks and months helping to sharpen their “message” and “position.” When we launched our own website in December 2002, we introduced our company’s slogan and mission, which endures – perhaps with even more significance – to this day: “Clear Messages in a Cluttered World.”

– Chris Schroder

6 things mom taught me that I apply to PR

Posted on May 13, 2012

I spent this past Sunday celebrating Mother’s Day with my mom in Tallassee, Ala. That prompted me to think of  a few things mom has told me over the years that I now apply to my career in PR. I’m sure your mom told you some of the same things, but if not, please comment below and let me know what you’d add!

  1. “Share”
    • I have three sisters, and I’m one of the middle ones. My mother probably told me to share my toys, clothes and everything else a billion times. Now, I use this concept in my career. Share content. This applies not only to clients and press releases – that’s obvious, but also sharing relevant, interesting and helpful information about everything else.  In a recent Rutgers webinar about writing for social media, I learned that 80 percent of social media posts are “me now” posts. That means starting a tweet with “I” or making about something you dislike/like – and that’s fine. Next time, though, try Angela Maiers 70/20/10 test.
      • 70 percent of your posts should be sharing relevant, interesting or funny information
        • Such as tips, speeches, this blog entry …
      • 20 percent should be connecting
        • If you look at your 10 most recent tweets and not one of them mention someone else, you’re not engaging your audience enough
      • 10 percent can be chirps
        • Tell me about your day, but only once every 10 tweets, please.
    • “The Golden Rule”
      • No, not “He who makes the gold, makes the rules,” but “treat others as you would like to be treated.” I utilize this rule when dealing with the media, clients, colleagues and audiences. When a reporter or client wants something, I get it done – that’s what I’d want to happen. I also try to be mindful of the reporter’s deadline and that they have lots of other stories to juggle. I also think about my audience when sharing information. If I were the one being marketed to, how would I feel? This simple elementary school rule can really change how you are perceived in the world, in my opinion.
    • “Those who don’t read, work for someone who does.”
      • When I was in kindergarten, I won a grade-wide reading competition and got to help shave Principal Roberts’ beard. (In retrospect, what were they thinking? I was 5 years old!) I am so thankful mom instilled a love of reading in me at an early age, and I still completely agree with this mantra. I’ve said it in earlier PR 101 posts, PR practitioners have to read/watch/listen to the reporters/producers/bloggers to whom we pitch. Also, it’s a good idea to stay up-to-date with current events anyway. Understanding what’s happening in the world, in your target industries and in your community will make you better at your job; it might even inspire fresh content.
    • Be honest.
      • The other day I told someone I worked for a PR firm. His response (I couldn’t make this up) was, “Oh, so you like work for cigarette and other morally corrupt companies and try to make them seem OK to the public?” I thought public relations being perceived as “spin” was outdated, but I guess that perception lingers. Encouraging transparency in your clients and in your own life is the best practice. Being proactive is also a good technique to avoid bad situations. There are so many case studies that show us that trying to keep a problem hidden from the public almost never works, so just give it up.
    • “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.”
      • We’ve all heard this one. Fell off your bike? Can’t get the French braid just right? Well, brush it off and try again. Well, now we can ride bikes, French braid and throw the perfect spiral, but we can still apply this to our lives and careers. There are some stories that don’t get published right away, so we have to be persistent and revisit them later or perhaps explore a new angle. There are some backgrounders that I cannot get right at all, so instead of getting frustrated, I have to just put it away and come back to it later. I know that there will be times that the brilliant PR plan I created just doesn’t show the results I expected, but even if I failed miserably I can’t mope about it – I just have to come up with a new plan and try again. Everyone makes mistakes, but we have to just try harder next time.
    • Use your manners.
      • Even though I’m 24, mom still scolds me if I am ever the slightest bit impolite to someone, whether I think I am or not. I’m glad, though, because we all need to mind our manners in every facet of life.  I’ve heard so many horror stories about divas and other employees that are hard to work with and I don’t understand it. “Please and thank you, they’re called the magic words” – we all remember that song, right? For social media etiquette tips, please refer back to the SoMe Etiquette post.

Thank you all so much reading, and please feel free to share with your friends.

Status Update: I’m Donating My Organs

Posted on May 4, 2012

My grandparents consider Facebook a huge waste of time. Why wouldn’t they, really? Older generations believe in privacy. They also ask, “Who cares?” when shown a status updating detailing your awesome Tuesday morning coffee date with a friend. But you took such a great Instagram of the latte the barista put a cool design in!

The majority of our posts consist of mundane occurrences, but we also share information about causes that matter to us. This year, my sister got involved with One Voice, an organization that fights human trafficking in Atlanta. Since then she’s devoted a lot of her posts to events and fundraisers, and shared links to articles about human trafficking at home and abroad. Facebook is one way for her to get the message out.

Mark Zuckerberg is hoping that his new donor initiative will do the same thing. According to, there are about 114,000 people waiting for an organ in the United States. 18 people die every day waiting for a life-saving organ. Eight lives can be saved by a single donor. Most people don’t register, or realize the incredible need.

This past Tuesday was an incredible day and yes, what happened totally trumps your latte photo. Facebook rolled out their new “Life Event” option, “Registered as an Organ Donor”. The site also provides information on where to register. Zuckerberg is a powerful 20-something: 6,000 people enrolled in 22 state registries by the end of the day. On a normal day, less than 400 people sign up.

Information continues to spread as those newly registered donors share their decision to register on their walls. It will hopefully lead to fewer people watching the clock, desperate for a donor. It’s an inspiring example of the new face of social activism.

Penn State's Ongoing Battle with Crisis Communication

Post on April 26, 2012

Last fall when news broke of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the entire nation wondered how Penn State would handle the crisis. The child abuse fiasco is a public relations disaster that Penn State will surely be dealing with for years and years to come. So, what should Penn State do?

The day after Sandusky was arrested and charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse of eight young boys over a 15-year period, Penn State University’s Board of Trustees enlisted Omnicom Group agency Ketchum for crisis communications counsel.

Two days later, the firm assisted the school with a press conference during which the vice chairman announced that Joe Paterno (JoePa to most), as well as university President Graham Spanier were stepping down.

In January, Penn State President Rodney Erickson said the university was no longer working with Ketchum PR. Erickson told the Faculty Senate that “the university had used Ketchum as a crisis coordination firm primarily in November, and it had been decided after the holiday break that the university had moved to a point where that company’s help was no longer needed.”

Oh, that’s it? Penn State’s Board of Trustees think it’s all over because the story is not on the front page anymore?

Luckily, something made them reconsider. Edelman and La Torres Communications, were hired this week by Penn State to help rebuild trust and improve its media relations efforts.

According to PRDaily, the two firms “will support the school in upcoming litigation related to the Sandusky crisis and work to foster greater transparency among Penn State Stakeholders.”

In my opinion, the two firms have their work cut out for them. I think it was smart to not only hire Edelman – which has a proven track record for crisis communication campaigns across the globe – and a local firm to handle the campaign.

A quick tangent – according to The Morning Call, the new yearlong contract with the two firms will cost $2.5 million. Also, Penn State has already retained at least 12 other firms at the cost of $7.6 million to provide communications and legal assistance. Where is this money coming from – tuition money? The new strategy should consist of transparency and letting the public know just where the BOT is pulling funds.

What else should be in the new strategy to regain trust and offer great transparency? Is forthrightness enough?

Traditional rebranding may not be enough, considering children are involved and so much wrongdoing has occurred on so many levels at the university. Penn State lost the public’s trust. It’ll be a long process to earn it back.

The first thing I learned about crisis communication was concern for the victims, their families and communities. Penn State should donate copious amounts of money to child abuse charities, or even start their own. It should implement a no tolerance policy when it comes to any sort of misbehavior, empowering its faculty and staff to do the right thing – not simply tell someone else and consider the situation handled. College funds could be set up in the names of those victims who have not yet attended a university. Media training will probably be implemented to faculty, staff and coached for future situations. Penn State needs to somehow prove that it is a safe, stable environment that is suitable for everyone.

There is so much work to be done for Penn State, but it seems to be on the right path. This subject will surely be discussed and studied for many more years. What do you think Penn State should do?

SoMe Etiquette

Posted on April 24, 2012

I handle a few social media (SoMe) accounts for Schroder PR, and I’m learning a few things as I go. My friends think posting to clients’ Twitter and other social media sites is the easiest part of my job, but that’s far from the truth.  A PR Daily article recently summed it up nicely:

“Your friends probably think you spend all day on Facebook sharing cool things, pinning pretty stuff on Pinterest and retweeting about Happy Hour. What they don’t see is that your client just called you and demanded a Facebook promotion with a minimum of 100 entries …”
It’s much harder to speak for a client than on your personal pages, and we’ve all seen stories of interns and social media managers alike posting on client pages when they thought they were posting on their personal page – remember the Barneys New York fiasco?

So here are 5 tips that I’ve assembled. These are general social media etiquette rules, but they can also be applied to managing clients’ account.

  1. As a personal rule, I only “friend” actual friends on Facebook. I’m all for fueling social interaction, but some members of the media may think it’s creepy if you friend them and start commenting on family vacation photos. Follow them on Twitter, fan their Facebook brand page and even follow them on LinkedIn – don’t send them one press release and think y’all are friends.
  2. Chris Brogan wrote a nice article about social media etiquette in which he covered seven topics. I’ll paraphrase:
    1. It’s OK to let the competition follow you, and it’s OK to follow the competition. (I actually recommend it! Keep your friends close, right?)
    2. Listening is important and commenting is important. Be the #1 commenter on your blog, but it’s OK to not comment back for every single comment you receive.
    3. If you’re writing about a client on your personal page, add (client) to the tweet/post/update/blog comment.
    4. Promote others, and it’s much more likely people will help promote you when it’s your turn.
  3. Treat each network separately. This is a pet peeve of mine. It’s OK to tell all the networks the same thing, just don’t make it a one-stop entry. Facebook allows as many characters as your heart desires, Twitter does not. I will not click on the link in my Twitter feed that directs me to the rest of your Facebook post. It may take more time, but it is far less irritating to see messages that are tailored to a specific network.
    1. Also, I understand linking your Facebook and Twitter, I do – you’re busy and you want all of your friends and followers to know it. But on brand pages, I think your clients prefer putting your best foot forward, and in my opinion – tailor-made drafts for each network is the way to go.
  4. Holly Grande wrote a great article on Cookerly PR’s PeRceptions blog, “Is Social Media Etiquette Necessary?” She began with the very question that I’ve wondered at least a dozen times, ‘when someone retweets you, should you thank them, or should you ignore it?’ Her commentary boiled down to two (very wise) words: do good.
    “Be considerate in your posts, thank someone if you feel like you ought to thank them, engage followers in a conversation, but – most importantly – tweet the way you want to be tweeted.”
  5. Write professionally. Remember: Your social media presence is an extension of your business persona – or in some cases your client’s brand. Proper grammar and spelling helps you maintain credibility and a professional image. If I tweeted “LOL! OMG! Schroder PR wants 2 work 4 u! #winning” from Schroder PR’s Twitter account, I’d probably lose my tweeting privileges. I know you only have 140 characters, and you want to save characters for retweeting, but try – please try – to at least use the proper grammar, like the correct forms of their, they’re and there.

Please just use SoMe sense when you’re posting, whether it’s personally or for a client. Here are a few links to other interesting articles on the topic:


Five Tips for Starting Out In Media Relations

Posted on March 27, 2012

This week’s entry is a little selfish. In my quest to become a well-rounded PR practitioner, I’ve realized that one skill is not fully developed: Media Relations. I’ve dealt with members of the media in the year that I’ve been in the field, but I wouldn’t say I've mastered media relations. So, this week I’ve researched pitching and other media relations tips to make you and me better.

OK – you’ve just finished this amazing press release and now comes the time to distribute to the media. How are you going to distinguish your client’s story from the other hundred stories that reporter just got? It’s all about how you pitch.

1) First, like Collin said in our “Meet the Media: Atlanta INtown” entry a few weeks ago, know the publication in which you’re submitting. After building a targeted media list of the publications that may have an interest in what you’re pitching and determining which journalist you should be talking to at those publications, read a few articles the journalist has published lately. This will offer valuable insight into his or her professional interests and areas of journalistic expertise. It’s always best to only send relevant, timely information to journalists who you’ll probably submit to again. You don’t want to send a story about something the journalist covered yesterday!

2) Next, develop relationships. (Oh … media relations – got it!) Someone told me in the very beginning that you should know which journalists cover your clients’ industries – on a first name basis. One extremely easy way to get the conversation started is via social media. I follow so many journalists on Twitter. I try to reply to their tweets and not just hit the “Retweet” button every now and then. (This could quickly turn into a social media etiquette post, but I’ll save that for another time.) You should also network as much as possible. Go to Atlanta Press Club events or any business association meetings or socials. I recently met a few journalists at a Buckhead Business Association breakfast. Breakfast, networking and hearing Ed Baker speak? Not a bad way to start the day. (Invite journalists for coffee, lunch, drinks or anything and just get to know them and their journalistic interests.)

3) As a general life rule (I can give life rules now – I’m 24 years old), I recommend finding a mentor. I’m lucky enough to work in a small firm where I can interact with my boss daily; therefore he can pass on his wisdom to us easily. Probably the first piece of advice Chris gave me was the first time he edited a press release I had written. As a journalist turned PR practitioner, Chris knows what journalists look for when emails pop in their inbox. “Write like a journalist.” If you were the journalist receiving this email, would you read it or press delete? Well, I’m pretty sure he would’ve deleted my first draft, but instead he reminded me to write releases and even emails in inverted-pyramid style – news at the top. You can’t wait until the second paragraph to get your news hook in; if you do the journalist will most assuredly trash it. In emails, you have to hook journalists in the subject line.

4) Do your research. Know and respect deadlines. As soon as a journalist gets a story assignment, the countdown to deadline begins – and there’s no option of getting an extension. Be sure to have all the information and images to journalists as far in advance as you can.

5) Never mass pitch a story idea. Try to customize each individual pitch. Also, know the unique differences between pitching newspapers, TV, radio and blogs. – For example, because TV emphasizes visuals, you should look for stories and angles that permit interesting or engaging video footage. TV news producers and editors like action, especially fast-paced action. They also favor stories with a local twist. Try and localize your story – make the news relevant and appealing geographically to the television station concerned.

Media relations is both an art and a science. I’ve been told it gets easier with practice, but it always requires research, creativity, finding the real news or story hook, persuasiveness and, most importantly, tenacity.

Here are some links that I found particularly interesting pertaining to media relations:

Is Pinterest worth the hassle?

Posted on March 19, 2012

As of late, my roommate Brianna and I cannot go a day without bringing up Pinterest in at least one conversation. The dialogue usually goes something like this:

“Did you know that if you put a wooden spoon over the top of that pot, the water won’t boil over?” she said last week, as my pot of pasta was about to spill over.

“What? No, that’s really cool!” I replied with sincere amazement.

“I saw it on Pinterest.”

Pinterest, for those who are unfamiliar, is an amazing world of new ideas for cooking, fashion, home decorating and exercising, among many other topics. I know of women who have planned their engagement parties, wedding and honeymoon – all from their “wedding” boards. Users “pin” images on bulletin boards that they’ve created. It’s a sort of virtual scrapbook, where users can collect ideas they run across on the Internet.

The site, which was founded in 2009, has attracted more than 16 million monthly users, according to the New York Times. According to a recent Shareaholic Monthly Traffic Report for February, Pinterest beat out Twitter for referral traffic. From the report:

Why is this significant? Our previous report dug into our referral traffic and revealed that Pinterest outpaced Google Plus, LinkedIn and YouTube combined for share of referral traffic. However, admittedly, Pinterest’s digital collage wonderland is essentially a photo-sharing/link-sharing service that is naturally inclined to drive referral traffic. But as Twitter is another share-heavy platform, Pinterest’s edge over the micro-blogging service is particularly significant. Not to mention, Pinterest is still invite-only.

And according to Blogher’s 2012 survey of women and social media, when it comes to women’s faith in social media, 81 percent trust newcomer Pinterest, while only 67 percent and 73 percent trust veterans Facebook and Twitter, respectively.

So, with all this love and trust surrounding Pinterest, we were all shocked when we heard about Pinterest’s culminating issues. Copyright infringement? Who really reads the terms and agreement section before they start pinning away?

Atlanta photographer and lawyer Kirsten Kowalski did just that. (Read “Why I tearfully deleted my Pinterest inspiration boards.”) As you’ll read, Kowalski explains about the site’s terms of use. Apparently when you pin photos to the site, you agree that you are the owner of the photos or have permission from the owner to post them. (Oops.) The terms go on to say, “YOU ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT, TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, THE ENTIRE RISK ARISING OUT OF YOUR ACCESS TO AND USE OF THE SITE, APPLICATION, SERVICES AND SITE CONTENT REMAINS WITH YOU.” (Yes, it is in all caps. Don’t worry I missed it too.)

It’s the user-friendliness that hooks you and makes it all too easy to share copyrighted material. It’s easy for attributions to get lost when you’re repinning your friend’s cousin’s boyfriend’s little sister’s recipe for the perfect chocolate chip brownie. Getting lost in all the shares and re-shares are the rights-holders. Pinterest, like all other popular sharing sites, has attempted to regulate this. The thing is, the sheer scale that makes sites like Pinterest popular is too much for any sort of organization.

Another point to bring up is the media industry can’t have it both ways. It wants the exposure and traffic, but try to limit just what exactly can be shared, and when it can be shared, and who shares it.

According to Jim Nichols, a Forbes contributor,

“Large media companies aren’t the only one with the social sharing oxymoron; many creative professionals are guilty too. That’s how we wind up with misguided legislation such as SOPA.”

The movement to put pressure on Pinterest to change its terms of service has already began – some users have even gone so far as to delete their pinboards. The way its terms or service agreement is worded, Pinterest’s ability to invoke the indemnity isn’t limited to instances where you actually infringed copyright, or did something to otherwise violate a third party’s rights. It can be invoked if the losses simply flow from your use or access to the site of your pins.

Another clause: “You agree to defend, indemnify, and hold Cold Brew Labs, its officers, directors, employees and agents, harmless from and against any claims, liabilities, damages, losses, and expenses, including, without limitation, reasonable legal and accounting fees, arising out of or in any way connected with (i) your access to or use of the Site, Application, Services or Site Content, (ii) your Member Content, or (iii) your violation of these Terms.”

Web and digital media lawyer Paul Jacobson says on that the question remains as to how real the risk of this clause actually being invoked against a user is. “It may seem implausible, but consider that a number of content creators are pretty concerned about Pinterest users sharing their content without their permission,” he said recently. He went on to say it may not be too long before we begin to see the first lawsuits emerge. “At that point, users will have to wait and see if the indemnity is invoked and their lives changed because of a whimsical share.”

Pinterest founder Ben Sinlbermann has said he is just a “guy with a computer who had a vision,” and that he is aware of the issues and is working in possible solutions. So, will you keep pinning? Will you contact copyright owners before posting images? This will give Brianna and me a lot to talk about tonight ...

Social Change and Social Media (#mindblowing)

Posted March 12, 2012

If you’ve lived near a college campus in the last few years, the chances are good that you were familiar with the activist group Invisible Children (IC) before their Twitter explosion on March 6. Last week, IC debuted a video on YouTube and promoted it with a Twitter hashtag, #stopkony. For those of you who haven’t heard yet, IC is trying to “make Kony famous”. Joseph Kony is the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group that once operated in Uganda. Kony is known for his brutal tactics, including the use of child soldiers. You can read more about him here.

This is the year of exploding social media campaigns. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was stopped in its tracks after an online campaign to kill it. Planned Parenthood took to Twitter and Facebook, creating activists in a matter of hours and soundly humiliating Komen for the Cure. IC was trending worldwide for hours; the video had over seven million views in two days. Within a week, it was pushing 80 million. It has been one of the top stories in all the major news networks.

How did this campaign explode, exactly? The group began by recruiting celebrities. Rihanna has 14.5 million followers, Taylor Swift has 11.5 million, and Zooey Deschannel (with a mere 1.7 followers) joined the cause. By tweeting #stopkony, and including a link to the video, celebrities helped create an avalanche of tweets.

It is trite to say, yet again, how quickly the world has changed. But let’s take a moment to look at how we become a part of a movement today. 20 years ago, grassroots campaigning meant hosting a meeting at your home, putting up signs, or going door to door. The modern yard sign is a status update or a tweet. We host forums on our blogs, and we spread the word about causes that matter to us through social media. The speed of modern movements is breathtaking and awe-inspiring. The social media platform makes it possible for individuals to shine an ever-expanding light in dark places across the globe.

No campaign is complete without backlash. If you’d like to learn more about Invisible Children, Inc., this Washington Post article is very helpful (and contains other great links), as is this article from The Independent, written by a Ugandan. Finally, this link to a blog called “Visible Children” has been tweeted a lot in response to #stopkony.

Facebook's Timeline for Brand Pages

Posted on March 6, 2012

Featuring Posts on Timelines

Last Wednesday was a pretty big day in the world of social media managers. Facebook unveiled its timeline for brand pages, and everyone should take note for several reasons. The main reason is all pages will convert on March 30, so you should be prepared. My favorite part about the timeline is the storytelling capability. With timeline, you can fill in your company history, from milestones like opening a new office to new hires.


Brands can now make historical posts to their history. (The best I’ve seen so far is New York Times.) It may take time to organize the content in a compelling way, but once accomplished, it provides an easy-to-navigate story about your brands success. Add photos to highlight key events, and try to map out as many key dates as possible, even those before the Facebook era!. Take this opportunity to tell your brand or business’ story, add personality and let people know how it all began!

Cover Photos

Timeline is also very photo-content heavy. Cover photos have been given a large amount of real estate, and brands should take advantage of this space. What is the first thing you want visitors to see? Social media managers can use this as a welcome banner of sorts, since the welcome tabs will now be obsolete. There are some restrictions:

  • The cover photo dimensions are 851 pixels wide, 315 pixels tall.
  • Cover photos may not contain price or purchase information
    • Example: “40% off!” or “Download free from our website!”
  • Cover photos may not contain contact information, such as phone number.
  • Cover photos may not reference other Facebook elements.
    • Example: “Like our page!” or “Share”
  • Cover photos may not contain calls to action.
    • Example: “Get it now!” or “Tell your friends!”

That seems like a lot of restrictions, but you shouldn’t think of your cover photo as an ad in the paper. You should consider it an additional way to tell something about your company, or to draw in new fans through staying timely and interesting. Make sure you choose wisely though, this photo is prominent and will most definitely impact a visitor’s experience.

Direct Message Page Administrators

Users can now privately message administrators of that page. I guess Mark and the others at Facebook Headquarters were a little jealous of Twitter’s Direct Message feature. Users can now directly message Facebook page administrators in hopes of faster problem solutions in a more personal way. Administrators should have an established process in answering these messages in a timely manner. If a message goes unanswered, the disgruntled messenger could take out his/her frustration on your Brand’s wall.

Brands can now pin a post to the top of the page that will last for seven days and take up the width of the page. This can be used to feature the top content of the week. If you’d still like to “highlight” posts that have surpassed the week’s limit, you can. By using the “highlight” feature, you will expand the content to the full width of the brand page – I’d say use this feature primarily with videos or photos.

I’ll leave you with a few last notes about brand timelines and then you can do your own exploring. Users are more likely to engage with brand pages when they see that their friends engage with the brand, so friend activity is now featured at the top of the page. This means companies should continue to focus on creating content that sparks activity (likes, comments, etc.) that others will see when they visit the page. Also new is the Admin Panel, which now functions more like a dashboard. Administrators can get a quick view of insights, notifications and private messages, and respond right away!

Attack of the Meme
Posted February 28, 2012 by Mary Nevaire Marsh
Oh, the Internet meme. How we love them, until, you know, they’re absolutely everywhere and lose their cleverness. But don’t worry. The next big meme is already out there! How did memes get started? I searched the Internet and I’ve come up with: the Dancing Baby. You may recall the crude, 3D baby dancing the cha cha. The baby graphic spread through email and websites, which is a pretty good example of how people lived in the dark ages of the Internet: BYT (Before YouTube.) The baby went viral, even making an appearance on the show Ally McBeal. I remember another early meme that became a big deal while I was still in elementary school. The Hamster Dance is a testament to the ridiculous. It features hamsters and rabbits dancing to a sped up song. That’s all. It was everywhere. Memes have evolved. While early memes spread by duplication, contemporary memes spread by imitation. “[Stuff] Girls Say” (“Stuff” is substituting a four-letter word here) began as a single video and then exploded as others took the idea and applied it to Indian parents, New Yorkers, and finally “Stuff” No One Says.  YouTube was drenched with these memes, and just when you couldn’t stand it … they were on Facebook. “What People Think I Do/What I Actually Do” were plastered over news feeds. Some were pretty hilarious. I found a University of Texas meme, which led me to a UT meme Facebook page. Turns out a lot of colleges have meme sites now. Have I stumbled upon the next big thing? We’ll see. So, are memes a trend or here for the long haul? I’m inclined to argue for the latter. Memes allow for creativity and mutate so quickly into something new. Specific memes are trendy; the meme genre is probably here to stay.

Edelman's 2012 Trust Barometer Study Finds Trust in Government Decrease, Media on the Rise

Posted February 20, 2012 by Sarah Funderburk
Edelman recently released the results of its 12th annual Trust Barometer survey. Given everything that happened in 2011, it’s no surprise that trust is pretty much decreasing across the board. The 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer examines trust in four key institutions – government, business, media and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) – as well as communications channels and sources. In the U.S., trust in government remained stable, despite all the political discourse, but the majority of countries surveyed do not trust their government to do what is right. Governmental officials are also not the least credible spokespeople, with only 29 percent considering them credible. Like every year, the Barometer looked at the number of times people need to hear something to believe it – 63 percent said between three and five times, which is a four-point jump from last year.
”Business is now better placed than government to lead the way out of the trust crisis,” said Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman. “But the balance must change so that business is seen both as a force for good and an engine for profit.”
Media happened to be the only institution to see an increase in trust over the past year, with new media jumping 75 percent. This is how media is broken down:
  • Traditional media is still the most trusted source (+10% from 2011)
  • Online multiple sources, such as search engines and news/RSS feeds, trails traditional media, but the gap is small (+18%)
  • Social media, which consists of social networking sites, constant-sharing sites, blogs and microblogging sites, saw the biggest percentage increase (+75%)
  • Corporate media was the least-trusted media source, but still jumped +23% from 2011 (Corporate communications and corporate/product advertising)
Before we get into moving forward and the Barometer’s implications in the field of PR, I wanted to mention one more interesting set of findings. As previously mentioned, government officials suffered the biggest decrease in trust of any spokespeople (and in Barometer history), falling 14 percent. Only 29 percent of those surveyed viewed them as credible. CEOs were not far behind, falling from fourth most-trusted to second least-trusted. As these two categories become less a source of information, people are once again turning to their peers. “A person like me” has re-emerged as one of the three most credible spokespeople, with its biggest increase in credibility since 2004. Regular employees also saw an increase in trust, rising 16 points. So it would seem the smart thing to do would be for CEOs to empower regular employees to drive the conversation among their peers about the company and its role in society. Instead of making your head spin with more numbers and findings, let’s talk about how this affects public relations, and more importantly our clients. The study shows that traditional media is in fact not dead, but actually a trusted source of information. Traditional media – TV, newspapers, magazines, radio– and online search engines are the most trusted sources of information for people searching for general news and information, new product information, news on an environmental crises and company announcements. This makes total sense. For instance, when news of the Costa Concordia cruise ship accident first broke, I heard something about it on the radio in my car. I didn’t have time to listen to the whole story, so I went home and Googled it. Other people saw it on TV over their morning coffee, and still others read about it in the paper. Traditional media also did a solid job covering numerous crises in 2011, including the Bank of America debit card fee, the Netflix/Qwikster snafu and the Occupiers. Even though I do like to read an actual newspaper every now and then, as a 24-year old, I’m much more likely to use digital media and social media to read about current affairs – and I trust those sources. I use my iPhone to look at Twitter, which has a story from CNN that I click through to read the story and watch a video. It’s no surprise to me that social networks witnessed the most dramatic percentage increase as trusted sources of information. We need to communicate this rise to our clients. The continuing rise of trust in SoMe and online sources is a signal that our clients need to think beyond print while communicating. Again, traditional media is NOT dying, so we should still focus efforts on placement there, but should not count untraditional media out. We need to provide a complete media cloverleaf and use all of these outlets together effectively in order to communicate effectively. That being said, gaining new fans for your clients isn’t an equivalent to ultimate success and trust. Social media can be used to show transparency and to show CEOs are “people like me.” Social media is not traditional media, and cannot be thought of similarly to traditional media. Instead it needs to be thought of as bringing people together around a common interest – your client’s service/product. Here are a few more takeaways we can learn from the Barometer:
  • We need to work on raising our clients’ search engine optimization (SEO) rank. It is so important to ensure content about your client can be easily found online.
  • We also need to get our CEOs and experts to talk. A great example is a Thought Leadership site. CEOs, presidents and key executives write weekly blogs here and that offers transparency. These are heads of companies writing their thoughts for the whole world to read. Hopefully if more CEOs write blogs, become active on SoMe sites, etc. their trust will increase for the 2013 study.
  • The very first PR maxim I learned was people usually aren’t interested in what you have to say… unless it concerns them. Listen to consumer needs and feedback and place consumers ahead of profits.
  If you’d like to see the results and draw your own conclusions you can click here to see the presentation. Also, leave a comment below if any of the results are surprising to you or if you have other ideas to increase trust for clients.
Power of the People: Komen for the Cure vs. Planned Parenthood
Posted February 7, 2012 by Sarah Funderburk
If you still had doubts about the power of social media after the SOPA incident, the recent Komen vs. Planned Parenthood incident should erase them. Unless you live under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard that Komen for the Cure recently decided to halt grants to Planned Parenthood that were mainly used for breast cancer screening for women who needed financial assistance. Planned Parenthood said the move was made as Komen gave in to pressure from anti-abortion activists. Komen said the main reason was that Planned Parenthood was under investigation in Congress. (To learn more about the investigation, click here to read an LA Times article.) Though many blog entries, news articles and op-eds have been written on this PR disaster, what we should take away is the role social media played. The story could have gone under the radar, especially because the amount of money involved was such a small portion of Planned Parenthood’s annual budget. Instead, Facebook and Twitter users employed these tools to speak out against Komen’s decision. What used to be something discussed over dinner, has now turned into instantaneous posting, viewing by social media users, and potentially allowing millions to see. Minutes after the news broke, social media sites were bombarded with viewpoints on the decision. Women from all over announced they would “stop buying pink.” A “Komen Can Kiss My Mammogram” board on Pinterestwas created, pinned with “I support the cause, not the pink” and “We will not RUN for Susan G. Komen, we STAND with Planned Parenthood” pins. On the other side, anti-choice supporters were also vocal with their tweets and posts, like encouraging followers to write to Komen to thank them “for their truly pro-woman decision to defund abortion group.” [caption id="attachment_551" align="alignleft" width="192" caption="One of the several anti-Komen pins found on Pinterest."][/caption]

What was most surprising was Komen’s response: no immediate response. Komen didn’t post to its social media sites the day the story broke or the day after. Its only action of Facebook was to delete the anti-Komen comments. On Twitter, it only tweeted a story about prostate cancer in mummies. Even Komen sponsors received backlash from Planned Parenthood supporters. People vowing to join an “Energizer boycott,” until Komen reversed its decision, quickly overtook the battery provider’s Facebook page.

Komen has since reversed its decision, planning to “amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

Obviously ignoring a problem is not the best way to handle a situation. Komen was barraged with angry reactions and promises to take donations elsewhere, while Planned Parenthood gained 10,000 new donors, raised $3 million in three days and managed to recast its controversial image. Komen acted like this incident was taken completely out of context and had nothing to do with pro-choice/anti-choice politics, but with the presidential election coming up in November, American’s are extra-sensitive to hot issues like abortion.

So, what now? Komen’s next moves are very crucial to the organization. It’s going to take years, if ever, to regain the public’s trust. According to Bloomberg, two-thirds of more than 3,600 sentiments expressed online about the split were negative to Komen. Even after the decision was reversed, questions have been raised about Komen “playing politics with women’s lives.” It doesn’t matter now how much money the foundation has raised in the fight against breast cancer, it will have every move questioned from now on. Will Komen choose sides in the abortion debate? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. It’s already a lose-lose situation, in my opinion. Komen angered and lost the trust of pro-choice advocates by pulling money from Planned Parenthood, and then did the same thing to anti-choice advocates by reinstating the grants.

I think the most important thing right now is transparency. Anti-choice supporters have come out to say they didn’t even know Komen supported Planned Parenthood, and pro-choice advocates may never trust anything Komen communicates ever again. Komen executives need to act quickly and communicate everything to the public. Instead of having a silent social media presence, its activity should be off the charts. It should use the “hair of the dog” approach with its social media strategy. Social media had a major affect on Komen’s image last week. This week, the goal should be to use social media to regain trust (and followers). Every move Komen makes is going to be scrutinized, but engaging with its social media fans is a much better plan than staying silent and inviting more distrust.

Media Relations in a Social Media World
Posted on January 31, 2012

In the 1950s, the model of communication between PR representatives and the media could be drawn in a simple black and white chart. Then, charts became PowerPoint presentations, letters became emails, and phones now talk to you. The digital age consists of blogs, email, Facebook, Google Chat and Google +, RSS feeds, texts, Twitter, and YouTube. All the avenues might make you miss the easy days of Andy of Mayberry, but don’t worry. To prepare for a Public Relations Society of America meeting in January 2012, Elyse Hammett, APR - Executive VP of PR, and Kimberly Kennedy, media and communications coach, both of EOS Marketing and Public Relations, did a qualitative study of journalists throughout Atlanta. Here are some guidelines for our current Law & Order world based on their survey results.

Know where reporters are going for stories. 62% of reporters use Facebook, 44% use Twitter, and 25% turn to blogs to find new material. To get the word out about your product or company, start with these tools.    
  • Know when to pitch to reporters. 38% say it’s best to pitch a few months out, and 38% say several days out. Only 6% want a pitch the night before. And what about calls, texts, or emails after hours or on the weekend? If you’re reaching out to reporters when they’re off the clock, it should be for a great story. 31% of reporters don’t want to be bothered, while 62% say it depends on the strength and time constraints of a story.
  • OK. We’ve got when and where, now what about how? 94% of reporters want to be contacted in an email and 64% want to be contacted directly. When you’re writing an email, don’t get clever; get to the point. Let the reporter know why it’s a good fit for them, the station, or the paper, and how it will benefit their readers.
  • Be sure to avoid a reporter’s “pet peeves”. These were given as the most annoying PR pitfalls. Be upfront about the money trail. Say whom you work for in the first line of your email. Take “no” for an answer. Be positive! The next pitch might be a perfect fit. But don’t pester them, or your emails could end up with “miracle” diet pill offers in the Spam folder. Be discerning. Ms. Manners may love reading about trends in the housing market, but she won’t be writing about them in her column.
  • Building Relationships The Andy Griffith world is gone, but “Nothing replaces old-fashioned connections based on relationships and years of performance,” says Ms. Hammett. We just use 21st century tools to sustain them. Facebook has 800 million users, and your go-to journalist is on it. 85% of business-to-business journalists comb Facebook for stories, and 35% use Facebook for story angles. “Friend” them and follow them on Twitter (84% of journalists are on Twitter and 27% use it more than anything else) to scope for stories they’re interested in. Remove their name from mass email lists and instead send them custom designs. When you pitch, have real people ready to interview.

SOPA – Will we lose Wikipedia forever … probably not, but made you look.
Posted on January 24, 2012

January 18th, 2012 is a day that will live in search-engine infamy. The popular site, Wikipedia announced it would go dark on this day in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). In other words, January 18th was the day that no homework was done and no one knew what SOPA was because we couldn’t look it up on Wikipedia. Well played Wikipedia, well played.

According to Wikipedia, SOPA is a United States bill introduced by U.S. Representative Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) to expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods. Provisions include the requesting of court orders to bar advertising networks and payment facilities from conducting business with infringing websites, and search engines from linking to the sites, and court orders requiring Internet service providers to block access to the sites. The law would expand existing criminal laws to include unauthorized streaming of copyright material, imposing a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Because of this proposed bill, the English Wikipedia, Reddit and an estimated 7,000 other websites coordinated a service blackout, or posted links and images to protest against SOPA and PIPA in an effort to raise awareness. Did you happen to visit on that day? It did not participate in the service blackout… just blacked out the “Google” image above the search bar. If it were estimated that MY website would lose $100 million per day in advertising if I did more than cover my logo… I’d stay live too. More than 160 million people saw Wikipedia’s banner that day, which is twice the amount of visitors the site gets on an average day.

Rep. Smith was not impressed, calling out Wikipedia’s efforts in particular as a publicity stunt.

“It is ironic that a website dedicated to providing information is spreading misinformation about the Stop Online Piracy Act. The bill will not harm Wikipedia, domestic blogs or social networking sites… This publicity stunt does a disservice to its users by promoting fear instead of facts. Perhaps during the blackout, Internet users can look elsewhere for an accurate definition of online piracy.”
Unfortunately for Rep. Smith, absence does make the heart grow fonder. Thousands of tweets such as “What am I going to do without Wikipedia today,” “Why is Wikipedia down? I have to write a paper on Shakespeare!” “I feel like crying over the Wikipedia Blackout. Because we’re doing research PowerPoint’s in social studies… today of all days!” and “Wikipedia is down for 24 hours? How do I find out why?” and hundreds of articles and blog posts were written about the Wikipedia blackout. Sites collected millions of users opposed to the measures, and several co-sponsors of the measures withdrew their support of the online legislation.

Smith has since said the House Judiciary Committee will postpone consideration of the legislation. Markup on the bill, which began in December, has been slated to continue in February, after the Committee “revisits the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products.”

In sum, Wikipedia’s plan worked. Millions of people heard about SOPA and the bill was shelved (which I think is great!) We cannot be sure that even half of the people outraged by SOPA and the blackouts understand what it is or have taken a gander at the proposed bill, but it was stopped nonetheless. And Wikipedia’s other plan worked. People are obviously still talking about the blackout almost a week later, and its traffic doubled and has continued to show higher numbers since, according to International Business Times. While Wikipedia’s true motive is not clear, one thing is: the site will continue to be one of the top 10 most visited sites in the world with all this publicity.



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