Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Social Media Punditry Needs to Die

When I first started this blog, I would do what seemed to be the de rigeur thing to do for a blog: write about how others were doing it wrong.

I had a full series that ended after a few posts - the Clueless Train, based on The Cluetrain Manifesto. If you search for the posts, you will be amused by the Technorati tags. The irony here is I never fully bought into the manifesto as it seemed to crap on public relations and dismiss what public relations did for a company, but I digress.

Anyway, I started doing what I believed (and still believe) social media bloggers and writers should all do: I did research and called up companies. You know, fact check. And grow up.

And when I called out others for spreading wrong information, fake information, dare I say alternative facts and fake news - I was told that “I’m not a reporter, Jeremy, I’m a blogger.”

Or as I call it, the laziness of wanting to be a pundit without doing actual work or thinking.

In other words, I grew up and matured and remembered what goes on behind the scenes. And having watched people go on the offensive against Kryptonite (for doing the right thing, just not the extended audiences) or against FedEx (it still boggles my mind that I was the only journalist or “journalist” to call up FedEx for a comment) or Red Lobster (ugh, shut up) or Wendy’s (she’s too snarky!) or any other brand that is doing a good job and jealousy rears her ugly green head… .

The problem is that social media punditry seems to be built on Monday morning quarterbacking. And seeming to willfully ignore that it is about the message (or messages) and not the medium. Sorry, pundits, social media is not an end-all, be-all but it is more about the messaging being on point and right for the audiences. That means any platform (gasp, television or radio or others).

If you have worked on the agency-side, you know the planning and strategies that go into a program, you know that you take the bullet if the program goes badly - we go down for the client, and you know that there are things you just cannot talk about.

If you have worked in-house, you know the processes for approvals, the voices that you strive to recreate in social to give your brand a personality and try to reflect the corporation as a whole.

And you know if things go badly, you fix on the fly and prepare for the crisis or crises that are coming from consumers.

The fake crises, though, are the ones that are brought up by others in our industry. You know, that whole professional courtesy thing seems to go out the door when it is easier to go on the offensive against someone else’s creative. And yes, we see it in the advertising trade publications all the time - and pointing out really bad campaigns is necessary, especially if they fall into the sexism, misogyny, racism or the sort.

And I get it; I did it too. It is easy to be snarky, but then I grew up. Meaning I am still snarky (just look at this post) but I know what goes into the campaigns and managing social. I know what it takes to find voices - a different tone for different platforms - and how hard it is to manage and find that right balance. Do I think and know I can come up with some better campaigns? Yes, but I also know I am not creatively bankrupt and immature enough to think across all generations. Or is that called both young at heart and old?

I rather have the attacks on colleagues in the industry than the viral ones I see against small, local businesses. Oh, you pundits who do this, you’re so better than them it is amazing that your egos are able to fit into anywhere you go. The reality is social is not easy, most local and small businesses do not have the budgets to hire professionals - or if they do hire someone, they’re a “professional” that has not explained the true costs and issues with social that likely learned from some online course that taught them nothing.

Instead of making the industry a better place, though, it is easier to attack others. Yay, go social.

The next time you see this happen - and we all see it happen - channel your Eddie Murphy from Raw.

Ask what they have done lately, ask what campaigns or work they have done. Or are they just too busy doing the speakers' circuit to have any idea what it is like in the trenches and on the front lines?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Crises in an Instant World

Back in January, Jeremiah Owyang posted about the need for a Presidential tweet crisis contingency plans.

This spurred a good number of (threaded) comments on my Facebook post, and I noted that I had pitched a SWAT team at a PR firm, but nothing ever happened with the idea (good idea 10 years ago, even better one now - and with better tools). And a few of the comments noted that most PR people nowadays do not have crisis communications experience or skills, especially the startups with young “senior” practitioners.

Yes, I know, I need to blog more often and faster since others are having these conversations now … when I was having them in early January.

And, in an informal survey of friends, those that are qualified to have plans noted that they do not have a social media crisis plan written out, nor the talent or bandwidth on the social team to be able to write one that would actually work.

That makes sense to me - not a good thing, but it makes sense. The skills and soft touch for crisis are a dying skill, and on social things get blown up so fast and quickly, it IS hard to separate and not take it personally. Having operated an early Twitter account for a corporation, it is hard not to take it personally when you’re called a liar, get hate on the brand and worse. (The better fun is leaving and watching the contributions get Orwelled - but that’s the PR life!).

But back to Twitter. I have been bearish on Twitter for the past few years, looking at it as a necessary evil for brands and public relations. Necessary as it is nothing more than a customer service tool for brands - especially consumer - as consumers move to Twitter to bitch and complain and expect immediate response. Necessary for public relations because the latest generation of media loves to be on Twitter in a ego-gratification world where they believe their tweets are important and should be read (yes, there is a whole other rant there, and part of why I would like to see Twitter just die and go away).

Now, it is even more important or a necessary evil for brands because you never know when it will be your turn in the spotlight. And as has been noted by others out there, everything is political now, and while politics is personal, everything is personal too. And having that social crisis plan in place should save some headaches, heartburn and gray hairs.

Brands are now personal, are personalities and people have a connection to them. And personalities are brands, with people following some like they matter. So brands - especially tech companies that have been beating their chests on changing the world for better - are being called out to take a stance in politics, and that leads to another crisis or two or three. And personal brands are being called into question and on the mat for not necessarily taking a position.

Everyone has a right to express themselves in their own way on social, and just like it is not their place to tell me what I should or should not be posting, it is not my place to tell them what to post or not to post. Social has ruined most discourse between people - and that was before this election - so I will keep my friends all over the spectrum and listen to what they have to say. Until they go on ad hominem attacks.

Social has devolved into a tiring experience for people with all sides being draining, and leading to many (including me) taking Facebook off mobile. I have even been off Twitter for the most part because it has become such a cesspool of politics and attacks, that I am just following and focusing on things that are related to work (yay B2B enterprise technology) and not posting anything on my Twitter accounts.

But back to the original point: in a time where almost anything and everything is devolving into a crisis - including Presidential tweets - and other issues on news out there, it is best to have a fully updated and polished crisis plan that includes traditional and social strategies. Those range from the traditional press release, prepared messaging for all the platforms that are written in those platforms patois. Every platform has its own voice, and audience and you want to write and speak in that voice.

That is the key here: crisis work is about planning and preparation. In the days of yore with the traditional news cycle, you had time to plan and respond. In a digital world, that time to plan and message is gone - you need to be immediate and that is where planning is key and having the experience sets apart crisis from CRISIS. Plus, the timeline is accelerated on everything, including the share of mind for people. The public gets upset immediately, but also moves on faster to new things.

Plus, crisis usually starts in places that a company least expects it. With the focus on social selling and employee engagement, every single employee is now a representative of the company. We have seen crises started at the lowest level employees at fast food restaurants that blow up through social. And we will see more and more crises start with employees sharing their personal political views - personal is political, political is personal - and the corporations and businesses needing to clean up the messes. What we have seen so far are corporations firing those employees, but is that really the best way to solve the issues?

Even with the best crisis planning and execution, the key thing is to make sure that the people in charge actually listen and understand the counsel, and are supportive of what needs to be done.

Sometimes, though, nothing is the best strategy in social as social is a short-attention span theater, and people over-react. Plus, well, lesson number one should always be “don’t engage trolls.”