Category Archives: Youtube

What YouTube Direct means for the post-media world

The movement toward a true post-mainstream media world took another big leap forward with the announcement last week of YouTube Direct. There’s been lots of talk, including on this blog, about how the 300 million plus people walking around with smartphones are the electronic newsgathering network of today. And how the news outlets such as CNN and CBS and trying increasingly hard to tap into this network of citizen journalists. YouTube brilliantly just made it a lot easier. While I confess I haven’t looked at it in detail it looks a bit like combining YouTube downloading capability with some HARO (Help a Reporter Out) functionality. So someone with a cell video camera can capture something stunning like Tom Cruise jumping on a couch over his new love or houses floating by on a flooded river and immediately post that to YouTube, where it can the be easily accessed by media, bloggers or anyone else to share. Also, those looking for video on specific topics can request it or search and those with them can submit directly. That seems to be the idea as I understand it.

What this means of course is more access by anyone who is interested to the videos and information they want.  The implications for crisis and emergency management professionals is significant. Now more than ever when you respond, the story will be told already. The chances of getting the first word in are remote–unless you completely control the exposure, such as if you are David Letterman and decide you will reveal the sordid facts and not leave it to someone else. If you don’t control the first hint of what is going on, then by the time you can respond, the world–at least those most interested–will be already receiving a stream of relevant info. The real question for crisis managers and emergency responders is how do you manage an event when everyone who cares very well knows more than you do? That to me is the big question that we will be struggling with in the coming years.

Ignore the mainstream media–from Amazon to the White House, looks to be the new trend

I was fascinated the other day with Breaking News On announcement of the White House announcing a press conference via Twitter. What’s amazing about that, is that they announced it via Twitter quite a while before letting the press know via traditional means.

Then this story today about Amazon and Zappos announcing the acquisition of Zappos by Amazon. They did it through company blog and posting a video of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. They ignored main stream media calls. Ignored them. The cheeky ValleyWag blog commented:

Bezos cut out the middleman — the press, in this case — big time. And why not? Instead of having to answer boring financial questions, Bezos got to pontificate on Amazon’s history, ostensible focus on its customers, and on his management philosophy. The manic laugher would never have been able to sermonize like this in the Wall Street Journal.

Note: Cut out the middleman. Exactly. I’ve been trying to convince public relations managers, heads of communication, emergency response managers, PIOs, etc., that they days of media-centric communications are gone. Been preaching this since 2001 when I wrote it in my book with the chapter title: You Are the Broadcaster.

Clearly Amazon and Zappos could benefit from all the news coverage around this important acquisition. Clearly they are getting it. Plus a lot of blog talk, etc. But they opted not to go first–or in this case, at all–to the media. Why? Because they are the broadcaster and they know it. The post-media world is here to stay.

Vancouver Taser Death–trouble for RCMP

The death of a Polish immigrant who arrived in Canada, fought the bureaucracy for ten hours and then was tasered to death, is causing the RCMP some real problems. See how I wrote that lead? Is that sympathetic to the victim? Then read the news accounts like this from the Globe and Mail.

Who knows what the real story is. Video on YouTube helps tell the story. Clearly you have a very disturbed and upset young Polish man. The biggest problem for police is their version of events is inconsistent. The investigative report is due out today.

The Vancouver BC taser death–cell phone video vs. the police

I commented the other day about the use of cell phone videos in news. Suddenly there are millions of reporters out there. Now, another news story shows how these reporting devices are impacting the new and communications. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police tasered a man at the Vancouver BC airport after he got out of control. He died. The police said they tasered him twice. But, the news program I just watched showed an airport patron with a cellphone video who said the police tasered him four times. Oops. Now, I’m not ready to say the person with the cell video is right and the RCMP is wrong. But let’s say they are. Oops. Credibility? Lost. And that is something you can never afford to lose.

So, warning to communicators. Make sure what you say is true. Because there are a million–no, hundreds of millions of eyes out there. They know how to get their videos on tv and a whole lot of them know how to get them on YouTube too. The battle for who is to be believed has never changed since the days of Aristotle. But the technology to dispute or prove has never been so ubiquitous. The age of transparency.

Dealing with video–the biggest challenge ahead for crisis communicators

Someone asked the question if videos and their widespread publishing had been as pervasive when George Bush was at Yale as it is now, would he be president? The presumptive answer is no. That he would have been caught in the act and his embarrassment broadcast to the world to such a degree that he would be unelectable.

Well, George escaped those days while he was in college, but we are not escaping the impact of video today. This article from the the IndyStar highlights the dilemma that a great many companies and organizations will face soon if they haven’t already confronted it: unauthorized communication from or about the company over which they have no control and which can quickly and easily be put in the hands of thousands if not millions.

The ubiquity of video creation and instant publication via YouTube or other video sites represents a huge challenge for communicators. Here are my quick suggestions in determining the policies and strategies needed to deal with it.

1) Understand the situation. CEOs and organization leaders absolutely need to know what is going on here. Like the instant news world itself, the growing role of blogs in forming reputations and opinions, leaders cannot lead if they do not know the landscape. This is the fundamental principle of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. It is all about intelligence–situational awareness and the smarts to know how to act on it. CEOs today (most in their 50s and 60s) cannot be expected to be conversant in the world of YouTube, Facebook, etc., and that means it in incumbent on todays’ communication managers within an organization to take the lead in providing that intelligence. Tell you the truth, I am a little sick of hearing PR people talking about “getting a seat at the table.” What they need to do is start leading their organization in understanding and adapting to the new world of public information and they will find themselves at the table without even trying.

2) Fight fire with fire. Reputation battles are going to be fought with video and in YouTube (and other sites) land. Know it, believe it. Be prepared to operate there. If you don’t know how to create instant videos and publish them to your sites in minutes or to the video sites, you better learn it and learn it fast. There are a rapidly increasing number of video capture and publishing tools available. One we think is very promising and that our company is working with is called Viditalk (www.Viditalk.com). Check them out.

3) Increase your situational awareness. Media monitoring is much more challenging than it used to be. The reason is the internet of course. Now almost everything that happens either starts here, is focused here or ends here. That is not to say that the mainstream media are not involved, but more and more the stories they cover start on the internet and then they pick them up which then further feeds the internet activity. So your media monitoring now needs to include or even focus on monitoring the internet content. There are a number of companies that are doing a good job of providing this kind of monitoring and some even provide it in one simple package. I just don’t see how any company or organization can operate in this environment without a pretty robust internet monitoring system.

4) Recognize that it is an antagonist world. I will be commenting more on this soon but I received complementary copies of two recent books relating to crisis management (a benefit of blogging!) and while I haven’t read them yet I will and comment on them in this blog. The point is both of them are focused on the antagonist environment we operate in. Why antagonistic? Because of the motives involved. The mainstream media’s overarching motive is to attract and hold an audience–and they do that by entertaining. That is frequently bad news for the people and organizations they cover–just tools in the process of doing their job. Bloggers similarly operate by generating traffic to their sites–controversy, vitriol, exxageration, misinformation, accusations–all play into the game. Activists exist for the purpose of attacking others. Politicians are continually on the lookout for a popular cause of harm being done–real or not–so they can be the white knight riding to the rescue of the victims and victimized public. And perhaps most fearful of all, plaintiff’s attorneys are entrepreneurs whose opportunity to cash in is dependent on finding or making demons out of ordinary companies, organizations and people. I know that is overstating it–but it is a rough, nasty world out there and those engaged in reputation management and crisis management had better understand it.

Here come the videos

One phenomenon I’ve been watching with interest is the growth of video as means of mass/individual communication. I’ve commented frequently on how effectively the Coast Guard uses video as part of their public affairs operation and other companies, such as Starbucks and JetBlue have used video effectively as key part of a crisis management response.

My thoughts on this this morning were further spurred by watching yet another political video. I won’t provide a link to it because that would make this blog more political than I want. It showed a mock ad on a Fox news program promoting a drug that will help you get over your symptoms of ambivalence over one prominent candidate.

The point is not the particular ad–it is video and its increasingly pervasive, creative, powerful and ubiquitous use in today’s communication. Video production has become democratized. New easy to use video capture, editing and publishing tools are emerging rapidly. (To prove this point, I just made a quick video on my Mac laptop, uploaded it and here is the link to the Quicktime version.)Video conferencing via web is being built into all laptops and is part of the increasingly popular meeting applications. YouTube and other video publishing sites are spurring on the use of video with surprising rapidity.

This political season is being driven to a remarkable degree by online videos. Some candidates like John Edwards are leading the way in terms of use of YouTube as well as videos on their websites. And since politics is mostly driven by those who detest particular candidates, the opponents of specific candidates are filling the Internet with all kinds of videos–like the one referenced above–demonstrating their animosity as well as creativity.

Politics once again provides leadership in adapting to and innovating new means of communication. Those in business or organizational communication ought to be paying close attention to what is happening in these campaigns. Because what candidates face today particularly related to those who hate them or oppose them, is what you will face tomorrow from your activists and opponents. Business competition may look like this. Activist action will undoubtedly look like this as it increasingly does today. And just plain old every day communication between boss and employees, between CEO and the leadership team, between a company and its customers and an organization and its stakeholders will look like this.

If you aren’t ready for video, look out. It is ready for you.

History's take on Virginia Tech and its impact on crisis management–and the world

They say that journalism is the first draft of history. This qualifies as journalism, then, but with an eye to the changes that this event will make in our world, and particularly the world of crisis communication. I’ll present random ideas in bullet form.

1) The media, being in the infotainment business, continues its insistence on finding someone to blame.

The person who is lying dead on the floor with a self-inflicted fatal wound does not qualify. In this case, it was the administration for “failing” to notify everyone. To the point where President Steger was asked if he would resign. Outrageous. Only with the benefit of hindsight can anyone fault the decision that was made. And to apply 20/20 hindsight and find fault on that basis is highly unfair and can only be justified in the light of the insistence that someone has to be at fault.

2) For every action that grabs the media’s and world’s attention, there has to be an extreme overreaction.

As I write this I have been informed that dozens if not hundreds of schools are in lockdown. Entirely predictable. A car backfiring within three miles of any university or school campus is going to result in a lockdown. That is until cooler heads prevail, the costs of such actions are analyzed, and administrators become as afraid of being accused of being lockdown crazy as they are now afraid of being accused of what VT administrators are accused of.

3) SMS will be on everyone’s “have to have” list for crisis communication.

This brought the attention of the world as nothing else has in my 20 plus years of crisis communication, of the need to reach people quickly in ways they can be reached. Phone notification vendors (of which we are one–offering it as part of a comprehensive solution) are going crazy trying to capture the feeding frenzy of buyers of emergency notifications services. Some of the strategies and approaches are stomach turning, but that is another issue. The point is, the world of emergency notification and crisis communication is forever altered by this event.

4) Rapidly changing modes of communication.

A few days ago I would guess that most professional communicators were only vaguely aware of Facebook–and certainly did not consider these social media sites as a viable means of communication. Let alone, a replacement for email. Let the record show, I blogged on this several weeks ago. Now, many are looking at these sites in a whole new way including looking at how they need to be incorporated into a comprehensive emergency and crisis management solution.

5) Don’t expect too much in responsible or moral thinking from the media.

This goes to the issue of NBC playing the video. I don’t want to be as harsh as this may sound. The reality is that someone somewhere with a website would have gotten this, it would go on YouTube soon, and it would be all over. And NBC would have lost a scoop opportunity of enormous proportions. It would have happened. Do not doubt it. Our world is brutally transparent and the beheadings in Iraq have demonstrated. So what would you have done if you were an executive. Your future is at stake, your ability to draw an audience is being hurt everyday as the compelling stuff is found on the Internet. I will not judge them. But I will say that the overarching economic realities need to be kept in mind as people set their expectations for media decisions.

6) What becomes possible, becomes expected, then demanded.

Personally, I think this is the biggest long term outcome–and particularly for us in crisis communication technology. A few days ago, few knew about SMS text messaging as an alternative means available to reach people in a life-threatening event. Now it is known. It is known that it is possible, even inexpensive. Every university in the world is scrambling to answer the question as to how they would reach students in this event. But, this does not just apply to students. A university is, after all, a community. It has public safety officers, headed by a main administrator responsible for the welfare of those in his or her care. Sort of like the mayor of a town or city and the public safety officers. I suspect that many people will soon start to ask the question–if a university can reach all students by cell phones and text messaging, why shouldn’t I be alerted if there is a rape, or murder, or bomb explosion, or toxic release, or some other health and life event taking place in my town, my city, my neighborhood?

When Federal Express announced you could get a package shipped across town or across the country in a day, absolutely, positively, it changed the expectations forever about package shipment. I predict this event will change the expectations forever about emergency notifications for everyone. It seems inevitable.

I have already had conversations with a fire chief and a head of communications for a county in this area about announcing to the community that they can get text alerts about life threatening situations by logging their cell phones into a public safety websites. The technology these departments have is already in place. The only thing missing is to let the community members know it is possible. But once they understand it is possible, they will demand it. That is what I predict.

Finally, this interview by PRWeek with one of the media responders gives a very good idea what the pressure of dealing with the media frenzy in this event was like.

Prediction: A flood of anonymous, vicious political attack ads

The “Big Brother (sister?)” ad parody against Senator Clinton is likely to just be the start. First, because as this LA Times article shows, there is considerable protection for the anonymous aspect. It also conforms to the ethos of the Internet and blogworld–absolute freedom with much less concern about responsibility or respect.

Political operatives have to be scrambling right now to come up with the equivalent of the “issue war rooms” that were created in President Clinton’s first race. Now they will be “YouTube War Rooms,” rapid response mechanisms to deal with damaging video clips posted on the proliferating video sites and distributed virtually instantly via the bloggers.

Corporate communicators–don’t sit back too comfortably and watch this. What happens in the rough and tumble political communication world usually spills over into public communication involving companies. Where is your YouTube war room? How will you respond with an ad parody or a vicious video attack suddenly showing up?

How to respond to a rat problem–use video. Taco Bell and KFC president speaks

A few months ago it was new–now it seems common. Starbucks used YouTube to respond to the accusations of Oxfam, David Neeleman from JetBlue posted an apology video on their website and now President Emil Brolick of Yum (Taco Bell and KFC) has put an apology video on his site relating the rat story that made its rounds on the Internet. (See my PIERblog post).

Note to crisis managers and communicators: your crisis plan had better now include provisions for quickly videotaping an apology from your CEO as well as the knowledge and capability of quickly putting this up on your website and on the proliferating video sites such as YouTube.