Amazon fumbles Kindle book "recall"

A quick look at Twitscoop showed there was something going on in the Twitter world about Kindle. Checked it out–sure enough. Lots of Tweeters are pretty unhappy to discover that Amazon has deleted books they purchased on their Kindles. Turns out the publisher decided they didn’t want their book on Kindle anymore so Amazon exercised the right they apparently reserved in the tiny print to reach into customer’s Kindles and steal the book back. I shouldn’t say steal because they credited the price. But as Pogue in NYT says, it feels just like Barnes & Noble sneaking into your house and taking a book from your shelf. Big deal if they left a $20 bill on your counter. It still doesn’t feel right.

Irony #1: This is Amazon, who helped created the world of online commerce–certainly they would understand how this violates their customers’ sense of right and wrong.

Irony #2: the author removed was George Orwell, the books “1984” and “Animal Farm.”

Irony #3: Who would have thought that Amazon would end up as Big Brother.

It will be interesting to see how Amazon handles this crisis. If they even consider it that. Will it change how some people think about Kindle and whether they should buy one. Yeah, I think so. Amazon, what do you have in mind?

Just when I think most are starting to get it–Perpetua shows they don't

Not being in Chicago, I was only vaguely aware of the hot topic in Chicago-land–emptying and reselling graves. Ragan Communication’s PR Junkie has an interesting article on the owner of the cemetery, Perpetua, and their response to a very serious reputation crisis. Clearly they had the lawyers in charge. While the statement provided was very good (good job Focus), the fact that it came so long after the crisis erupted essentially negates any benefit from the statement. And frankly, saying there will be no more statements because the president was involved in the legal action, undermines the message significantly. I can imagine the battle Focus had over that one, but they lost. No, they didn’t lose. The CEO lost and Perpetua lost. What good is it to win the court case and lose the battle in the court of public opinion. Given their lateness to the communication game, their only real strategy option was communicate, communicate, communicate. There can be no legal justification–unless the CEO is afraid of jail time or a massive fine and is willing to sacrifice the company to protect himself.

I guess there is a sense of relief that some of the same mistakes continue to be made. Our work is not yet done.

Final note–Attention all cemetery owners. Expect contacts from your local media and maybe investigations by local activists, bloggers, etc. Afterall, if they can do this in Chicago, why not your home town? How will you prove no graves are being robbed and resold?

How news is done today–Breaking News and NYT

I’ve mentioned before that one of the few Twitter feeds I follow is Breaking News or Breaking News On. Didn’t know much about them except they were consistently 10 to 15 minutes ahead of almost anyone else when it came to breaking a story–and usually did a pretty good job of reporting stories of significance rather than just filling up my Tweetdeck.

Well, New York Times did a story about them–not that it seems they were terribly happy about the way the paper reported on their plans to sell and iphone app and charge a monthly fee for their breaking news. Hey, if you are 19 years old, figured out a way to out scoop the biggies, got 800,000 people hanging on your every tweet and out perform ABC News and others in the social media news world, who would take away their right to make a little money on their hard work?

If you follow them you might note their coverage of the false report from a Sacramento TV station about a commuter plane crash. You can see how they work and what happens when the report is false. The breaking news feed on the TV station reported a commuter plane crash. They contacted FAA who did not confirm. They watched the news feed from the TV station and watched the crawl quietly disappear. Finally confirming that no commuter plane crashed. Tweeting unpleasantly about their lack of trust in that TV station, then apologized to followers for the inaccurate report.

And that’s how it is done today. Speed is everything. Tell what you know right now. Try to confirm. Tell what you know and don’t know. Correct asap if you got it wrong. Tell why. Apologize for any mistakes. And keep talking.

This is almost impossible for most in crisis communications and emergency management to grasp. They cannot conceive of this speed requirement and this new audience expectation. Get it right the first time or don’t say anything at all is their belief. Too bad that that means when they do get around to speaking, no one will be listening.

Brain Rules–why crisis managers should read this book

One of most well written and intriguing books I’ve read in a long time is Brain Rules by John Medina. I just happened to pick it up a little book store while exploring one of our little coastal towns in the Pacific Northwest and was pleased to see that the author is affiliated with Seattle Pacific University–my alma mater and also where I taught for a year.I’m very pleased to see it is now on the New York Times bestseller list.

The reason this book applies to crisis managers is because of the many insights into how our brains work. The applications are too many to list here but a few highlights that stuck with me.

1) Responders need exercise and rest. May sound obvious but when you look at the steep decline in rational thinking and productivity when people get stretched beyond their endurance you will make certain your crisis plans include plenty of qualified backup staff.

2) Messaging. When people are under a lot of stress (such as fearful in a hurricane, tornado or pandemic) they process information differently. Dr. Vincent Covello has been preaching this for a long time and has come up with some simple and powerful messaging formulas that should be applied by all crisis and emergency communicators. Medina provides the scientific rationale for Dr. Covello’s practices.

3) Vision trumps all. When you read (or watch the videos online that illustrate the rules)  this you will wonder why we are (and I am right now) so hooked on communicating by putting these funny visual symbols on paper or on your computer screen. We all need to think more how we can communicate our key messages through video and images. Video particularly when you read about how the brain deals with motion vs images.

4) Gender. I got to admit, the author was pretty fearful about going into this realm, and I think took political correctness a bit too far. But the example he provided of what happens when you don’t gave him room for some of the waffling. Point is, men and women’s brains are very different. Maybe women’s are quite superior as seems to be suggested here, but they are different. I don’t think the clear differences are adequately reflected in much of what and how we try to communicate.

I hope you pick up a copy of this or at least visit the website. His site and his writing approach themselves provide great models as you seem him very clearly implementing the lessons he has learned from his years of research.

By the way, since paid blogging is getting to be such an issue, no, I have not been contacted by the author or publisher. I certainly would tell you if I was.

What comes first in news cycle–mainstream or blogs?

I’ve long suggested and provided a few solid examples of where major stories originate on blogs and then migrate to mainstream media. The Dan Rather gaffe on President Bush’s military record was one noteworthy example. I think conventional wisdom, certainly in my case, has it that blogs come first, then mainstream. Afterall, they often are plugged in, are done by one person rather than a staff, don’t have editorial layers, and don’t have accountability to worry about.

Turns out I may be quite wrong. At least according to this item from Slashdot that references a NYT article. The very process at work here probably explains their research findings however. MSM to blog – to other blog – to many more blogs. Sot it looks like it is following based on the volume of references. But where did the story start? In this case, probably MSM because that’s where the findings might be released. I don’t know. Kind of skeptical here.

Looking for company Twitter policy statement? Here's Walmart's

Thanks to the ever vigilant, hyperactive social media guru Shel Holtz and his Twitter feed, I’m sharing Walmart’s “Twitter External Discussion” policy statement. Looks like a good one and a useful model to follow.

United hits a sour note with guitar smashing incident

Here’s a little ditty about reputation wars conducted on the internet–in the key of F.

Seems United baggage handlers smashed musician Dave Carroll’s guitar and then didn’t manage the situation very well. What happened next reminds me of many years ago when I was working in a hospital outside of Chicago as a surgical orderly. I remember one day when a well-known trial attorney came in for surgery. Man oh man, were those docs and hospital staff nervous. I came to the conclusion that if you want really, really attentive medical care, you should be a trial lawyer–plaintiff’s attorney obviously.

Notice to airlines–treat songwriters nicely. Don’t smash their guitars and then leave them singing the blues. Because they might just write a song about you, post it on YouTube and turn it into an overnight hit (at this writing over 500,000 views! and climbing)–with your bad name all over it. Something tells me Mr. Carroll will be getting a very nice new guitar courtesy of his new favorite airline.

What if you used Twitter to call for help? Coast Guard discussion of liability and social media

The US Coast Guard has earned a well deserved reputation for public information management, and now this includes leadership in the use of social media. This has been led by the Commandant himself and eagerly embraced by many in the Public Affairs community. We’ve been fortunate to feature some of these CG leaders on our Strategy Forum webinars.

But, the use of social media by agencies such as the US Coast Guard raises a number of interesting issues. This blog by Coastie Ryan Erickson goes into some detail in examining some of these challenges, as well as posing some potential solutions. The primary challenge he poses is the need to not only use outlets such as Twitter and Facebook to push info out, but also as listening devices. But how is this to be handled? And what happens if they really start to be used in this way and Tweeters (Twitterers?) use Twitter to call for help? It’s not a hypothetical question apparently.

What if in this hurricane season there are a number of victims stranded and the only way of communicating about their need for assistance is through Twitter? We do believe that use of text messaging for this kind of two way notification, calls for help, status confirmation is very important. It’s why we’ve added text-to-inquiries capabilities in version 6.2 of PIER.

Every public agency charged with public safety is going to have to come to grips with the challenge identified by the Coast Guard. Our means of communication are changing–and that includes calls for help. The issue of legal liability will quickly emerge. I suspect that the typical response of many in emergency management of, “Uhhh, what’s Twitter?” will not be an acceptable defense.

Timesonline interview with my favorite blogger–Ashley Rodriguez

OK, I’m a very proud dad–proud of all three of my grown children. But today is a special day with the Timesonline featuring an interview of my daughter Ashley Rodriguez talking about her now famous food blog Not Without Salt.

I’d like to think she got some of her interest in and writing abilities from me, but she has far surpassed me in that area now. I do know for certain that she got her talent and passion for food and beauty from my beautiful and talented wife.

Congrats, Ash! Keep it up!

Washington Post–how much is access to a journalist worth?

What if you could get inside access to one of the nation’s most influential journalists? Lots of clients pay big PR agents and firms lots of money, lots and lots of money, for the purpose of getting greater access to top-level journalists. But what if newspapers or news outlets in their business crisis decided to just skip the whole PR agency thing and charge for access?

I’m not saying that is what is going on at the Washington Post, but the “salon” event at the home of the publisher is starting to walk, talk and quack like a duck.

This is interesting from several perspectives. For one thing, it is a major–I mean major–reputation crisis for the Washington Post. And since most reputation crises involve how to deal with media reporting around the crisis, it is also doubly fascinating to watch news organization manage media crises. The apologies are streaming forthwith, as are the “that’s not what we meant at all” and “someone inside really screwed up.” Fine. I’ll accept that. A marketing person did what was expected of them and sold the event based on benefits to those who would pay $250,000 to participate in this very special meeting. Since journalists from the Washington Post would be there, would it be too much to say that this would give those attending some kind of inside access? I think not. But whoa, what  does that mean? Now you have to buy a good story? And what it does it mean for the readers?

Reminds me of a good size public crisis I was involved in a number of years ago regarding a forestry project on the southern tip of South America, in Tierra del Fuego. Environmental activists were getting up in arms about the potential large scale forestry project. A very negative and very incorrect article appeared in the newspaper in Ushuaia. The employees from the company I was working with were in Ushuaia and met with the newspaper. They offered a substantial sum of money to buy advertising in the paper to get their story out. The editor or publisher asked them if they would like their story in advertising form or in news form. They asked me what they should take and I said news form, of course.

But if you can buy the news, what does it mean for the readers? Are we getting to this level of journalistic integrity. The no, no, no’s we hear from the publisher certainly suggest the concern she has that people might interpret it that way. She is very right to be concerned about public perception around this.

I think it is a very good thing this little problem has erupted. It will make everyone a lot more sensitive to the very real temptation to allow journalism to be tainted with corruption in the business crisis they are in. Maybe it will help protect the integrity for just a bit longer.