Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Why You Need to Suspend Scheduled Tweets When Disaster or Tragedy Strikes

Last year I argued in this post about social media crisis management that when a PR crisis strikes your business you should suspend all scheduled tweets. This reflection was prompted by a case where Eurostar trains were blocked in the Eurotunnel for hours but the company was still tweeting invitations to take the train to Paris for Christmas. You can be entangled in a crisis that is nothing to do with your actions, so you need to be prepared for that, too.

This week we have seen that even this is not enough. One thing that the Boston Marathon bombing has highlighted is that you should also suspend all of your scheduled tweets when there is any sort of disaster or tragedy that could make your tweets appear tone deaf, insensitive or even inappropriate -- even when the incident is completely unrelated to your business.

Looking at some of the reactions on Twitter explains why. As soon as the news broke in Boston the focus of my twitter stream shifted to news about the tragedy, messages of support and offers of help. Mingled in with these were the usual scheduled promotional tweets plus many others complaining about them. Rachel Miller (@AllthingsIC) in London tweeted "Scheduled tweets really jar when something like the #bostonmarathon happens."



Some were also tweeting suggestions, like I did. Casey Waltz (@CaseyWaltz) in Princeton NJ tweeted "It's essential that companies/brands have a plan when an emergency/tragedy happens like this. It's crass to have promotions."  Even if they weren't in poor taste, your promotional tweets are simply out of place and nobody is interested in seeing them at that time.



And as Christine Perkett()@missusP) in Boston noted on Twitter "It's funny how perspective works. Yesterday's Boston tragedy so close to literally our home just makes everything else seem so trivial".




In the light of this any business or organization that uses scheduled tweets should make sure that they have in place a plan to suspend their scheduled tweets when a tragedy occurs. Concretely there has to be someone monitoring news to watch out for events like the Boston bombing, this person has to inform someone who has the authority to suspend tweets -- maybe they are the same person. This person with authority then needs to have the means to shut down scheduled tweets. Using some tools you will need to do this manually, but there are some social media tools that include an emergency stop feature. There is no reason why you shouldn't be able to do this from a smartphone anywhere in the world. It doesn't matter how you do it but just make sure you do.

Planning for social media actions like this has to be part of your routine crisis PR planning. Being prepared for events that are not directly related to your business is also part of this planning. Disaster and tragedy can strike anywhere at any time, so making sure you are prepared is a very good idea.

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Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing on this and other communication topics visit http://andrewhennigan.com, email conseil@andrewhennigan.com or call 0033 6 79 61 42 81 in France and 0046 730 894 475 in Sweden.


Related Posts on Crisis Management

Why You Probably Need Social Media Crisis Management More Than You Think
Social Media Crisis Management: Odimax's Emergency Stop
Crisis PR: Are You Ready to Take Down Your Website?
What the Shortmail Tweetstorm Teaches About Social Media Monitoring


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

PR Essentials for Early-Stage Startups

If your startup is still at an early stage you probably can't even afford a PR consultant and an agency is out of reach. Maybe you also don't have any PR expertise yourself. But there are five simple things you can do yourself that don't take much time or expertise yet can make it much more likely people will talk about you. I learnt these things working on both sides of the business: I have worked both in PR and as a freelance journalist, writing often about startups.

BUILD A SOLID ONLINE PRESENCE. When someone googles your company name they should find at least several pages you control on the first page of search results. This is much easier than most people think. First of all make sure that your own website URL has been submitted to the top search engines. For example, you can submit a URL to Google using this Webmaster Tools page. When that's done create profiles in the name of your company on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on. These will rank highly in Google searches and give a satisfyingly solid presence. (For more about this see How to Get Impressive Search Results for your Startup). If your company name is ungoogleable then think again about that name. You might think it is funny to have a name that consists of strange characters but if Google can't find you nobody can. (For more about this see Branding in the Age of Search Engines).

MAKE SURE CONTACT INFO IS EASY TO FIND. You are much more likely to get coverage in blogs and media if journalists can contact you. It is extremely rare that someone has to write about a specific company. When I write about startups usually I am writing about a theme and I contact many companies in that space; if one is hard to contact I just look somewhere else.  You should have at least an email address and a phone number; a form is not acceptable. Don't worry about spam -- that can be easily filtered -- and don't worry about too many people calling your phone number. You wish! It's much more likely that nobody calls. To be especially media friendly it is better to have a separate "media" or "press" contact even if it is just redirected to your other account. And if you really want to make media happy put a real human name on the contact. I'd feel much more inclined to talk to "Abigail Grundy, Founder" than "info@startupthingy.com"

ANSWER MEDIA ENQUIRIES PROMPTLY. When you do get an enquiry from a journalist or blogger you should send a quick reply as soon as possible to show that you received the message and that you plan to reply. If you want to look even more professional ask when the deadline is and then respect it. Journalists typically work to inflexible deadlines and if you are late you simply won't be mentioned. Very often companies get into articles simply by providing an answer in time. Failing to confirm that you received the query can also mean that you are left out. If I reach out and there is no response I just move to the next one in my list.

USE YOUR NETWORK. Forget press releases, media alerts and press kits at the very beginning. Your time is much better spent working your network to get the word out. Make sure that everyone in your network knows what you are doing and make sure that they know what you are looking for. At the same time grow your network all the time, adding friends, family, mentors, bloggers, journalists and anyone else in the business. Build trust with these people, too, by being helpful, both reacting to their questions and reaching out proactively. (For more about this see: Three Keys to Networking). You can also push updates to your social media using tools like Hootsuite, but I would not recommend any more automation than that (for reasons why see When Bot Talks to Bot).

MONITOR SOCIAL MEDIA. Like many people I always talk about the articles I am writing on Twitter, Facebook, GooglePlus and LinkedIn. In many cases I even ask explicitly if anyone has anything to say about the subject. Some savvy companies monitor social media -- especially Twitter -- for keywords related to their business then reach out to me if they feel that they have something that might be  good fit. Sometimes it is and this proactive effort gets them a mention. This takes very little effort because you can do it with preset searches and alerts. (For more about this see Three Social Media Hacks to Find Media Opportunities).

You can do all of this even while you are at the kitchen table stage and all the way up to the point where you need professional help. And when you do need that help you should start first with a freelancer who has worked with other founders you know. Later when your startup has reached a critical size you will probably want to move to a PR agency but by the time you get to that stage you will have a full-time communication director and he or she will know enough to take care of that choice.


Lectures, Workshops, Coaching & Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing on this and other communication topics visit http://andrewhennigan.com, email conseil@andrewhennigan.com or call 0033 6 79 61 42 81 in France and 0046 730 894 475 in Sweden.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

How Encouraging Networking Makes Your Workplace More Effective

There are still some companies and managers who have mixed feelings about employees who use networking sites like LinkedIn. They fear either a loss of productivity or perhaps even losing the employee to a competitor. Neither risk should be a serious problem. You can easily avoid time wasting by better training and easier recruiting benefits your company, too.  But the upside of networking far outweighs the downside risk, so companies that encourage their employees to network internally and externally have an advantage over the others. There are many reasons for this, but here are the top three:

NETWORKING IMPROVES PERFORMANCE. Nobody can do their job entirely alone, so that an employee with average ability but a rich network can actually outperform a genius with a weak network. The reason for this is not hard to find. Whatever you do for a living you are going to get stuck from time to time and need help. A well-connected employee needing help just asks their network and they get that help quickly. Others maybe send messages and leave voice mails but nobody gets back to them or they get back too late. This was one of the key lessons of the study How Bell Labs Creates Star Performers by Robert Kelley and Janet Caplan, published in Harvard Business Review in July 1993.

NETWORKING FOSTERS A COLLABORATIVE CULTURE. If you are doing the networking correctly  people invest part of their time to help others, on request or proactively and without any expectation of an immediate payback. This payforward approach means that when you need help you are more likely to obtain it, but it also means that you operate in a less competitive environment where people share rather than obstruct. You can read more about the basics of networking in this way in  Three Keys to Networking

NETWORKING DECREASES CONFLICTS. Perhaps the least intuitive of the three is that networking reduces conflicts.This happens because when communities are connected by multiple links you are more likely to get less polarized opinion. In contrast when you have two communities linked only by a single "gatekeeper" then you are much more likely to get polarized opinions and conflicts. This was confirmed by research by Renaud Lambiotte and others at the University of Liege in 2006. You can read more in their paper Majority Model on a network with communities.

For managers the lesson is that if you are not already actively encouraging a networking mentality now is the time to start. Make sure that you set a good example, make sure that your employees know that you expect them to network and make sure they know how to do it effectively.

And for everyone else? Many companies already recognize the importance of networking so having a demonstrated ability to build and maintain an effective network is going to carry more weight when you are looking for a new job or a promotion. Faced with two identical candidates recruiters are much more likely to choose the one who is able to call on the support of an extended network. Now you know why.



More about professional networking

There's much more about professional networking in my book Payforward Networking on the Amazon bookstore in both paperback and Kindle editions.






Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, coaching and writing about networking and other communication topics visit http://andrewhennigan.com, email speaker@andrewhennigan.com or call 0046 730 894 475.

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Professional Networking: Five Sites You Should Be Using for Your Career
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