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Here's some ways to turn press releases into press coverage

I was at a holiday party this past weekend and had a chance to talk with some reporters and PR folks.  I asked each person what was the biggest problem businesses faced when trying to pitch stories.  I was shocked that nearly all of the reporters and PR professionals agreed that finding a compelling story was the one thing businesses had the most trouble doing.

It is always amazing to me that businesses can’t seem to figure out the stories that make them interesting.  In that vain, here are five areas of your business where you can find that great story that can turn your press releases into press coverage.

HIGHLIGHT YOUR GOOD DEEDS

There’s one thing that most, if not all, news people bristle at is the perception that all they’re interested in is bad news.  It’s just not true.  News folks are interested in stories that are not “normal.”  Those stories can be good or bad, just not typical.  Here’s how this can work for you.  Do you as a company raise millions of dollars for a good cause?  Do you give away free products to the disadvantaged?  If you do, you need get a press release out, stat.  You see, you’re not “normal.”  There are many businesses out there who don’t do charity so finding one that does is newsworthy.  Reporters love positive news stories just as much as bad news stories, and the fact that your company is so charitable is news.  Let them know.

“SUPER” EMPLOYEES

Support and highlight your employees who are doing something super

What do your employees do when their not working for you?  If you don’t know, you should find out.   Too many Support and highlight your employees who are doing something super businesses don’t think about how their employees non-work actions can affect them, but it can.  Learn about your employees and support them when they do extraordinary stuff.  It would be a shame if you had employees that went to the mountains every weekend to help disable kids learn how to ski and you didn’t help them and tell the media about it.

OFFICE CULTURE

Why do people like working for you?  Yes, it might be that you give them 20% more money than anyone else, but more likely it has something to do with your office culture.  Do you allow dogs?  Do you have flexible hours?  Do you have a swimming pool in the main lobby?  If you do, I bet a news organization would love to do a story on it.

GENUINE INNOVATION

This area is where most businesses try to get news coverage but fail.  The reason is that their products are not interesting.  Look, I understand that to a company that makes rugs, using a brand new type of thread is interesting, but to the rest of us its not.  If you are using thread, however, that makes your rugs last for 200 years, or makes sure that nothing will ever stain them, or it makes your rugs fly…THAT is genuine innovation.  If your company is doing something that makes the average person on the street go “wow,” that’s a reason to let the press know.  By the way, that should exclude about 98% of the things businesses are currently writing press releases about now.

Are you an expert? Let reporters know.

EXPERTISE

Are you an expert in your field?  Do you have people on your staff who are experts?  I mean real “other folks come to you asking for help” expert, then you should notify the press.  Reporters are always looking to stack their Rolodex with experts they can call at a moments notice to help them with a subject.  Even better, tie your expertise in with something that is happening in the news.  You’d be surprised how often reporters are looking for experts.  Writing that press release will let those reporters know that you are the expert they should call.

To be sure, the hard and fast rule about sending out press releases is “less is more.”  But by examining these five areas of your business, you might just find a great story which will help you succeed in turning your press releases into genuine news coverage.

*(If you’re interested in hiring me you can go here for more information.)

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Reputation should be every businesses social media focus.

It was a jaw-dropping story in the New York Times by David Segal.

SHOPPING online in late July, Clarabelle Rodriguez typed the name of her favorite eyeglass brand into Google’s search bar.

In moments, she found the perfect frames — made by a French company called Lafont — on a Web site that looked snazzy and stood at the top of the search results. Not the tippy-top, where the paid ads are found, but under those, on Google’s version of the gold-medal podium, where the most relevant and popular site is displayed.

Ms. Rodriguez placed an order for both the Lafonts and a set of doctor-prescribed Ciba Vision contact lenses on that site, DecorMyEyes.com. The total cost was $361.97.

It was the start of what Ms. Rodriguez would later describe as one of the most maddening and miserable experiences of her life.

What transpires is a nightmare scenario for any consumer, and frankly, for any business as well.  It becomes even worse when you understand why this is happening.  From the company itself.

“Hello, My name is Stanley with DecorMyEyes.com,” the post began. “I just wanted to let you guys know that the more replies you people post, the more business and the more hits and sales I get. My goal is NEGATIVE advertisement.”

It’s all part of a sales strategy, he said. Online chatter about DecorMyEyes, even furious online chatter, pushed the site higher in Google search results, which led to greater sales. He closed with a sardonic expression of gratitude: “I never had the amount of traffic I have now since my 1st complaint. I am in heaven.”

I understand that this is an extreme example, but any publicity is good publicity right?

SEO is important, but not as much as your reputation

Well no.

Look, I don’t believe that this is the kind of thing that the vast majority of businesses would want to associate themselves with, but it brings up an interesting point.

What are you more interested in as a business, your SEO or your reputation?

You may laugh at that question, but I assure you, too many of you are putting your Google rankings ahead of your businesses good name.  In fact, the only difference between your business and the one above is scale.

Want Proof?  Here are three warning signs that you may be caring more about your SEO rather than your reputation.

  • Your focus on blog posts is toward key words rather than on highlighting your expertise.
  • You post based on what’s popular rather than on where you see solutions to problems.
  • You post about topics that are irrelevant to your business’ strengths.

If you’re doing any of these, you probably want to rethink your social media strategy.  Let me help.

Simply put, most businesses are created because they are able to fill a need.  Your primary goal with social media, really with all public relations, should be to highlight why people should trust you, and ultimately, do business with you.  Everything else is superfluous.

It never ceases to amaze me how many businesses don’t seem to get that.

Here’s a simple solution.

Rather than focusing on popular issues, pick topics with an eye towards highlighting how your business can offer solutions to problems.  If you happen to be able to address a topic that others are talking about, great.  But it shouldn’t be a focus.  Once you have a topic, lay out clearly and concisely what the issue is and how your business is ideally suited to fixing that problem.  Make the case that people should turn to you when they have similar issues.  Only after you have written your post should you worry about how to increase your ranking on Google.

So remember this.  Social media is not a popularity contest.  If it were, then all of us would be acting just like the business above, stooping to any level to rise in the ranks of Google.  This is not to say that you should just ignore SEO words or popular topics, you shouldn’t.  Just understand that your focus should primarily be on what your business can do for others.

Focus on your reputation.  Your future customers will thank you.

*(If you’re interested in my services you can go here for more information.)

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Can you spot the real turkey?

Every family has one.  It was the Thanksgiving from Hell.

You remember…as much as you don’t want to, you do.

It was the year that Mom didn’t do turkey.  Instead she tried the Mongolian-Irish-Colombian-Vegan eel recipe she got from the guy handing out fliers at the mall.  The meal was so bad that Uncle Silus got drunk and yelled at Cousin Teddy, who got drunk and took the sledge hammer to Great Grannie Edie’s heirloom crystal cat collection.  By the end of the evening, the men were passed out amongst the crystal chards while Mom, in tears, chased the dogs away from the untouched dinner, not realizing that the animals were the only things that got her cooking.

Ahh the memories.  The terrible, ungodly, please-god-never-ever-let-that-happen-again memories.  I think we can all agree that we never want to go there again.

Amazingly, similar stuff happens when businesses get cute with their social media.

The boss has no clue about social media so he appoints some kid to do it for him.  The kid “totally knows this rad new platform that all the other kids are using” and ends up spending thousands on some site that can only be accessed in South Korea.  Meanwhile, the Twitter page that a former worker set up, is being used as a “why work sucks” discussion between two other employees who had access because the ex-worker sent everyone the password in a email.

Yeah…no.  We don’t want that either.

Never fear.  Here are five tips to ensure that your Thanksgiving, and your social media, will be a success

KEEP IT SIMPLE

Too often, people treat Thanksgiving as a game of “anything you can do, I can do better.”  They try to make the dish that will be the one that the family will talk about for years.  The problem is, it usually is.  No one wants vegan eels for Thanksgiving.  They want turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy.  Just because it’s not unique doesn’t mean it can’t be delicious.   And because you’re comfortable making turkey, it probably will be.

The same goes for your social media.  Here’s a secret, the reason why most businesses stick to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter is because those are the sites the everyone else is using.   Social media is a tool to let people know about all the great things your business is doing.   I could have the coolest social media set up, but if no one sees it, it won’t do me any good.  Sticking to the social media sites that your familiar with, that other people are familiar with, will give you a better chance of successfully getting your message across.

DON’T PUT TOO MUCH ON YOUR PLATE

Let me tell you what "seconds" means

This is something we all do, and regret it every year.  We see all the food on the Thanksgiving table and want to eat it all.  Now!  Unfortunately, by the time we’re done piling everything on our plate we have mixed everything together into an indistinguishable brown pile of mush.  It might still taste good, but we miss the chance to taste each dish individually. We might find that some of the dishes we liked aren’t as tasty as we thought, while other that we might not have liked turn out to be our favorites.  Knowing this can be helpful when you’re going back for seconds.  Because there will always be seconds.

Too many of us seem to have the same problem when it comes to social media.  There are so many interesting social media tools that we just can’t resist using all of them.  Sadly, when it comes time to use those tools, we don’t have the time or understanding to truly take advantage of each tool’s unique strengths.  By using fewer tools and getting to know them well, you can find which ones really suit your social media needs.

REMEMBER GRANDMA’S THERE

Remember the time Crazy Uncle Silus got really drunk and started telling loud tales about his escapades in the red light district of Amsterdam, using the dog’s favorite toy to explain every graphic detail?  So does your Grandmother, which is why Unky Silly doesn’t seem to make Thanksgiving anymore.  No one wants to feel uncomfortable at Thanksgiving.  Keep it that way.

Same goes for social media.  The last thing you want is people to see your social media and feel uncomfortable.  If they do, you can bet on two things happening.  The first is that they won’t look at your social media anymore.  The second is that they will tell lots of other people who, also, won’t look at your social media anymore.

A good rule of thumb for making sure your social media is appropriate is to ask yourself if your grandmother would be o.k. reading your stuff.  If you can’t say yes, you might want to rethink what you’re writing.

You may remember Thanksgiving but your family will

SCREWS UPS WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN

I don’t mean to keep reminding you about that Thanksgiving nightmare you’ve been trying to forget, but it should serve as a reminder of why everyone should mind their manners over the holidays.  Crazy Uncle Silus wasn’t always “crazy.”  But down a whole bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream and lay waste to a family heirloom and that’s all anyone will remember.  Don’t be that person.  Don’t talk politics.  Don’t bring up embarrassing stories about yourself or anyone else.  If you do, I can assure you, you’ll be hearing about it for the rest of your life.

Screwing up on social media has the same effect.  You make one unfortunate remark in a blog post, or malign someone’s mother in a tweet and you will never be able to put it behind you.  This is particularly bad if the faux pas happens on your businesses’ social media sites.  Your business will always be associated with that mistake.  Google will make sure of that.  So make sure you proof your work, and please no drunken Twitter posts.  No one wants that.

HAVE A DESIGNATED DRIVER

It is natural at Thanksgiving for the alcohol to flow as much as the food does.  A pre-meal martini, wine with dinner, a beer watching football and pretty soon you’re feeling pretty happy.  Make sure you aren’t driving.  Getting a DUI would definitely fall under the “Screw Up” section above.  Worse would be having a crash that killed you or someone else.  Thanksgiving would never be the same.  Having a designated driver will ensure that your family remembers Thanksgivings past for the right reasons.

Having a designated driver for your social media is essential as well.  Giving multiple people access to your businesses’ social media is just asking for trouble.  The more people who have access, the better the chance of an online train wreck.  Remember the “work sucks” employees?    You just don’t want that.  Make sure you have one person who is in charge of your social media.  It will make your message clearer and there will be a significantly less chance of having any social media “mistakes.”

As you can see, there are a lot of similarities to having a successful Thanksgiving and a successful social media campaign.  If you make sure to keep it simple, don’t put too much on your plate, remember grandma, limit your screw ups and appoint a designated driver, your Thanksgiving and you social media will give you a lot to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all

*(If you’re interested in my services you can go here for more information.)

 

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I’d like to let you in on a little secret.

The Honey Do list goes mobile

I’m just a normal person.  I need to run errands and do stuff just like everyone else in the world.  So why would any business care about my errand run?  Because it could change the way you think about social media.

Shall we start?  Good.

I Needed to get a part to fix a desk in my living room.

I Googled stores to find best deals for the part/

Checked which store was closest and  how long it would take to get to the store.

As you can see, I use social media all the time to help me find the things I need.  With social media, I can find the stuff I need at the most convenient store.  Using my smart phone makes this a lot easier.  So why should you care?  Think about this,  ” Morgan Stanley Internet analyst said she expects smartphone sales will surpass PC and laptop sales in 2012, with more than 450 million units sold.”

Wow!  That’s a lot of people with smart phones who just might be using it to search businesses through social media.  Oh well, back to my errands.

Went to hardware store, checked in on Foursquare.  Saw deal for flowers nearby.

Went to Flower shop which gave me a discount for using Foursquare to find them.

Another great thing about smart phones is that can take advantage of geolocation applications like Foursquare.  When you use a geolocation application to check in at a store, they will often have deals posted that you wouldn’t find normally.  Additionally, you can find other participating stores nearby you might want to visit.

Pretty neat!  I wish that was your flower shop, but you aren’t on Foursquare.  So anyway, that  other flower shop was so nice that….

Tweeted how nice they were and that everyone should check them out.

Got a re-tweet about a great new restaurant that serves Venezuelan food.  Texted my Venezuelan wife to have her meet me there.

She checked in on their Facebook page, found a great deal, and realized she knew the owner from her high school.

Got invited to dinner so I needed a bottle of wine.  Went to Yelp to find a wine store nearby that carried South American wine.

Went to the grocery store and had to wait at the checkout for the employee to finish her conversation with her boyfriend.  Tweeted about the terrible service.  Got a reply from someone who said another grocery store, closer to my home, had great customer service.

Social media is the perfect tool for interacting with people and getting tips about businesses from your friends.  In fact, lots of folks check reviews about businesses. If their friend like the place they go.  If not, they don’t.  Oh, you should probably think about this too.

Well it’s off to the wine store.

As I was buying the wine, I got into a conversation with owner and found out that he is a wine and restaurant blogger. Favorited his blog and got great Chilean wine for dinner.

Blogging is like word of mouth advertising on steroids.  People look to blogs for advice more so than any other medium.  That basically means that blogging about your industry can make you an expert.  People want to buy stuff from experts in their field.

So off to dinner.

Had a wonderful dinner with new friends.

Afterwards I reflected on how much had changed for me in one day just by taking advantage of social media.  I found the part I needed at the most convenient store.  I found a great new flower shop.  Replaced my grocery store.  Met some friends with an awesome restaurant and met a blogger who could point me towards a great bottle of Chilean Red.

Pretty good huh?  And I’m not unique.  Everyday there are millions of people just like me who use their smart phones and social media to help them with their errands.

Here’s the catch.

If your business isn’t taking advantage of social media, you’re not reaching any of us.  Basically you’re invisible.

Perhaps you should rethink that decision not to use social media for your business, don’t you think?

Yeah, I thought so too.

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Mitch Reed in a happier moment

Before I was a P.R. pro for hire (go here if you’re interested), I spent a lot of years working as a reporter.  Back then, it felt like winning the lottery when a story like this one from the Aspen Daily News fell into our laps.

A local man has confessed to stealing hundreds of copies of the Aspen Daily News and The Aspen Times from newspaper boxes throughout the valley last Friday morning.

Mitch Reed, 23, said he drove around to various newspaper boxes about 7:30 a.m. Friday, removing copies of both newspapers in an attempt to spare embarrassment to a buddy who was in that day’s police blotter in both publications.

You see, anytime I could take a one day story and turn it into a two day story, well, that was just awesome.  Now I think  the opposite.  How can I keep that one day story from spilling over to tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

Well, thanks to Mr. Reed, and his honorable stupidity, anyone can learn the secret to crisis communications success. Here are four things Mr. Reed didn’t do that you should to minimize a crisis.

TAKE A BREATH AND THINK

I  know this seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how hard it is to stay rational in a crisis.  Take a minute to gather yourself and think about what the worst possible outcome could be.

Take Mitch here (may I call you Mitch?).  It’s obvious that he saw the looming problem that was his friend showing up in the Aspen Daily News police blotter, and freaked out.  If he had chilled out for a sec, he might have seen that, while showing up in the blotter is bad, there are worse places for your name to show up in a paper.  Like the front page.

Giving yourself a second to breathe and think will give you a chance to see the crisis in its proper perspective.  Mitch didn’t do this.

ASSESS YOUR OPTIONS

Once you have a grasp of the problem you face, you can now start figuring out the best ways to fix it.  Come up with as many solutions as possible and follow them to their probable conclusion.  Choose the one that gives you the best chance to minimize the damage.

Had Mitch done this, he might have seen that, yes, stealing all the newspapers in Aspen is a possible solution.  Is it the best option to try and keep a buddy’s name out of the spotlight?  I’m thinking NO.  Perhaps helping his buddy work on explaining himself and apologizing to people that actually brought it up might have been a better choice, but that’s just me.

DON’T COVER UP

There is one hard and fast rule about crisis communications that no one ever seems to learn.

Never, Never, Never try to cover up bad news.

Ask Nixon.  If a reporter thinks that you’re hiding something they are gonna investigate.  They will find the truth, do a story on the cover up then do more research into what else are you possibly hiding.  Maybe they ask ex-employees about you.  You know, the one you fired who said you’d regret it one day?

In Mitch’s case, he didn’t understand the when folks don’t get their papers, they complain to that paper.  When hundreds of people complain, they investigate.  Then they write another article talking about Mitch while mentioning his friend’s name in the blotter.  I bet more people read that blotter now.

WEATHER THE STORM

It’s never fun when bad stuff happens, but the one thing you need to remember is this.  Hit it Annie

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83chZPsYLbo&w=200&h=100]

You will get passed this crisis.  And how you handle it will tell everyone as much about your company as any problem you might have had.

So thank you Mitch.  You’ve done all of us an invaluable service.  You have illustrated that turning a small problem into a bigger one is exactly the wrong way to deal with a crisis.

Instead, take a breath, assess your options, never cover up, and weather the storm.  You do this and that bad story they wrote about you today will be forgotten tomorrow.

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Who's here for the Flash Mob?

You’ve seen them on YouTube,on the news, and – if you’re lucky – in real life.  When executed correctly, they will go viral and become globally recognizable.

It’s the guerrilla marketing campaign.

Guerrilla marketing campaigns are a powerful tool for public relations. The allure of a guerrilla marketing campaign is the subversive feel of the event, and the buzz generated by the no rules, take no prisoners attitude of a successful campaign can often get more attention than any traditional P.R. strategy.

But there is a misconception.

Many people wrongly assume that there are no rules in guerrilla marketing, and that’s just not true.

A successful  campaign needs to walk a fine line between seeming “corporate” and breaking laws.  You want to leave everyone with a positive feeling.  Walk that line well and you could get all the publicity you could ever want. Screw up and, well, your guerrilla marketing days are probably through.

We don’t want you to fail, however, because we like good guerrilla marketing.  So, here are five rules that you should probably follow in order to mount a successful guerrilla campaign.

STICK TO YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA FOR PLANNING

Keep the planning as quiet as possible.  The element of surprise is essential.  Plus, you want the people who are apart of your event to feel they’ve done something special, and even a bit subversive.  This means you need to stay away from using main stream media for advance publicity.  Stick to your social media networks in order to plan your event.  Why?  Well you need your participants invested and that means getting them to feel like they’re a part of something special.  Advertising on television, newspapers or radio doesn’t give people that feeling.  You want the people who are “in on the joke” to proudly wear your brand, and you want the people not “in on the joke” to want to be in on it next time.  You can let the press know right before so they can get there in time to cover it, but anything else ruins your “guerrilla credibility.”

BE OF GOOD CHEER

What are the best type of practical jokes?  The one where everyone, including the mark, are laughing at the end.  The same goes for a guerrilla campaign.  No one wants to be minding their own business at some location when a bunch of hooligans show up and try to make them feel uncomfortable, angry, or scared.  This is a sure way to cause yourself headaches.

Instead, keep your campaign lighthearted.  You want people to remember whatever message your publicizing with a smile, not a shiver.

Critical Mass now seems like more of a party

Case in point:  Critical Mass, a group promoting bicycle use and rights.  The group got a lot more traction when they started treating their rides more like a party, complete with music and costumes, instead of acting like a bunch of angry thugs vandalizing cars and seeing how miserable they could make an afternoon rush hour.

You want people to embrace your message, not fight it.  Being of good cheer makes everyone a winner.

MESSAGE COMES FIRST

It can be probably be said for a lot of public relations, but with guerrilla marketing campaigns it is even more important. The message has to come first.  It doesn’t matter how cool, or exciting your event, if no one gets why your doing it, you’ve basically failed.

Find what makes the entity you’re promoting unique and highlight it.  That way folks will get the joke AND the message.

ONLY PHOTOS AND MEMORIES LEFT

There are two truths in life.  Everyone loves a party, and everyone hates cleaning up after a party.  The only thing worse than cleaning up after a party is cleaning up after one you didn’t want while the hosts drive away.  Make sure your guerrilla marketing doesn’t create a mess that someone else has to deal with.

 

Mission Local photos of Microsoft Guerrilla Campaign

Microsoft found this out recently with a guerrilla campaign in San Francisco.  Their “chalk” messages turned out to be more permanent than thought and now Microsoft is going to have to pay for the clean up and any fines.  This doesn’t include all the evil thoughts the people actually cleaning up the mess will have towards Bill Gates.  Not a good way to get new customers.

TAKE AND KEEP RESPONSIBILITY

What many guerrilla marketers often forget is that they are responsible for everything that happens during an event.  This means good AND bad.  Some old lady who gets trampled by the hundreds of folk dressed up like stampeding bulls is your responsibility.  Make sure you keep control of your event.  Let your “participants” know what you expect.  Make sure you take care of any damage.  Don’t give people a reason to complain about your event.  The only thing you want to apologize for is for too much awesomeness.

Guerrilla Marketing is a great tool for any public relations professional.  A successful campaign can create buzz that other types of P.R. are hard pressed to duplicate.  An unsuccessful campaign, however, can be disastrous.   Hopefully, by following these five rules for mounting a successful guerrilla campaign you too can create the next YouTube sensation.

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The best part of elections is that the next one's two years away.

Well, the votes are in…mostly.   And, while half the country is celebrating and the other half is consoling itself, it’s important to look at five non-political lessons that every public relations person should take from Campaign 2010

1.  NOTHING IS OFF THE RECORD, EVER.

There once was a time when a person could let loose with the odd swear, slur, or violent outburst and have it slip under the radar without anyone knowing.  Not anymore.  Smart phones, cheap video cameras, blogs, YouTube and Twitter have made everything we do susceptible to public scrutiny.  Think how many politicians are wishing they could get back that one unfortunate minute of their lives that got caught on tape.  Gone are the days of controlling the media.  It has become vitally important for public relations folks to control their clients instead.  If your not giving your clients media training you must start, today.  The best way not to get caught doing something stupid on camera is to not do something stupid at all.

2.  BLOGGERS ARE JUST AS IMPORTANT AS REPORTERS

Remember when reporters were kings and bloggers were just crazy nut jobs living in their parents’ basement?  Well that’s just not the case anymore.  A quick look at The Truth Laid Bear, a website which tracks blog traffic, will show you that the biggest blogs on the web are getting nearly two million hits a day.

Two million hits…..a day.

Heck, the 200th rated blog is getting over 75,000 hits a day.  You still think bloggers are crazy?  I can tell you that lots of politicians who are nursing their wounds today thought that.

Listen carefully, there is no “new media” or “old media.”  It’s all media, and you need to pitch to it.   It is far more likely that a person will take advice about a business from a blogger that they read daily than from a media entity they may only see occasionally.  Blogs are word of mouth on steroids.  If you’re not reaching out to the blogging community, you are doing your clients a disservice.

3.  ANYONE NOT USING SOCIAL MEDIA IS GETTING LEFT BEHIND

O.K. here’s a little test for you.  Look at all the people that you follow on your various social media sites who told you in the last week A) how they were going to vote; B) how you should vote; and C) that they did indeed vote in the 2010 election.  How many of them didn’t tell you anything about their voting preference four years ago?

Pretty amazing when you think about it.

Politicians who were able to take advantage of social media are headed to Washington, while those who didn’t are headed to their computers to learn how to take advantage.  Whether you like it or not, people are talking about your business with social media.  If you’re not listening and responding, your losing out on opportunities.  That’s just not good for any business in this current climate.

4.  PERSONAL TOUCHES STILL MATTER

Make no mistake.  Blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Flicker, Digg and Google are all very important.  But a handshake is just as important.  One politician who won as a huge underdog sent personal handwritten notes to every donor during his campaign.  Think that might have made a difference?  Public relations and social media are just like paint brushes and easels.  They are tools.  You have to use them to illustrate what makes your businesses identity.  The more you can reach out and touch people personally, the more likely they are to have a positive view of you.  Then they can use their social media to tell potential new customers how great you are.  Two networks telling their people about your awesome business is way better than just one network.

5.  KEEP YOUR POLITICAL THOUGHTS OFF YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA SITES

There is one thing from Campaign 2010 which has brought all Americans together, and that is that they hate the mudslinging and arguing that comes with every election.  They hate being told “you’re an idiot if you vote for Prop T1000,” or “only commies and fascists would vote for that candidate.”  Perhaps the best advice on this topic comes from Michael Jordan who, when asked why he didn’t get involved in political activism on behalf of the Democratic party said, “because Republicans buy sneakers too.”  That’s really good advice.  There’s no need to alienate half of your potential customers because you have some political itch to scratch.  Customers don’t care.  And the ones who disagree with you won’t argue, they’ll just go somewhere else.

So while none of us can agree on whether this election was a success or a disaster, I think we can all agree that their are things more important than elections.  So take these five non-political lessons to heart.  It won’t help your depression or dampen your enthusiasm in the wake of Campaign 2010, but they might just make your business more successful.

Hope this helps you out.

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The rescue of the 33 miners from the Chilean mine has captivated the world.  Everyone I’ve talked to, every Twitter post I’ve read, and every news update I’ve heard has the same reaction.

“This is amazing.  Incredible.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  It’s a miracle.”

I echo all these sentiments, and what’s even more exciting to me is how Chile was able to turn this possible disaster into a resounding success story using excellent crisis management.

Here are some lessons that your business can learn from the handling of the Chilean Mine Saga.

1.  PLAN AHEAD

Obviously, a small business in Denver will never have to deal with trapped workers.  Or will it?  No one can foresee every possible bad scenario that might affect their business, but you can prepare for the most likely.  Obviously, one issue that a mine might have to deal with is a cave-in that might trap workers.  They don’t want it to happen, but better to be prepared.  With that in mind, the San Jose Mine was equipped with emergency shelters that were reinforced and stocked with emergency provisions.  The miners were in one of these areas when the collapse happened and were able to keep themselves alive with the emergency provisions until they could be found and other provisions could be sent to them.

You should take a look around and see what issues might affect your business.  Are you in a high rise?  Do you have employees that stay late?  Are children regularly in your business?  Recognizing where you business might be susceptible to a crisis and taking steps to prepare will help you deal, not only with the crisis for which you planned, but also for the one you may not have.

2.  TRAIN YOUR EMPLOYEES

One of the amazing aspects of the Chilean Mine Saga is how the miners were able to keep calm and collected while going through this ordeal.  Because the miners knew that there were  plans in place in the event of a collapse, they were much more likely to stay calm and work to stay alive.

Your employees should be aware of what you are doing to address crisis issues.  Knowing that you have a plan for a crisis reassures your employees that you have thought about crisis issues and gives them confidence to act when a crisis occurs.

3.  ASK FOR HELP

One thing, perhaps above all others, helped to save the lives of the Chilean miners and that was that the Chilean government asked for help.  Companies from all over the world were asked for help and they were able to come up with a rescue plan that saved the miners months sooner than originally thought.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.  If you run a restaurant, we expect you to know food not hazardous material clean up.  Thinking that if you keep things in house will only make things worse.  You might be able to keep on top of things in the short term, but chances are you’ll make a mistake.  Reaching out to others who have experience with the crisis you’re facing lets people know you’re interested in the public good, not just your public image.

4.  KEEP COMMUNICATIONS OPEN

When a crisis happens, people are going to want to know what’s going on.  In Chile, the families, the press, the Chilean President all needed to be updated on what was happening.   All parties were kept abreast of the efforts to find the miners right after the collapse.  When they were found alive, a camera was among the supplies sent down so that everyone could see the miners and be reassured that they were o.k.  This feed was also given to the media so they would have information as well.   Finally, the miners were kept up to date to ensure they knew they weren’t forgotten.

If you don’t let people know what’s happening, then people are forced to go to other sources to get information, and that’s never good.   You want to speaking for you.  When you don’t, people want to know what your covering up, and in most scandals the cover up is always worse (see Watergate).  If you don’t have an answer, say you don’t but when you get it you will let people know.  Then follow through.  People want information and honesty.  Give it to them.

5.  DON’T TAKE THE CREDIT, TAKE THE BLAME

The greatest part of the Chilean Miner rescue is that Chile understood that they couldn’t have done it alone and praised everyone else instead of themselves.  They praised the miners, the other countries that helped, and the citizens of Chile and around the world for their support.  By deflecting the praise, they spread the goodwill of the world to others and it was, in turn, given back to them.

A crisis comes with hard lessons and the main one is that there is always, always something you could have done to prevent the problem.  Fair or unfair you need to understand this.  You must take a hard look at yourself.  What could you have done differently?  What things need to be changed?  If you pat your own back, others will think “if your so great, why did the issue happen in the first place?”

6.  FIX THE PROBLEM

One of the issues that has been buried in the wake of the Chilean miner rescues is that the San Jose mine didn’t have a great safety record.  There had been other accidents and even deaths.  What the government of Chile did was to step in and work to fix the problems.  First they jailed the owners of the mine and ordered an inquisition into the mine’s safety procedures.  Additionally, the government said that the mine would be closed indefinitely until the safety issues are completely solved.

This bears repeating…there is always something you could have done to prevent a crisis.  If a client has a fatal heart attack in your business you will be asked why you didn’t take CPR.  Figure out anything you could have done better and fix the problem.  Give your staff CPR classes.  Put a portable external defibrillator in your office.  You don’t want to have the same crisis happen again because you didn’t take steps to remedy the situation.  Also, fixing the issue makes you better prepared for any type of crisis.

7.  BECOME THE EXPERT

The silver lining for the Chileans is that they are now the world experts on saving miners.  When another country has a mine collapse and miners need to be rescued, the miners, the rescuers, and anyone else associated with this rescue will be contacted for their “expertise.”

Face it, by having to deal with a certain crisis you are now an expert on it.  You have an obligation to pass on your knowledge to others so that when a similar issue arises they can handle it better than you.  One way to help your business is to embrace the expert title.  You can bet that when 9 miners were rescued from the Quecreek mine in Pennsylvania eight years ago none of them, or their rescuers thought they would be thought of as experts.  Yet here they are in 2010 on every news station being asked to comment on the rescue in Chile.

It is a rare opportunity that we can learn lessons from good news stories, but the rescue of the Chilean miners lets us do just that.  Without great crisis management, this story could have been told very differently.

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