Monday, February 29, 2016

How to Create a Smart Social Media Policy

A while ago, I chided a PR and social media communications agency for the so-so quality of their promotional videos on YouTube.

But, it wasn't all bad. In the video below, Steve, one of their social media gurus, talks about how to create a social media policy. He mentions getting counsel from attorneys, minding government regulations, and taking into account the organization's HR needs. All fine, up to a point.

However, he leaves out a few essentials that most organizations need to consider when crafting a social media policy -- and the strategy that goes with it:
  • What's the goal of the organization's social media effort? Do all employees understand that the company's Twitter feed isn't a place to complain about internal policies, or a poor outing by the New York Rangers?
  • What about looking at social media policies other organizations have adopted? What's worked, and what hasn't? (Applebee's fumble with the storefront pastor in 2013 leaps to mind.) 
  •  What about listening?
Of these, listening is the single-most valuable benefit of social media. What are your customers saying?

Most effective communication strategies require two-way engagement: sharing your messages, and listening for consumers' responses. A smart organization will consider what it's heard, and adjust its outbound messaging to reflect the insights collected via the listening process. 

Or it may feed those learnings up to the marketing decision-makers, who'll determine if changes in paid or online ads -- or other practices -- need to take place. 

Either way, the two-way communications gained via a social media initiative can be instrumental in guiding the company's public persona. And that's why listening should be baked into the social media policy.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Why we can't have nice things

I wish I knew why local politicians can't figure out that they're soiling their reputations -- and that of their communities -- over truly insignificant banter.

Continuum Generation in Photonic Crystal Fibre. Photo by
Jean-Christophe, Michel, Delagnes (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 4.0  via Wikimedia Commons
Ongoing disagreements between a low-level state Assemblyman and the leader of the SUNY Polytechnic Institute threaten to erode support for the much-lauded American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics in Rochester, if you listen to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The AIM Photonics Institute, funded with state and federal dollars, may bring thousands of jobs to New York's Finger Lakes Region. But, if you listen to the Governor, the squabble places the project at risk.

I want to believe that greater Rochester has the ability to rise above petty disputes over projects that might strengthen the area's choppy economy. But it took more than 10 years to secure federal funding and a real plan to build a new train station as local leaders argued over whether it should include a bus garage.

And it took several years of notorious Rochester haranguing over a combination transit center/community college/performing arts center before the project was scuttled.

Bickering. Squabbling. Pointless arguments. All working together to create an image of a town where infighting and egos prevent Rochester from growing beyond its limitations.

I don't care for churlishness, especially when it involves grown adults who promised leadership but instead argue like children in a schoolyard. I'm even more embarassed when Governor Cuomo raises attention for such silliness with editors on a statewide media call.

Ask in Albany, Buffalo, or Binghamton: what's Rochester reputation? I suspect I won't hear a positive response.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Lazy news: expressway to obsolescence

Public relations people are accustomed to news outlets using only a portion of their news releases. Often, editors and producers publish only the essential facts, just enough to fill a news hole.

Paul Hermans from nl [GFDL
 or CC-BY-SA-3.0, from
Wikimedia Commons
When broadcast news producers do this, they often direct viewers and listeners to their websites for the fuller story. This saves air time or news print.

But, when there's only a truncated version of the information, it tells me I'm a victim of lazy journalism. One example: a recent news item from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, announcing $35 million in construction grants to a number of private colleges. 

One Rochester TV station's online story listed an incomplete handful of colleges receiving these funds, including Rochester Institute of Technology. Emphasize the local angle? Sure. Except several other local colleges -- among them St. John Fisher College and Nazareth College -- also got gifts from Cuomo. In all, more than two dozen colleges and universities are getting grants from the state. Not just the seven on the TV station's web page.

Here's the thing: I had to track down the full list of colleges receiving grants on the governor's website. Which took me less than 30 seconds -- and I haven't worked in a newsroom in decades.

Thirty seconds that the TV station's web producer couldn't find time to do. Or even provide a link for viewers to follow.

That's lazy journalism. No excuses. Blaming the AP, which fed the story to the local TV outlet, doesn't absolve the local producer from taking half-a-minute to find the full story, including all the colleges and the dollar amounts they received. 

Just as I did.

Look, if you want me to do my own newsgathering, that's fine. I'll stop visiting your station's website or your newspaper's pages and no longer deal with your incomplete reporting and nuisance pop-up ads. I'll use Flipboard, Google News, or Facebook's nascent news app to view news that's important to me.

If you cut corners or file an incomplete story, that's your choice. But not bothering to give your audience a complete story that requires virtually no editorial lifting is just slacking. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Dolls as more than role models (Sudafed Edition)

Mattel, amid a splashy announcement of new, more anatomically responsible Barbie dolls, introduced a Barbie doll modeled after soccer superstar Abby Wambach last week.

Abby Wambach (at  left), by Harvardton (Own work)
 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Most media in western New York -- Wambach's hometown is suburban Rochester -- gushed over the big toymaker's announcement. Picking up on Wambach's Twitter posts, reporters marveled at Mattel's recognition of her sports accomplishments by creating an Abby doll. 

Not one reporter, however, asked if Mattel's celebration of Wambach would include some corporate support of U.S. Women's Soccer, the team her heroics helped build.

It's a fair question. At least as viewed through my current Sudafed-affected head congestion. One an insightful reporter should have asked, but apparently didn't.

In fact, Mattel's corporate philanthropy track record speaks well of its support of play, both active and passive. Its philanthropy web pages, while a couple of years out of date, highlight many contributions and grants to a variety of programs and hospitals supporting the needs of children. Including $13 million in cash and $8 million in retail value of toys, in 2013.

As a two-time Olympic champion and 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year, the recently retired Wambach is more than a role model for girls and young women. She's now an influencer. And getting her likeness on a Wheaties box or a Barbie doll is strong evidence of her impact on women's soccer. It also represents an opportunity to leverage attention toward the struggles of the U.S. Women's Soccer team, which now must grow its brand without Abby.

A cause marketing pledge from Mattel -- say, 15% of profits from sales of Abby Barbies going to support her former team, now locked in a labor dispute with U.S. Soccer -- would have more impact than simply marketing a doll in a white No. 20 jersey.

(Note: my nagging sinus malady is receding, and I will be back to full throttle soon. Thank you.)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Standing ready amid corporate mitosis

When Xerox' CEO announced last week that her company would split into two businesses in an attempt to save itself, local leaders leapt into PR action to reassure the community.

And achieved little.

Bob Duffy, a former Rochester mayor and former lieutenant governor, scrambled a news conference. Now head of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, he told reporters that his Chamber "stands ready" to aid Xerox and/or laid-off employees. Newly elected County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo made a similar "stand ready" promise.
Xerox sponsor decals on Ducati 999 racing motorcycle.
By StealthFX [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This metaphorical "standing ready" means: zero.

Ursula Burns, the Xerox CEO, has so far downplayed the layoffs issue. But Duffy and Dinolfo tried to reassure the community without advance knowledge of Xerox's decision. For that matter, Xerox failed to first inform its own employees before the news leaked to the media. So more than a few people were blindsided by this "divide the baby in two" news. 

Backstory: Xerox had an outsourcing business, XBS. The company bought Texas-based ACS to grow the outsourcing business, which sometimes involved placement of Xerox technology in clients' operations. The experiment didn't work, and the ACS business will be spun off. 

Many Xerox friends have been eye-witnesses to the company's struggles against nimble competitors. I hope those friends keep their jobs as Xerox attempts corporate mitosis as a survival tactic. 

What can be done to help Xerox employees whose jobs may vanish? Duffy's Chamber has a modest recruitment subsidiary, RBA Staffing, that might assist a few Xerox workers in finding new jobs. The County didn't roll out robust job placement or retraining programs when Bausch & Lomb or Kodak imploded, and they didn't imply they'd do it now. (Existing state-funded programs served those disaffected employees.)

As for "standing ready?" A nice sentiment, but not very actionable. Leaders of county and commerce should have been in dialogue with Xerox leadership months ago. So it might be wise to look at other area companies in stressful situations, and start talking with them before the next surprise announcement.