Shel Holtz and other social media experts in "lively discussion"

Our friend and fellow blogger Shel Holtz was part of a panel that appeared to the scene of lively discussion about social media, blogging and PR. I wish I could have been there. But reading this report and listening to the podcast might be the next best thing.

Suffice it to say that there is much ferment around the issue of how the new media, social media, web 2.0, blogging and all the other online stuff is changing the way communication is done. I wasn’t there so this may not be appropriate, but I would just suggest to such experts that those of us who look to you for insight need more light on the subject, not more heat.

The power of blogging–more evidence of growth

Many have commented as 2006 became 2007 that this year will see the peak of blogging’s power in the world of public opinion and communication. More and more I see communication professionals waking up, rubbing their eyes, mostly disbelieving, but slowly recognizing that consumer generated content in all its forms is radically changing our world.

My daughter is a pastry chef and a very good one, and she has been blogging for some time. The connections made and the conversations that go on with people around the nation and world would not be possible without blogging. Here’s an interesting post about food blogging that makes the point better than I am.

Visiting with some of the world's leading communicators

I just returned from a bit of whirl-wind trip to two major cities. It’s part of my new job as CEO of PIER/AudienceCentral. Some of the visits were sales related but most involved initial implementation of PIER, our online communication management technology.

This job, as well as work I have been doing in crisis management and communciation, has given me the rare opportunity to work with some of the top-level communication professionals in the world. For me, this is such a treat, because my journey through life is mostly about learning, and I am learning so much from these people. What an opportunity to discuss personally with the communication manager of one of the world’s leading companies how he is dealing with the controversies that right now occupy the pages and screens of old media and new media outlets around the world. And what a privilege to work with leading emergency management leaders, responsible for planning and communication that may protect millions of lives–to hear their concerns, priorities, strategies, etc.

This blog is in part my attempt to share with any of you who care, some of the things I am learning from these people. I wish I could credit my teachers more, but for obvious reasons, I usually cannot. On this trip, where I had to make several presentations, my basic message was about trust. Whether you are a government communicator or operate in the private sector, it is trust that is the ultimate measure of your success. Whether or not you are building trust depends on two things: are you and your organization doing the right thing–not in your eyes, but in the eyes of your stakeholders? And, two, are you communicating continually, speedily, directly and with absolute authenticity?

These questions resonate with all communicators at senior levels with whom I work. I get so distressed when I see the cynicism in the media, in our schools, in our political and social discourse–the assumption that most in positions of power and authority are bad people and out to screw you at the first chance. Sure, there are the bad apples, as there are in every profession and all walks of life. But the people I am privileged to meet and work with are, virtually without exception, people of high moral and ethical standards, who are continually working to do the right thing, and take their responsibilities as communicators very very seriously.

Attn communicators needing to convinces bosses about importance of blogs

Just had a conversation today with a top level Public Information Officer, and the topic turned to the impact of online media, blogs and the like. He made the comment that some leaders in his organization continue to doubt that many people are impacted by online media. I pointed to the previous post on this blog with the interview with Richard Edelman that stated that this year more will get their news online than from all MSM. More proof of the importance of blogs in public information and news comes from this blog called Just on Online Minute.

The nub: Nielsen//NetRatings shows that blog pages within the top 10 online newspapers drew around 3.8 million unique visitors last month–more than triple December 2005’s 1.2 million.

Please note–these are not the 60 million citizen journalist blog sites that we are talking about. These are blog sites launched by major newspapers. They are certainly discovering where the news readers are going and joining the party.

So, for all you communicators who need to convince your bosses that something important is going on here, tell them to read crisisblogger.

The BP Baker Report–another example of headlines not matching content

Anyone who deals with the media recognizes that it is a common situation to have the headlines, and sometimes lead paragraphs, differ from the story. Understandable since most stories are more complext than can be adequately condensed into a headline, and the fact that headlines are typically written by an editor and not the reporter.

There was big news in the Baker report regarding BP’s safety record. Two items in fact. One of them is that BP has already substantially addressed all the recommendations put forward in the report. Second, and more important, the report provides a direct refutation of the very well publicized accusation of the head of the Chemical Safety Board that the safety problems at BP were a direct result of cost cutting. That theory goes well with the media and the public perception, but the Baker report said it wasn’t true.

However, you will note, these were not the headlines. The Cnnmoney.com report said: “(Baker report)said it found no evidence that BP scrimped on safety in order to cut costs” Based on this a headline writer could easily have written: Baker Report Shows Cost Cutting Did Not Result in Safety Problems at BP. That, however, is not what they wrote.

In fact, the Baker Report says that the focus of BP on personal safety instead of process safety was the real problem. Interesting. They also cited Lord Browne’s leadership in other key areas such as climate change.

Once the media decides on a story line it is very difficult to change it–impossible probably. And the way this is reported demonstrates that the story of irresponsible money-grubbing will continue to be the main theme–regardless of the facts.

Best Buy slipping fast in my opinion

I posted earlier about the flames Best Buy was getting online about how it handles hot items like the Wii. Now, I love Best Buy–mostly because it is my favorite toy store. But, I’m about to switch loyalties to Circuit City. My friend Alan just bought a camera at Best Buy–one of those new Sony cameras that records to DVD. He wanted quick and easy editing with his Mac. Turns out, doesn’t work for that–poor quality and other problems–but the sales person told him different. So he bought it, tried it, packed it back up and returned it. They charged him $85 because he opened the box. He pointed to the sales person who was standing right there and told them what she said. Didn’t matter. He opened the box.

I don’t like using this blog for personal rants, and this one wasn’t even my experience. But it points to a common problem–customer service starts slipping, you hear several instances and the loyalty disappears in a hurry. But in the blog world, that process happens quicker and with far more impact. I hope Best Buy is listening in on the conversation.

Add Apple to the list of not getting the blog world

The thing about blogging is that bloggers tend to have the last word. Lawyers don’t get that very well. And corporate leaders who let the legal brains take the lead on the blog world, are setting themselves up for some real nastiness in the blog world.

This is the message I tried to communicate about Disney as related to their legal attacks on Spocko. Apple has a history of protecting their intellectual property very aggressively–understandable given the fact their value is increasingly tied to their stunning innovations. But, you take this thinking into the blog world too far and you are going to get hammered. Blogging (and increasingly the internet) is about conversing. And when the reaction to conversation is to bring out the legal beagles, it tends to annoy those who just want to talk about things. If a conversation involves proprietary property, the polite thing to do is to make a request. Just say please. If there are competitive reasons, or the property in question can do substantial harm to the company if not protected, then say pretty please, or else. But to just jump up with the barking dogs isn’t polite, doesn’t make much sense, and will cause the kind of reaction that Apple is seeing in the blog world: see techcrunch article called Apple Bullies Bloggers Again.

Here’s the risk–Apple is riding high. Stock is skyrocketing. Innovations pile on innovations. Complete domination in key markets. And now comes the arrogance. We all like winners. We hate arrogant winners. Arrogant winners become losers. And we become glad. Pride goeth before the fall. And all this thinking just because they let loose some eager lawyers to beat up on bloggers. Apple, wise up.

The Bandy Story on 20/20–join the crusade

I hope all crisisblogger readers watched 20/20 last night and saw the story about Matt Bandy. Matt is a 16 year old from Phoenix falsely accused and prosecuted of child porn because a few images of the nasty stuff was found on his computer at home. Despite the compelling evidence to the contrary, the prosecutor continued to push the accusations until the family accepted a plea bargain for a much lower charge–the equivalent of taking a Playboy to school. Still, he was branded a sex offender with the draconian restrictions applied to those who are thus convicted.

This story is of special interest for several reasons. One it is a great example in the extreme of the need sometime of “moving the black hat” as I advocate in extreme cases in Now Is Too Late2. When your reputation is on the line and you are innocent, sometimes you have to be aggressive and make the accusers the bad guys. In this case, the extremely aggressive prosecutor, more interested in his career than in justice, rightfully (in my opinion) has been outed as the real black hat in this story. View the extended interview with ABC and make up your own mind.

Second, is the personal connection. Jonathan Bernstein is the crisis manager who has been helping the family and their attorney every since they made the courageous decision to turn their bad fortune into a crusade. The 20/20 story is one part of the strategy. Creating an engaging and interactive website that helps manage the conversation that inevitably will go on about such an event is also part of the communication effort. Here is Matt’s website: www.justice4matt.com.

We were very pleased to respond to Jonathan’s request for help and provide the PIER System’s functionality to support the ongoing media relations and viewer response. This kind of communication activity shows the absolutely necessity of a small team or a single communicator to be able to handle the potentially hyperactive online response to this kind of national story and crusade.

For more comments about this communication effort as well as how you can get involved in this important communication effort, please go to www.justice4matt.com and be sure to use the contact form. (I just did!–and also emailed the governor).

The sign of campaigns to come

John Edwards is out of the starting blogs and running. And according to this article from PRSA, it looks like his approach to working with bloggers and videos (YouTube style) shows that he gets it (part of the way anyway, excepting his booboo about bloggers).

I’m committed to staying out of politics here (I did my own run for political office–thank God unsuccessfully) but the point is that the modes, channels, style of public communication is changing. But most who make a living in this business are struggling mightily to keep up with these changes. Edwards’ campaign gives a clear indication of the role of blogging, working with bloggers, web 2.0 style, and most of all use of video–all stuff the topic of many posts here.