Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Wrapping up: what UGA students learned at Connect

October 16, 2009

Lizzy Nephew, a member of the Connect social media team, is also the editor of PRecedent, the newsletter for UGA’s PRSSA chapter. She solicited quotes from some of the students who attended Connect that really captured the day. Here’s her PRecedent article, reprinted with her permission.

Connect 2009: Integrating Social Media and Traditional PR

Connect ‘09 brought together PR professionals and students to discuss social media and its effect on traditional public relations. Check out what students learned at Connect ‘09:

Before engaging with your publics through social media, know your audience, have a specific goal in mind and build a strategy to execute that goal. You should not join social media just because it exists. You need to know how you can best use it to engage your publics and foster two-way communication.

As the PR professional, you are the spokesperson for your organization and need to know 100 percent about your brand. You have to live and breathe the brand and be fluent in the brand’s culture.

– Lesley Anne Dickerson

  • Not everyone is connected within all of the social media networks including people our age. Young adults around the world are not as “connected” as UGA students.
  • Online buzz is influencing offline buzz such as the growth of business by Naked Pizza, a restaurant in New Orleans, due to its Twitter account. The customer base grew tremendously. 
  • Gripe sites came before Facebook and Twitter. These gripe sites include Murder King, Wicked Wendy’s and other sites that bash companies. I didn’t even know it existed.

– Erica Holland

Connect taught me to look at social media in a strategic way. It is not about having the tools, it is about knowing how to use the tools. I encourage everyone to delve past the surface of social media. Look at how it can help the overall goal.

– Debbie Ebalobo

When it comes to social media, each organization must first decide why they need to have a presence and then how to best utilize the various platforms. These two considerations vary from organization to organization; however, there are certain guidelines that remain constant across the board:

1) People are talking about your brand in the social media space, whether you engage them or not.

2) Authenticity and transparency are essential for successful engagement.

3) Social media tactics should not serve as a replacement for traditional communication methods. Social media platforms should have a complementary role, not a supplementary one.

4) The same basic communication rules apply to social media. It’s not about changing public relations principles; it just provides new tools.

– Allison Brill


Peeking Behind the Curtain at Southwest – Paula Berg

September 20, 2009

After being introduced by Melissa Taylor from Porter Novelli as a little “wacky and off the wall” and heading the blog called “Nuts about Southwest,” we knew we were in for an interesting keynote. Paula Berg did not disappoint, providing the group with an entertaining look into how Southwest airlines integrates social media into their communication.

Berg started by providing us with the background of the “Nuts about Southwest” blog. Originally it started as a way to follow up the A&E series Airline featuring Southwest employees. The success of the show revealed increases in sales and job applications. The airline had no editorial control over the show and though at times there were some “cringe moments,” they trusted their employees to represent the company.

After a nine-month planning phase, the blog team had established the main goals and objectives and found those “people who oozed Southwest” to post to the blog. Their overall plan with social media was to connect with people they way they wanted to connect. In the process, they got to know their audience including those who wrote aviation blogs and participated in forums related to aviation.

Case Studies

Berg also discussed a few case studies featuring how Southwest has used social media in various situations. Each provided Southwest with valuable lessons to incorporate into their overall strategy. When they asked their customers to comment about their preferences between open and assigned seating, they got an overwhelming response to keep their open seating policy.  Southwest learned “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and more importantly to keep what makes them unique.

The airline has faced two major public relations situations in recent years, involving sensitive topics. In the first one, the received negative feedback in a situation regarding a woman wearing revealing clothes being asked to cover up by flight attendants, they chose to wait before responding. As a consequence, when Southwest again faced negative feedback dealing with the “too pretty to fly” story, Berg revealed they applied the lessons and created a three-pronged approach to respond. The plan provided an online spokesperson, create an official statement, and a YouTube video.

One of the biggest threats to the Southwest reputation happened in March 2008 when the FAA fined the airline $10.2 million for inspections. This situation was the first where the legal department stepped in to limit the conversation. Berg said that they could only repost information already posted, but not create any new content. Though the received much fewer comments during this situation, they learned to “take every situation seriously.”

Berg also discussed some of the tools Southwest uses outside of the blog. The airline uses YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. One of their most popular recent videos was of a rapping flight attendant. That video sparked popularity for others on their YouTube channel. He has since been dubbed the rhythmic ambassador for Southwest.

In all of the case studies discussed, Berg emphasized that the “micro interactions lead to lasting impressions,” providing organizations with a unique opportunity to connect with their audiences.

Berg left the group with four key takeaways:

1)      Establish channels before a crisis

2)      Don’t be afraid to join the conversation

3)      Act fast – don’t hesitate

4)      Build a strong team

Lieutenant Connie Braesch on the Coast Guard’s Social Media Participation

September 19, 2009


Lt. Braesch via Skype

Lt. Braesch via Skype

“When it comes to social media we are definitely in the lead” (relative to its service’s size) —a bold statement made by Lieutenant Connie Braesch, the Social Media Tactical Action Officer for Coast Guard Public Affairs.


And rightly so—even though the Coast Guard only composes 2% of the U.S. Armed Forces, they have an encompassing presence in the social media world. Among other platforms, the Coast Guard has a service-wide blog, the Coast Guard Compass, and official Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr accounts.

According to Lt. Braesch, the purpose of utilizing these platforms is to educate and inform the public about what the Coast Guard does every day, which includes more than just rescue missions. The Coast Guard is also responsible for navigations law enforcement, ice operations in the Arctic, homeland security roles, drug and immigrant interdiction and maritime law enforcement.

“Every Coast Guard member (Guardian) is a spokesperson for the service. Everybody is considered a voice,” Lt. Braesch said. As a result, the Coast Guard has roughly 100 separate official social media sites, and those are only the ones known to Lt. Braesch.

In order to establish a more collaborative voice among the separate voices representing the Coast Guard, Lt. Braesch shared with Connect participants the Coast Guard’s criteria for social media participation:

1. Full disclosure is required. Contributors to social media from within the Coast Guard must identify who they are, their position and for whom they work.

2. Always provide a short disclaimer. When engaging on unofficial Coast Guard sites, a disclaimer is included to establish that the Coast Guard does not endorse the site or any links on the site.

3. General comment policy. The Coast Guard does not allow anonymous comments.

For a one-stop shop for Coast Guard news, people can go to the Coast Guard Twitter, which is a live RSS feed of Coast Guard press releases. After measuring the click-through rate of this tactic, Lt. Braesch continues to employ this because she knows the Coast Guard’s publics use and enjoy it. Lt. Braesch is able to freely and quickly disseminate this information because the Coast Guard trusts her team to do their own social media without approvals. Since the blog is 100% her voice, it helps to build credibility and authenticity to the posts.

Social media also played a large role in how the Coast Guard responded to the recent 9/11/09 incident, where a Coast Guard training exercise was mistaken as a potential threat to the presidential motorcade crossing the Potomac River Bridge. The Coast Guard is now conducting a content analysis investigation of Twitter streams and blog comments to assess public opinion on the incident.

As for the future of the Coast Guard’s involvement in social media, they want to find the balance between more engagement and less security risks—and continue to be the leader in social media in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Lieutenant Connie L. Braesch assumed her duties as the Social Media Tactical Action Officer for Coast Guard Public Affairs on June 1, 2009.  In her current assignment, she is the voice behind the Coast Guard’s social media participation. She also produces and distributes Coast Guard policy and procedures for the use and application of social media as well as provides consultation for service communicators.

NOTE: The original post was edited for factual information.

Legal Issues with Employee Blogging: Perry Binder, J.D.

September 19, 2009

Perry Binder, J.D. is a legal studies professor at Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business, where he teaches law. While Perry speaks often about the legal pitfalls of social media, he is one of the leading proponents of social media as a means to connect businesses to each other, and for public relations professionals to manage and promote a company’s message.


Mr. Binder begins his presentation by showcasing the Pepsi Harrier Jet Commercial. The advertisement addressed Pepsi Points and prizes you can win. However, an individual in Seattle wanted a jet from Pepsi Points and rounded some investors, BUT Pepsi couldn’t deliver the jet. A lawsuit was filed against Pepsi.

According to Binder, this story showcases that lawsuits are a part of any campaign and practitioners need to look at the law side of things. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to be funny, Binder says that law is still an integral part of a campaign.

Flash-forward to 2009, where we, as practitioners, are constantly selling and promoting. Moreover, it brings us to employees blogging (promoting) about a product or a service and the implications associated with blogging.

Perry Binder calls upon the following examples for success and failures in social networking:

Social Networking:PR Success Stories

  • Dell (Twitter): 1.1 million followers on Dell twitter page. Dell also gives away coupons.
  • JetBlue (Twitter): Puts flight delays, flight info on twitter.
  • Starbucks (Twitter): Will take customer feedback
  • Ford (Twitter): Gave away cars for bloggers who blog about Ford.

PR Blunders:

  • Attorney: A judge found out that the attorney was lying by looking at her facebook.
  • Target: A UGA student found out that Target wasn’t being transparent. Target gave away coupons for people that blog about them.

Questions to think about: What happens when employees control the message or non-employees pass the messages along? The internet is creating new challegens–daily. So how do you deal with the reality?


Blogs makes griping much easier.

  • Photo Blog: Flight attendant Ellen Simonetti posted provocative photos of herself in uniform on her blog. She was fired.
  • Not Funny Blog: Microsoft worker Michael Hanscom thought the photo on his blog of competitor computers sitting on his company loading dock was funny. His employer called it a security violation. He was fired.
  • Trade Secret Blog: Google employee Mark Jen did a blog on life at his new job, including talks on potential products. He was fired.

But blogging is still a valuable marketing tool.

Blog Policy At Work:

  • Trade Secrets: Cannot put propriety information about company.
  • Negative Reflection of Company: Cannot say anything negative that reflects poorly of the company.
  • Harrasment: Cannot put anything related to gender, race, etc about employee cannot be posted.
  • Discrimination
  • Defamatory Statements: Cannot put any lies about service, etc

“PR is NOT Social Media” and more words to tweet by from Lauren Fernandez

September 19, 2009

Flying in all the way from Dallas, Texas, Lauren Fernandez educated the Connect attendees with her rules on social media, or what she calls “enhanced media,” and what PR pros can bring to the table. Using examples from her position at the American Mensa and even an activity that brought the pros back to the classroom, Fernandez suggested that a brand’s social media execution should not be left up to the external PR team alone.

Within the company, the execution of a brand’s social media presence needs to be done by someone who knows the brand 100 percent and who has the all the information at all times, or someone who is fluent in the brand’s culture. This internal person, therefore, can provide the authentic voice while simultaneously controlling the message. Social media is about engaging stakeholders and an internal voice can provide the realism and passion essential to engagement.

If the external PR team isn’t responsible for execution of social media, what can they do for the online conversation? As outsiders, external pros can provide the checks and balances needed for effective brand building by educating the executors about the strategy behind the message and monitoring the client’s online activity. It should be a system of working together towards a common image.

In addition to her ideas about social media execution, Fernandez also outlines the keys to engagement:

  • Learning: Seek out those with common interests to gain understanding or a new perspective.
  • Listening: People like to talk about themselves and their interests or problems so to start a conversation, make it first about them. Find common goals.
  • Advocating: When people see the passion about a brand, they will listen to the message

Bottom line, PR and social media are about one thing: opening the dialogue and having a conversation. It’s how a brand does this that sets them apart.


Dr. Natalie Tindall, Georgia State University, takes it all in.

Dr. Natalie Tindall, Georgia State University, takes it all in.

Social Media Diva Talks About Integration – Toby Bloomberg

September 19, 2009

Even though Toby Bloomberg said there were “no experts in social media,” she did provide some valuable advice for business and industry to integrate social media into their current plans. Bloomberg began by stating that it’s important to start with a plan, establish goals and objectives, and get to know the audience. She said that once an organization establishes that broad brush strategy, then they can start the process of incorporating the tactics.


Toby makes a point

Toby makes a point

Bloomberg discussed engagement in social media as bringing back the corner store relationships. She described the building of trust which allows organizations to take the conversation to a new level. The emphasis is not just on sales anymore, it’s about building relationships and communities. Also, businesses have to get away from just sending out messages and taking from consumers and move toward creating good will and understanding their publics. Bloomberg described this process as “ripping down that Wizard of Oz curtain.”


In addition to providing informative advice on how organizations can integrate social media into their existing plans, Bloomberg provided some examples of how some organizations who are succeeding at integrating social media.

Naked Pizza   This little pizza shop from New Orleans who experimented with Twitter used it to get to a small radius within their neighborhood. They found that 15% of all new business came from Twitter.

Donors Choose   Another great example of how an organization can drive their publics from offline to online and back. Someone can hand you a card, you go the Web site, experience the different projects, choose which project to donate, and then you get a response instantly from that organization. Depending on your donation level, you get anything from a post to your Twitterfeed or a widget on Facebook to a hard copy thank you letter mailed to you.

Dell Dell used integrative online strategy  to drive people to other online vehicles and drove their sales up.

Ultimately, the focus comes from the company and each individual business culture. The level of authenticity comes back to the person and the organization. Within each culture, how social media is personalized to convey the organization communication is decided and adapted based on the audience and message.

Toby Bloomberg is a widely recognized for her expertise in combining social media with traditional marketing values (strategy, customer insights, segmentation, etc.) while maintaining the authenticity of digital conversations. She speaks regularly on the topic to organizations and at industry events. Combining 20-years of traditional strategic marketing and with the lessons learned from her adventures in over 5 years with social media, Toby’s company, Bloomberg Marketing/Diva Marketing, works with (the people in) organizations to join-in on the new conversation, from blogs, to social networking to widgets to blogger relations and beyond, without getting blown-up.

“I hate social media.” – Jeremy Pepper on Integrating Social Media into Business & Industry

September 19, 2009


Jeremy tells it like he sees it

Jeremy tells it like he sees it

The crowd gasped. Our PR world stopped spinning. I think I felt a tiny earthquake. Did Jeremy Pepper, director of communications and social media for Palisades Systems, just say he hated social media at a social media conference? Yes, he did, and he had one heck of a good reason:

“The term ‘social media’ ignores what we’ve been doing in PR for the last 50 years. It’s a new term for things we’ve been doing forever; it’s just another way of engaging people.”

Public relations is all about using engagement to get  people excited about your brand, and social media is just one of the ways we as PR practitioners can do this. Pepper gave great examples of how companies are using social media to drive engagement from online to offline. Chick-Fil-A, for instance, holds tweet-ups to get mommy bloggers to come to their family story times. Pepper himself uses Twitter to find people that hate the competitors of his company. He then offers these people help or advice, and in doing so, creates fans and praise for his company.

Pepper says we need to step outside of our own little worlds and start seeing the endless options we have for engagement. Twitter is often seen as a purely Business to Consumer medium, but Pepper revealed that it actually works wonderfully for Business to Business communication. In fact, Twitter is where Pepper reaches most of his stakeholders.

While Pepper is not a fan of stunt PR, he admits that creating a buzz online drives buzz offline, and traditional journalism will jump in here. Journalists will write about an online hit, but that is not to say that social media is the end-all-be-all in communications. “Social media creates cowards,” Pepper said, “Even CEOs complain on Twitter about other companies. Is this really appropriate?”  He also thinks it creates unequal treatment and raises a good question: Do people with more followers deserve more attention or more respect?

One particular mommy blogger received a phone call from Maytag almost immediately after complaining about the company on Twitter. Is that fair? Shouldn’t social media be used to respond to all customer concerns? Isn’t the ability to interact with all consumers the point? Pepper thinks s0, and this mantra is what has made him an expert in the very term he hates. He shocked us, made some valid points and got us talking. Yep, sounds like Jeremy Pepper has this whole “social media” thing figured out.

Integrating Social Media in Non-Profits Panel: Tom Watson

September 19, 2009

Tom Watson is the Deputy Dean and Reader in Communications in The Media School at Bournemouth University in England. Before entering full-time academic life in 2003, Watson’s career covered journalism and public relations in Australia, the UK and internationally. He ran a successful public relations consultancy for 18 years and was chair of the UK’s Public Relations Consultants Association from 2000 to 2002. Tom presented at the conference via Skype.

Tom Watson presented information about the nature of nonprofits and how to use social media successfully. Watson views social media as playing a supportive role instead of a primary role in public relations. According to Watson, nonprofits have the potential to influence policy and maintain long-term goals, but the ability to win media coverage is extremely important.

Watson’s case studies found that donors were in support of using commercial activity for fundraising as long as the projects are aligned with an organization’s values. Acceptable items must represent the cause. Social media can be used for fundraising as long as it’s supplemental to traditional methods and not a replacement.

Watson presented information about three nonprofits Oxfam, World Vision and Trinity Center. Each of these organizations is integrating their Web site with their traditional media relations. World Vision has a Facebook fan page that has 24,000 fans, but there are 17 fan pages and 500 groups not affiliated with World Vision. World Vision can control the message on their own fan page.

The positive aspect of community pages and groups set up by fans is support from the community. The problem is the spread of incorrect information. Maintaining your own brand on social media is important for controlling that message and propelling it into the online communities.

The main point of social media in Watson’s eyes is the resulting word-of-mouth. Measurement should be based on mixing quantitative research with content analysis. It’s important about what’s being said, not just how many people are talking. Old metrics need to be applied to the new situation. Discover which blogs and Web sites are the creators of opinions and who are the followers. The positive word-of-mouth is the hopefully final outcome.

Sara Valkova on Integrating Social Media in Non-Profits: Engage, Don’t Promote

September 19, 2009

3934459406_b0d295e1e7When non-profit organizations step into the social media world, they must first know their audience and have a particular goal in mind for reaching that audience, according to Sara Valkova of Emory Healthcare’s Web Marketing Team.

“Some non-profits are in the social media world because they feel like they should and don’t know how to use social media effectively. They are not engaging and not having a dialogue,” Valkova said. “Social media should be about initiating two-way communication between a non-profit organization and their audience, and not all about brand reputation management.”

An example of using social media as a way to connect with publics can be found in Emory’s February Heart Month initiative.  Emory created an online calendar with heart-related tips for each day of the month and also provided a newsletter full of heart-healthy tips. Emory promoted this initiative with a Facebook ad that targeted the desired audience, those at risk for heart disease. Not only is this an example of using social media tools to engage with your publics, but it also shows how traditional and social media can go hand-in-hand.

Emory also uses social media for direct and timely customer service. For example, some patients are more comfortable going to a public forum like Facebook or Twitter to complain about a bad experience at the hospital than directly telling their nurse. When Valkova and her team sees complaints like this in the social media sphere, they contact the nurse in the unit responsible for the complaint and directly address the problem.

“Our target is very defined, so we target that group and we go where they are,” Valkova said.

When asked about the future of integrating social media in non-profit organizations, Valkova replied: “Non-profits have to see what’s important to their audience in order for social media to work for them.” Just like the old adage says, you have to know where you are in order to know where you are going.

Sara Valkova is a web development specialist for Emory Healthcare and co-chair of the Emory Social Media Advisory Board. She is the driving voice behind Emory Healthcare’s social media initiatives and responsible for developing and implementing Emory’s social media tactical plan. You can follow Emory on Twitter @emoryhealthcare.

Is Social Media Transformational? “The Jury Is Still Out”

September 19, 2009


Aaron, Dan and (via Skype) Melanie

Aaron, Dan and (via Skype) Melanie

Although Aaron DeLucia, senior vice president of Porter Novelli, Austin, and Dan Greenfield, principal at BernaiseSource Media agreed that social media is transformational in the field of public relations, Melanie James, a public relations lecturer at the University of Newscastle, didn’t agree.


Greenfield believed that social media transformed the way organizations work in public relations. Back when he worked for MCI he would say “there’s this thing called the Internet and you have to use it.” It allows departments to collaborate in ways that they haven’t in the past.

“I think social media conveys the organization and the way it is organized, the authority,” Greenfield said. “All of the rules are being turned upside down. It is making PR and marketing work in ways it has never worked before.”

When responding to PR’s use (or over use) of great metrics brought up by Melanie James, he further used an example of how he created, organized and promoted PR Camp Atlanta, a workshop to bring public relations practitioners in Atlanta together to discuss pertinent issues in the industry such as social media, solely online. He said that although he sent two press releases about the event, not a single reporter covered it.

“If I didn’t have Twitter, it [PR Camp Atlanta] would have never happened. Twitter was responsible for getting people involved and creating a buzz about it. It was through non-traditional [PR] tools that I was able to make this happen. It was made possible because it didn’t cost me a dime to publicize the event, and that is a far cry from the PR when I first started.”

Aaron DeLucia thinks that Twitter has been the biggest transformation for PR and how corporations and organizations look at communication with their different publics, whether it is with journalists, customers, etc. DeLucia also believes that social media has created new relationships through its existence.

“You’re always connected and you always have to be available,” DeLucia said. “We’re interacting with people at different levels. You need to have a support person/technical person that will interact with the customer [that has the answers to the questions that PR practitioners can’t answer].”

However, James does not agree. She believes that it is transformational in terms of where public relations will be in the future but that it also comes down to the micro level in terms of what should PR practitioners actually do as opposed to the other departments within an organization or other industries in general.

“I have seen numerous turf wars in PR and marketing,” James said. “In Sydney, Australia, turf wars are tough between social media agencies, advertising agencies, and certainly social media has driven a lot of that. ”

However, they all agreed that PR practitioners still need to be responsive regardless of how organizations respond and need to take into account their online presence, relationship management and branding of their organizations.

United Airlines and the mishandling of one man’s guitar was discussed at length and because of this, Southwest Airlines is capitalizing on this mistake through mass media about the care they take in handling bags. The question became does having this online public outcry have an actual, bottom-line effect on the company. Have they lost customers? Do people remember? The case study is always accessible via search.

Furthermore, the panel discussed if the terms new media or social media are productive or interchangeable. The terms ‘horseless carriages’ and ‘information superhighway’ were replaced. Although terms do not matter as much, people have more control over content this content making everyone a spokesperson with the power and capability to shape or change a brand and its reputation.

Finally, students and social media were discussed with the fact that people around 21 years of age have a more personal relationship with the media. The panel believes that students must be taught skills to leverage their day-to-day use of social media.