Tag Archives: social media

Reputation Management in Times of Crisis

image by altemark

image by altemark

I once worked for a non-profit organization that created a particularly controversial education curriculum for the public school system. After launching the curriculum, the local newspaper published an op-ed piece criticizing it, and negative press soon followed. The organization is local to its city, offering varied projects and services, and funded partially by public funds.  All of its good work was lost, temporarily, in the maelstrom following the op-ed piece. This was in the days before social media and Web 2.0.  What could my organization do? They tried to get their own op-ed piece published, sent out a press release, spoke at the local city council, sent letters to their members and donors, and organized a neighborhood rally. Did it mediate public opinion? A bit.  The biggest problem was that of reach, not message. Secondly was the lack of opportunities to engage directly with its critics.

If this organization were to encounter the same problem today, they could achieve much greater reach and impact using social media applications.

Your organization can’t afford NOT to be on all social media sites relevant to your stakeholders.

Your reputation depends on it.

Let’s look at two companies that faced reputation problems, and what non-profits can learn from them: Network Solutions and Motrin. Jason Falls, at Social Media Explorer, wrote a comprehensive case study about Network Solutions’ reputation problem and analyzed their brand invigoration strategy.

In his case study, Falls explains that “Network Solutions reserved domains that are searched for over a four-day period if they aren’t purchased right away, preventing you from registering them elsewhere unless you call customer service to have them released.”  (They have since changed this policy.) Because of this policy, they increasingly encountered soured customers, negative online conversations, and a brand reputation problem. What did they do? They hired a communications firm to monitor and engage in conversations on-line, address issues directly on their blog, and they provided valuable information to their customers through their blog. They fully engaged, directly answered issues, and listened to their stakeholders, using all the available social media tools. Through this invigoration strategy, they directly addressed reputation issues, potentially creating more advocates.

The second case is more recent and public: The Motrin Moms. For those of you unfamiliar with this campaign, Motrin launched a viral video ad in November 2008 offering mothers with back problems from wearing baby carriers relief through Motrin.  However, many mothers (myself included) were offended by the implications of the ad:  we may not enjoy carrying our children and/or may not want to be labeled as “that kind of mom.”  (You can watch the ad here.) The backlash began immediately on Twitter and YouTube.  The social web waited while Johnson and Johnson (Motrin’s parent company) did…nothing…for a few days. Eventually, the subsidiary company that markets Motrin emailed apologies to bloggers, and the VP of marketing at Johnson and Johnson apologized to consumers on Motrin’s home page. Critics (myself included) agree that Motrin failed to listen to its critics in real time, reacted too slowly to the reputation crisis, and did not satisfactorily engage with its critics on the social web.

There are several interesting case analyses of this case: Jeremiah Owyang looks at the reputation backlash by the numbers, Pistachio offers her insightful  in-the-moment analysis of the issue (with later updates), and David Gelles of the Financial Times wrote a longer piece (reprinted here) that highlights the episode within a larger discussion of brand management.

What is the difference between Motrin’s and Network Solutions’ strategy? Did Motrin open up a special portal for its disgruntled consumers? Did Motrin engage in conversations on the web? Not at all. Motrin (and Johnson and Johnson) talked to consumers, not with consumers. Even today, Motrin’s website is primarily information- and sales-based, with a few FAQs. On the other hand, Network Solutions engaged and addressed critics where they posted in the social web, and learned from it: today Network Solutions asks for customer ideas and feedback on its Ideas Are Power portal.

Two different companies, two different situations, two different approaches. Motrin was hit with a brand reputation crisis, and Network Solutions was trying to raise its reputation and decrease negativity towards the brand. We can learn from these two cases, and hopefully react better than Motrin did.

Organizations must be ready to deal with brand reputation crises. In order to do so, you should have all the appropriate social media tools in place to listen, engage with your stakeholders, and broadcast messages if a crisis hits.  What tools should you have in place?

1. A Blog: the only media source fully controlled by you. See John Hayden’s post on 22 Ways A Blog Can Rock Your Non-Profit’s Social Media Campaign.

2. Listening Tools: I previously wrote about how to set up a “listening post” to monitor online conversations about you and your organization. For additional reading, try Chris Brogan’s 5 Tools I Use for Listening.

3. Participate in Social Media Spaces: Where are your stakeholders? Engage with them where they are spending time. Is it on Facebook? Twitter? Bebo? HiFive? LinkedIn? Maybe the local community forum or listserv? Set up a few accounts now and begin engaging with your stakeholders so that if your organization’s reputation is ever questioned, you are in the conversation and able to address the concerns quickly. A plus is that your stakeholders will be more likely to trust your response because you have spent the time building up their trust through your engagement efforts.

4. An Interactive Website: not the static website of old, but one that includes opportunities for engagement, clear calls for action, guest posts by stakeholders, and an Idea Portal.

If you have a great example of crisis reputation management through social media, I’d love to know of it. In another post, I’ll address the issue of proactive reputation management.

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Six Social Media Lessons Learned From My First Year In Israel

As some of you know, I recently moved to Israel from the United States. The first year here was amazingly difficult, including cultural, linguistic and societal challenges. The hardest part for me was finding a group of friends. I’m a social being, and surviving with only the love and support of my immediate family was hard. However, there are strong similarities to entering and adjusting to a new community online and offline. Here are a few things I learned from living in a new land that can help anyone entering participatory media.

1. When your organization decides to “live” in an online space, start with language first.

Listen to the online conversations until you find those that relate to your viewpoint, language and sensibility. Are you an arts organization? Find others conversing about the arts. Are you an advocacy organization for clean water? Find others who are talking about environmental issues, clean water and topics similar in nature to the ones you want to discuss. When I joined Twitter, I chose a few people to follow who tweeted about social media and non-profit issues, and then I listened. I followed conversations, researched the participants, and found others on Twitter who also spoke “my language.”

My mother tongue is English. Trying to communicate in Hebrew, of which I knew at most ten words upon arriving, did not make sense. Thus…I sought English speakers first.  I listened for them at the park, public spaces, and joined the English-speaking community lists . In this manner, I found “cultural interpreters” that introduced me to the intricacies of Israeli life. I still call them (frequently) when I don’t understand something here.

2. Network through friends from home.

When you join Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter, the application asks your permission to search through your online address book and find your friends who are already members. This is great way to start. They will, of course, introduce you to others!

I arrived in Israel a list of ten or so people to contact. They were “friends of friends,” and I honestly had nothing to lose by calling and meeting them. This was a bit like blind dating, and though not every contact became a friend, many led me to new friends.

3. Join groups.

Every virtual community has groups within it. Wiki groups, Facebook groups, Bebo groups, and Twitter groups, for example. Find groups that talk about what you care about. Listen to the conversations. Through these groups, you’ll make connections to the individuals in the community, create identity and explore friendships.  Online groups are a great place to ask your questions about the community culture; group members want to help you acculturate and make other friends online.

Joining groups proved to be quite useful in finding community here. I found organizations that meet in English and are related to my professional goals. I made some strong connections and again found “cultural informants and translators,” this time in the business world.

4. Learn the language.

I previously posted a roundup of the social etiquette and cultural norms of each participatory media. By familiarizing yourself with the societal norms of each virtual community, you are learning its language. Did you know what a “tweetback” was before using Twitter? Did you understand what it meant to “Digg” something before using Digg? Who really is your “friend” on Facebook?

Obviously, in order to understand Israeli culture and people, I have to be able to speak the language. I currently take Hebrew classes, which gives me an introduction to the culture and the ability to truly enter Israeli society. I understand the uniquely Israeli word “friar” now. Unless I learn Hebrew, I will always be a an observer.

5. Community builds, one friend at a time.

The same is true of online communities. Commenting on others’ blogs will lead them back to you. Adding content to a wiki and getting good feedback on it means that they are introducing you to others. People listen in on your Twitter conversations and want to follow you. Your work will eventually transform into friends and communities online.

After a year, I am finally seeing some of my hard work paying off. I have a small group of good friends that I adore, and I continue to pester them with cultural questions! Friends have introduced me to other friends, professionals have invited me to new professional networking groups. I am starting to find community here.

6. Most importantly, don’t give up!

Many bloggers write about the first hard months of blogging: few readers, Google hasn’t found the blog yet, no comments, and no blogger community of friends. They all say that it is lonely and hard, but it gets easier after that.

Everyone told me that the first year in a new country is the most difficult, and that it will get easier after that.  What did that actually mean for me? I spent the first year here putting myself out there: finding new connections that sometimes proved valuable and often did not, working hard to learn a new language and familiarize myself with new societal norms, figuring out how to be myself in a new land but also blend with the societal expectations.

We’re all Strangers In a Strange Land every time we join a new community. But we’re all in it together!

photo courtesy of Striatic

photo courtesy of Striatic

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The Social Media Map

I’ve been thinking about two things this week:  further contemplation of  the Personal Branding post and learning about Lifestreaming, a tool which compiles social media usage into real time streams in one place. Together, they inspired me to reconsider the Site Map.

Why not update the standard website site map? Site maps are useful, of course, both for SEO optimization with Google and for your visitors who want to navigate your site, buy items, etc.  But where is your organization’s “social media map?” How do you communicate how your corporation/organization interfaces socially on web? The Employee Bio might elaborate how your employees interface with the web while at work, but what about the corporate interface? Here are some thoughts:

The Old Way

You work at a non-profit (or a for-profit corporation, for that matter) and you’ve decided on a communications strategy that includes social media.  Great! How might you inform your customers that you are engaged in social media? You can:

  • Link to your blog, feature recent blog posts on your site’s home page, or create a page on your website for the blog.
  • Place icons on the home page indicating that staff can be found on Twitter, Friendfeed, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc., or place the icons on the staff pages.
  • Post interesting articles or video onto your website.
  • Link to online communities under a “resources” header, or just as a “link” on the website.

I have to admit that I checked out the websites of several corporations and non-profit organizations whose CEOs and Executive Directors use Twitter. I found no Twitter links or promotions of this valuable social media tool. I have seen social media affiliations featured prominently on a number of consultants’ blogs, however, which makes sense given their profession. But why aren’t corporate staff’s social media activities more visible?

The New Way: Create a Social Media Map on Your Website

You work at a non-profit (or a for-profit corporation, for that matter) and you’ve decided on a communications strategy that includes social media.  Great! What about creating a Social Media Map on your website? There are many ways to set up the page, but I envision it similar to the “Press/News” page on many websites. In that spirit, you could create a website page entitled “Our Social Media Map.” The Map would list the interactive communications activities of the staff and organization, by social media application. Here are a few examples of how one might word it on the page:

  • FLICKR: go the the our organization’s Flickr photos for photos of recent events. Photos include…
  • TWITTER: corresp0nd with and follow our CEO on Twitter, username@our organization. Also, these other staff tweet… We look forward to the conversation!
  • SLIDESHARE: look through our slide show presentations on Slideshare. We just posted a slide show presenting our 5-year strategic plan. Our username is “TBA for Good” — feel free to mark your favorites, share, and invite us to connect with you.
  • YOU TUBE: here  will find clips from our annual meeting; feel free to tag, share and comment. Were you there? What did you think?
  • LINKEDIN: links to every staff member’s LinkedIn profile and relevant LinkedIn groups.
  • BLOGS: Organizational blog (link) and blogs of other staff as well. Also, here are links to blogs of note in the industry.

Additionally, with the advent of Lifestreaming, you could add a Lifestreaming-type page. For those new to Lifestreaming (like me), it’s a place where all your social media activities are streamed in real time and added to the site as they occur. You could combine all the social media usage of your employees and corporation into one STREAM page that readers can view. This is a totally new concept for a corporate site, but the streaming page might create some visual confusion for those website visitors unfamiliar with Lifestreaming. But…it could also add real excitement to a website. In any case, this concept could be adapted and utilized to give your customers a real-time view of your organization’s social media activity. (There is also a blog about Lifestreaming that appears to cover all the related technology, as well as an interesting new post on new Lifestreaming developments here.)

The goal of the Social Media Map is, of course, to further your communications strategy. Consider your goals, of course, such as: do you want to recruit more volunteers or deepen relationships through your social media activities? I’d love to hear how/if visitors to the Social Media Map page are converted to subscribers/followers/contacts in the various media streams listed on the page.

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Your Social Media Advisory Board

photo by Stussy2k

photo by Stussy2k

When I was a Business Consultant, I often taught business plan development classes. One of the highlights of the class was when I’d bring in a “serial entrepreneur” as a guest speaker. My favorite was Steve. He started his first business at 21, while still in college, and today is running his seventh business in as many different industries. When asked by students to what does he credit his success, he always said, “A great advisory board.” He advised entrepreneurs to throw away their inhibitions and invite the people they most admire to serve on their start-up advisory board, complete with “free pizza once every other month or some such thing.” As a rule, he said, ask those from outside your industry or field, and listen to their advice.

I was thinking about Steve yesterday and it occurred to me: what about a Social Media Advisory Board?

What Would An Advisory Board Do For You?

  1. Give your social media strategy focus. Most organizations, especially non-profit ones, just don’t have a Social Media Guru on staff.  An Advisory Board can help you plan and implement your strategy effectively. Don’t forget that they can help determine the elusive benchmarks.
  2. You don’t have to do it alone. Sometimes the thought of starting all those conversations can be intimidating. Your Board can talk you through it and possibly volunteer to take on some of the work.
  3. Tell you what you’re doing right and wrong. As Steve said, you need to listen to their advice. They don’t just help you create your strategy, but they are there for you. Hold meetings regularly and don’t be afraid to hear their honest opinions about what your organization is doing. That’s what they are there for.
  4. They will re-direct and HELP YOU. Every strategy hits a bump. Every online group has an agitator or flamer. Every blog gets bogged down. Your Board can give you advice on how to deal with all the bumps in the road.

Who Should You Recruit?

Intel formed an Insiders’ Social Media Advisory Team made of of “a diverse group of social media activists.” (The whole article is wonderful and thought-provoking.)  Entrepreneur Steve chose people from outside his industry. I always advise business owners to seek out missing expertise. Do you need a technophile on board to help you choose appropriate tools? Do you need the marketer’s perspective? Chris Brogan notes that you can ask intelligent people who you admire, or those with whom you’ve formed a relationship online and those who are professionally successful. These are great ideas. However, for the non-profit, I’d advocate this mix:

  • a savvy technology expert (with the patience of a saint) who will certainly be called upon to advise in selecting the right mix of technology for implementing any social media strategy
  • at least on PR professional. Consider both PR professionals who specialize in non-profit PR and traditional corporate PR companies. They have ties to media and a plethora of experience transmitting information to many channels and audiences.
  • representatives from at least two user groups. In the non-profit world, these could be volunteers or clients or members or activists. Whomever you will target to be an end user of the social media should also be a player in creating the strategy.
  • a fundraising professional. Let’s face it, in non-profit work, you want to find the money. A development professional will always give you that point of view and the development possibilities within your strategy.
  • a maverick. You need someone who thinks outside the box and will come up with the totally wild (and and often great) ideas or critiques. Mavericks are the most interesting thinkers you will come across, and should not be written off.
  • a social media user and professional in the field. This is the obvious one to find. Make sure your volunteer Advisor fits into the group and can work respectfully with others that may challenge his/her ideas.

How Would You Do This?

Ahhhh…there is the easy part: offer food! Don’t forget to set expectations: how often the Board will meet, what you expect them to do for the organization, how you want them to contribute, how often they will meet, and how long they are committed.

When you do this, I’d love to hear about it. What worked? Who did you invite?

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