Category Archives: newsvine

Odds and Ends: A very brave woman, YouTube as a game, and snowstorm web traffic

This post is more like an old fashioned weblog–a few interesting things I came across in the last 24 hours.

First, an incredibly brave Arab-American from LA who is engaging the Islamic community in very lively debate on Al-Jazeera. First, hats off to Al-Jazeera to allow this woman to speak (that very comment belies my bias–shared by most Westerners I suspect–that the Islamic world has little tolerance for free speech). I encourage you to view this via newsvine because I believe this is the kind of debate that is needed within the Arab and Islamic world if we are to move beyond the status quo. But, I would much prefer she or some other would come at this from a Muslim perspective. It is easy to see in the question: Are you a heretic? how easily her viewpoint will be dismissed by those most needing to consider her words.

The second item is from blogger Max Kalehoff, VP at Neilsen BuzzMetrics, who makes the point that YouTube’s growing popularity may be because it fits the criteria of a game.

Finally, a little closer to home, we’ve had a big snowstorm here in the usually rainy Pacific Northwest and one of our users of PIER is a school district in the region. They used PIER (an online communications management program) to push info out to parents and others interested about school closures. PIER makes it very easy to create messages and “push” them via email, fax, or text to voice telephone messages. The website run by PIER simultaneously publishes the information as well. We were wondering why their hit count went over 500,000 on their website–it’s a moderate size school district of less than 20,000 students. But the answer was that there was a bit of delay in the normal flow of pushed information out to the parents as the district leaders were trying to decide whether to open or not. So the parents were hitting the website over and over wondering if they needed to arrange for child care and the like.

Several critical points here: these are people who would normally rely on local radio for school closure info and wait (often in frustration) while the station got around to announcing the relevant news to them. Second, when their thirst for current info wasn’t filled by email when they wanted it, they went to the well (the website). And when they found that dry of info as well, they went back and back and back until their thirst was quenched.

A message for communicators–when faced with thirsty audiences, give them something–even if it is to tell them when you expect to have the important information they need.

Apple and iPod labor complaint

Here’s a text book case in crisis management. The fact that it is not much of a reputation crisis is in my opinion is due to the rapid and effective management of the issue by Apple.

A few weeks ago a sensationalist UK Newspaper, The Mail, reported on harsh living and working conditions at a plant in China where Apple makes iPods. Apple responded by launching an audit of the factory to see if it met Apple’s standards for labor as published in its Supplier Code of Conduct. Apple then published the findings including a detailed record of what it found, including violations of the code related to how long some employees were working. It then aggressively distributed the findings via the mainstream media, and posted the findings prominently on its website under Hot News. I found the story via Newsvine, a news aggregator.

What did Apple do right?

– It moved fast

– It acted–initiating an audit

– It admitted problems even while discounting the exaggerations of the press report

– It identified how it is going to fix the problems

– It acted to use a respected third party (Veritas) to continue to audit and assure performance to standards

– It had a set of standards previously established and referenced those as the guide to evaluating performance

– It posted the results, even those admitting problems, very publicly and prominently on its website

– It distributed its findings via the MSM, discounting the worry that by doing so they may increase the visibility of the story

– Without stating directly in any way, they encouraged objective observers to make a judgment as to who was more credible: Apple or The Mail

For those seeking to learn how to deal with a potentially devastating but still smoldering reputation crisis, this example is hard to beat.

Aine McDermot and Purposeful Journalism

I am a fan of newsvine and the model it presents for the global “watercooler”. By that I mean the real time discussion of current issues by those participating. Aine McDermot is a familiar name to newsvine junkies. And here is a very insightful and thought provoking article posted on newsvine by this talented writer and thinker. Purposeful Journalism.

I especially appreciate the comments about how mainstream media has blurred the lines between entertainment and journalism, driven by their need to run profitable businesses. For those interested, this is a major topic of my book “Now Is Too Late: Survival in an Era of Instant News” and the soon to be published second edition, Now Is Too Late2.

Her comments on “Social Journalism” are equally relevant but I sense are just touching the surface of this fascinating and incredibly important topic. Everyday I become more convinced that the world of public information, news, reporting, public affairs, corporate issue management and crisis communication is changing dramatically and the change is driven increasingly by the blogosphere and the huge culture changes that the blogosphere represents and is leading.

If you are in corporate communications, or are a CEO or senior leader of an organization that operates with a public franchise, I encourage you to check out Newsvine but also read this intriguing article.

Princess Cruise on a roll

If you’re in crisis management and you do drills for things that can go wrong, you often wonder how the media would report your story if things went terribly wrong. Look at the coverage of the Crown Princess incident off the coast of Florida.

Interesting first to see how uninvolved people such as myself get the news. My son called at about 10 pm asking me if his grandparents, my parents, might be on that ship. What ship? The one that almost capsized, he said. No, they were on a cruise ship in Alaska, not headed to the Caribbean. He doesn’t have TV so got his news from a website. That’s how I first found out.

I watched the 11 pm news. They interviewed by phone Seattle area residents who were on the ship, honeymooners who described the horror and a ruined honeymoon.

Then the newspaper reports and other web reports this morning. The AP story shown on newsvine is a great example. First the bare facts. Then several paragraphs of recollections, selected primarily because of their vivid descriptions that describe the horror of their experience. A quotation from the Port Canaveral CEO. Finally, and this is my point, a brief comment from an unidentified spokesperson from Princess Cruises. The obligatory “we’re very sorry, inconvenience, reimbursement, etc., etc.” Nothing wrong with their statement, really. But the company seems strangely in the background. Why are they not out front? Where is the CEO? Why, in the stream of video from frightened passengers is there not at least one senior level executive seen actively dealing with the situation, involved with passengers, talking about addressing their concerns.

One cardinal rule for crisis communicators is to avoid discussing cause. The lawyers make certain of that and no doubt prematurely identifying causes can cause huge problems. But it is one of the first questions reporters ask. Here is a great example. The cause apparently was a steering problem. Oh boy, that raises concerns. I’ve been on a few cruises and now when or if I get on board again I am going to think about their steering systems. Are these ships so poorly designed that some computer glitch or a loose bolt gets caught in a cable and the whole dang ship tips over? Come on. If you want passengers to have some assurance, you better come up with a much better answer than this and in a big hurry.

And the hurry again becomes the point. This story will be off the news by this afternoon. But the impact of the coverage will linger for a long time. Sure, people will continue to take cruises, but with a stronger sense that things can go horribly wrong without any clear explanation. And that if things do go horribly wrong, the Coast Guard, the Port that ship came from will be involved, but the cruise company itself will send out some attractive cruise director-like “spokesperson” to simply say how sorry they are. Fellow communicators, we need to do a lot better than this.

Why a sleeping cable guy should make you nervous

This guy named Finkelstein in Washington DC calls Comcast to get his cable fixed. The cable guy comes over and gets put on hold by his own service department for an hour, so he takes a nap. Finkelstein thinks this is funny so he videotapes the cable guy asleep and puts some music to it.

No big deal. Just like ten thousand other service problems going on right now. Amusing even. But then Finkelstein does what young interneters do these days. He shared his video. With a quarter of a million others. He posted it up on www.youtube.com and 227,000 others got the opportunity to share in his little joke.

It didn’t end there. The news media picked it up. I watched the video on KING5 last night on the 11 pm news. Not sure how many others picked it up or if the likes of CNN or other cable networks covered it as well. I did check and it was on Newsvine (www.newsvine.com).

The point here is not Comcast’s customer service problems (I’m a customer and they have problems). But it is the fact that any of your employees doing dumb things can easily be videotaped or simply show up in a blog, on a news site, or a vodcast. Talk about a glass house. Talk about transparency. When one partied-out cable guy decides to take a nap, suddenly it can become a major, major black eye for his employer and make national news.

The value of having a house with lots of windows is that you tend to want to clean up. Even those untidy closets and corners. So that is the first thing to think about. What needs to be cleaned up? What would be embarrassing and undo all the good work you do and effort spent on communicating and building reputation? But, dustballs will happen. Nothing can be perfectly clean and sooner or later one of your employees is going to take a nap in front of a camera or do something else to embarrass you. Then the question is, are you prepared to deal with it–at the speed of youtube?