Posts Tagged ‘speaker’

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


“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.

Dan Greenfield on social media, Atlanta, and PR

September 14, 2009

Get to know Dan Greenfield in 4 quick Q&As:

Q. Your session is called, “Is Social Media Transformational?” Is this, in your opinion, an important question to ask? What do you expect your session to do in terms of answering this question?

A. I think it’s a very important to ask the question – because beyond the hype and hyperbole, social media is in fact transforming the message, the means to distribute it and the organizations that deliver it.  It decentralizes authority, redistributes power and redefines roles and responsibilities.

This session should define what social media is and its impact on the PR profession both in what we say and how we say it.

Q. You recently organized a PR/social media conference yourself. After that experience, what are your thoughts on the Atlanta PR community in terms of its knowledge, experience or use of social media?

A. Based on my experience organizing PR Camp Atlanta, I think Atlanta’s PR community like most communities in other cities is hungry for all things social media.

Social media is a moving target.  They want to manage its impact on the way PR is sold, practiced and measured.   They are realizing they are not alone in having many questions and few measurable solutions that they can take to their clients and bosses. They also realize that a generational divide exists between Generation Y and Generation X and Baby Boomers.  Young PR professionals have a more intuitive, personal relationship to social media, but lack an understanding of how to communicate with an organizational voice.  Their older counterparts may not how download apps on an iPhone or upload a video to Facebook, but they understand how social media fits into an overall communications strategy.  Together they can teach other how to manage change and deliver better results to their clients.

Q. What are your favorite blogs to read? Do you read mostly PR blogs, mostly media/comm, or something else altogether?

A. Increasingly Twitter is replacing blogs as my source for opinions and information.  Three years ago, I would tell anyone I knew to start a blog.  Now I tell them to use Twitter – even though I love to blog.  That being said, Mashable and ReadWriteWeb are essential blogs for anyone who wants to keep up with social media.  They help keep track of the latest developments and provide useful advice.

Q. What’s your personal favorite social tool to use? How has social media benefited you personally or professionally?

A. Twitter and WordPress. I wouldn’t be speaking at the Connect 2009 conference without them.  Enough said  (and I still have 35 characters to spare).

*** Update after panel discussion of ‘Is Social

A Midwestern Coastie: Interview with Lt. Connie Braesch

September 11, 2009

Lt. Connie Braesch is a 15+ year member of the United States Coast Guard and a Grady College alum. Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, she has been moved all over the country including Maine, Hawaii, Key West, and Alaska. Lt. Braesch will join us via Skype from Washington, D.C. where she is currently working at Coast Guard Headquarters as the Social Media Tactical Officer for Public Affairs. She will pair with Dr. John Tedesco to discuss the role of social media in the government.

When asked about the unique challenges the Coast Guard and the military at-large faces in their use of social media, she responded by saying the biggest challenge, outside of cybersecurity and operational security issues, is “providing the public an easily identifiable official source for information, which can be difficult to find in the decentralized and often puzzling online realm.” Braesch believes that “collaboration, search engine optimization (consistent tagging, identifiable URLs, regular content), and engagement are imperative.” To succeed, she cited it “requires communicators across the entire organization to be on the same page and driving towards the same goals.”

Braesch added that “This is not a simple task given the Coast Guard’s 11 mission areas and worldwide operations where every Guardian is a spokesperson for the service and (in the spirit of the social media tools) members, units and commands are encouraged to freely use social media to engage with the public. That’s a lot of cats to herd.”

Here are a few questions to get to know Lt. Braesch a little better:

Q: What are 3 facts (i.e. accomplishments, projects) about your career not found in your biography?
A: I am not sure these are so much as professional accomplishments as they are memories that I remember most about my career.

1) For three years, in addition to my duties as the Sector Northern New England Command Center Chief, I coordinated and oversaw maritime Presidential security operations for President George W. Bush when he visited the Bush family summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine. I am honored to have a picture with his father, President George H. W. Bush, and to have been one of the few people to get a private/autographed photo with George W. Bush.

2) For nearly two years, during my first tour in the Coast Guard as a young 19-year old, I trained Coast Guard Recruits in physical fitness during bootcamp.

3) In my 15 and a half year career, I have relocated ten times and driven across the entire United States from coast-to-coast and corner-to-corner (not sure how best to say that beyond driving from duty station to duty station, I have also driven straight from New Jersey to California, Alaska to Key West (via the Alaska Marine Highway ferry), and Connecticut to Hawaii (well, I didn’t drive to Hawaii 🙂 but I drove to Los Angeles and shipped my car to Hawaii).

Q: If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be?
A: A Midwesterner’s Coast Guard Career (sure, it’s not very original but that is why I am in the Coast Guard)

Q: What (who) has been the biggest new media influence on your career?
A: I surely wouldn’t have the job I have now if it wasn’t for Dr. Karen Russell, Associate Professor at the University of Georgia. She introduced me to social media and challenged me to learn and adopt the communication tools.

I will never forget one of my first days as a Mass Communication Graduate student… I was a business management undergrad, had not been in school for six years, and had been in the Coast Guard for 13 years when I found myself sitting in Dr. Russell’s Public Relations Foundations class. She started to talk about wikis, blogs, social media, Web 2.0, and many other terms I had never heard before. I even raised my hand and asked how to spell “wiki.” At that point, I knew I had a lot to learn and was in for a wild ride. I spent the next two years focusing on social media and challenging my use and application of the online tools. One of my favorite and most profound classes was Dr. Russell’s Word-of-Mouth Communication – a definite must for any PR student.

Q. What single piece of advice would you give to a PR educator? A PR pro?
I am neither an educator or a pro but I was a student and I am now new to the field of social media. So, my advice for a PR educator is that although I have heard educators say that they do not feel that they should show students how to use online tools, I feel that providing them a simple introduction to the basics will give them the familiarity and confidence to take the next step and the next and the next… The tools can be intimidating, but once you start you realize how simple they are. The anxiety and anticipated technological limitations all slip away.

My advice for a PR pro is that for me, social media communications is all about teamwork. I think it is crucial to make sure social media communicators are either the subject matter experts or they have access to the subject matter experts to do fact checks and bounce ideas around. It also takes a team to collaborate, monitor, track, manage and engage in all the various tools that are used. It isn’t a one-person (or one-office) responsibility.

For more about Lt. Connie Braesch, read her blog My Coast Guard Career or follow her on Twitter @ConnieLea

Getting to Know Dr. John Tedesco

September 11, 2009

One of the academics joining us at Connect this year is Dr. John Tedesco from Virginia Tech, paired with Lt. Connie Braesch of the U.S. Coast Guard, discussing social media in the government. Tedesco is an Associate Professor and Director of Research and Outreach in the Department of Communication at Virginia Tech.

He attributes his doctorate from the University of Oklahoma as his most important accomplishment allowing him to do the work he loves including teaching public relations and political communication courses as well as his research into politics, media, and young people.

Tedesco identified the following as facts you won’t find in his biography:

1) I am one of three American political communication researchers invited to join the 2009 German National Election Research Team led by Michaela Maier at the University of Koblenz-Landau.
2) I co-edited a special issue of American Behavioral Scientist devoted to media, politics, and young voters.
3) I am a two-time recipient of the University of Oklahoma’s President Award for Teaching Excellence given to four faculty members each year.

When asked about the first Web site he visited every day, besides e-mail, Tedesco stated “It varies.  During the past couple weeks, the first site I visited was the US Open site to get updates on the latest tennis matches.  I’m a huge tennis fan.  You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.”

Additionally, he identified RSS feeds as being the biggest new media influence because he does not need to visit all of the different sites he’s interested in and “before RSS, surveillance and tracking were very difficult to accomplish.”

His advice to PR educators and professionals is “do your research, especially if working on campaigns.  Don’t assume your experience with an audience or a market is sufficient as audiences and markets shift regularly.”

For more information on Dr. John Tedesco, please see his Virginia Tech profile and follow him on Twitter @jctedesco

A Few Minutes with Lauren Fernandez

September 8, 2009

Meet Lauren Fernandez. She is a young professional from Dallas, Texas, and loves shoes, politics, traveling and of course, Big 10 football. In the public relations world, however, Lauren is one of the leading new voices of PR pros.

As a current marketing coordinator for the National Office of American Mensa and the Mensa Education and Research Foundation (you know, the genius club?), her qualifications pile up much like the linebackers of her favorite football team on gameday. She is the Social Media SIG Co-Chair for the Ft. Worth Chapter of the PRSA, and a member of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). Lauren is also a student of the ASAE Leadership Academy, Class of 2010. In addition, her blog LAF was recently named “Best Up & Coming” in the 2009 PR Reader’s Choice Awards.

Now, all of these credentials can be found by simply google-ing her name. Let’s get to know her a bit more:

Q. How did you decide on a career in public relations and marketing?

A. I decided on a career in public relations because of my love for writing and journalism. After a stint on the HS newspaper and a newsroom internship, I knew I couldn’t adapt to the crazy schedule many journalists adhere to. I like order and structure, and a journalist suggested I look into public relations. I took one class and fell in love with the profession, and my various internships through college solidified that.

Q. What are three things people wouldn’t normally guess about you?

A.  I wanted to grow up to be Rainbow Brite when I was a kid.

I am the granddaughter of a Cuban revolutionary, which has taught me to always stand up for what I believe in and question everything.

I think chocolate is one of the most disgusting things ever.

Q. We know you like football…How do you feel about the Bulldawgs?

A. I grew up on Big 10 football, so I’m a huge Michigan fan. Most people don’t know that, especially living in Texas! When the SEC is on, I usually pull for LSU. I have lots of UGA alum friends, though, so I enjoy their fandom on a regular basis.

Q. As an emerging leading voice in the field, where do you see the future of PR heading?

A. I think that the PR field will continue to evolve and use social media to enhance it. The one thing that professionals must keep in mind are the traditional tools, because this is the foundation of our profession. It won’t go away.

Q. Any hints about what your lunch address will be about?

A. My session will be on something that has been covered in my blog and caused a lot of opinion.

Q. Which part of the conference are most looking forward to?

A. I’m most looking forward to engaging with students and other PR professionals. I love learning and seeing the dedication that people have to this field – it really revitalizes who you are and the type of PR professional you want to be.

Q. So I follow you on twitter; what are some requirements you look for before deciding whether to follow back?

A. Unless it’s someone I know pretty well, I look at their interests and the type of interaction they have. I don’t follow brands unless I like them a lot and how they use Social Media – ie. Zappos, Southwest; if they indicate they are interested in PR; or if they are interested in sports and fashion.

For those of you attending, you can hear Lauren speak during the lunch presentation at 12:30 p.m. on September 19. Everyone else, please check back periodically on the day of the event for a summary post of Lauren’s address.

And for those of you who still want more, you can follow Lauren on Twitter @CubanaLAF. But she may or may not follow you back…

Q&A with Melanie James

September 7, 2009

Australian educator/PR pro Melanie James kindly agreed to work late into the night in order to join Connect’s first session via Skype. We asked her a few questions to help you get to know her.

Question: Your session is called, “Is Social Media Transformational?” Is this, in your opinion, an important question to ask?

Answer: It is an important question to ask. It’s playing out on several levels – from how will it change the way public relations is practiced, taught and researched (macro) to the question of whether it will it change what individual practitioners have to do in their day to day work (micro). So both levels of questioning are happening simultaneously – is it transforming the field in which I work and is it transforming my job?

Question: What do you expect your session to do in terms of answering this question?

Answer: These questions raise issues of change and take people out of what might have been their comfort zone. They bring to the fore the challenges of keeping abreast of new technologies personally but then also having to be able to think strategically about them – what role would they play in a public relations context for the organisation you’re working for. They bring to into play the insecurities of perhaps fearing younger staff may be more up to date with social media and perhaps older practitioners might be seen as “old hat” in a tight employment market. However, it also brings opportunities for public relations in terms of working creatively to deliver client outcomes. I think excellence in strategic communication planning, implementation and evaluation will remain at the fore of the public relations field – now more than ever. The ability to think clearly about what is to be achieved and how social media may or may not help in meeting that goal will remain paramount. I’ll be stressing the importance of thinking through why an organisation might use social media and what negatives and positives there might be for organisations that “move into the space”. I’d also like the session to touch on what evidence the field should be gathering in terms of building knowledge and theory and what research methods would be most useful in gathering and analysing such evidence.

Question: You’re both a practitioner and an educator. How has social media affected your work in each area?

Answer: As a practitioner it’s made me realize that you can spend (and possibly waste) a lot of valuable time on:

* deciding whether social media should be part of your program or campaign
* defending whatever decision you’ve made
* implementing the social media aspect of your activities
* evaluating what if any impact it’s had

As an educator it has:

* made me engage with different areas of theory that I may not normally have pursued
* forced me use social media personally so I could “get across” what the technologies and the environments in which they operated were about
* encouraged me to integrate social media aspects into assessment tasks to drive learning and research (my own and my students’) into this evolving area of praxis
* opened opportunities for networking that have not been previously possible

Question: Are there any good Australian PR blogs that we might not know about?

Answer: mUmBRELLA

Question: What’s your personal favorite social tool to use?

Answer: I like Twitter in terms of the immediacy and the fantastic avenues of information it opens up for my work. In a nonprofessional capacity I like blogging in terms of the sense of community that it can foster, as an outlet for my creative side and for the flexibility of the operating environment.