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A quick glance at the news this month is a good reminder that a crisis can happen at any time. The weather is creating crisis situations for many organizations; others have been surprised recently by technical failures or social media mishaps.
If you haven’t looked at your crisis plan in a while, now might be a good time to check out these six resources and get your organization ready for its next crisis.
- Every Organization Needs a Crisis Plan
If you are NOT in the middle of a crisis right now, this story distills the planning process into the essential Elements. Read: Essential Elements of a Crisis Communications Plan.
- The First Hour Is Your Biggest Opportunity
It’s make-or- break, actually. What you do in the first hour of a crisis can determine how your reputation survives – or doesn’t. Read: What To Do the First Hour.
- Say You’re Sorry
No really, you’ll need to say it. And there’s a LOT of ways to do that. Here’s 33 ways to apologize in a crisis.
- You WILL Make a Mistake
But if you’ve read through this far, it may not be fatal. Here are common mistakes organizations make in a crisis.
- How Will We Ever Get Through It?
You can – and you will. Here’s a great success story from a small organization, the National Corvette Museum, that shows you can survive and live to tell about it.
Get the E-Book. If you really want to prepare your organization, go here to download my FREE e-book on Managing Your Next Crisis. It’s written with travel organizations in mind, but it’s loaded with information on preparing for any organization.
Last week, I attended a “Boost Your Business” workshop sponsored by Facebook. It’s the second time I’ve attended a Facebook-sponsored seminar since they moved their SMB division to Austin.
For all the criticism about this social network and all the changes that cause upheaval for organizations trying to navigate Facebook’s changing landscape, you have to give them credit for trying. By Facebook’s own admission, small businesses in the US are their real opportunity to grow revenues.
Think about it for a minute. You are a brand new business. You have a limited budget. Where else could you start to reach your customers with an investment of $25? You certainly can’t touch the traditional advertising outlets of print, radio and television unless you’re prepared to spend $10,000 or more PER MONTH. Digital ad networks won’t even talk to you unless you’re prepared to spend significantly over time.
Small businesses can afford to advertise on Facebook and they can be successful doing it.
Here are some key points made by the Facebook team during the seminar.
- Facebook has 1 billion users on mobile daily. DAILY. No matter how small your small business, chances are a key segment of your potential customer universe is on this platform.
- 1 out of 5 minutes spend on mobile devices is either on Facebook or Instagram. Since Facebook has integrated the advertising choices to include advertising on Instagram, this is a great way to expand your advertising audience, especially if you have great visuals.
- Once a day is key to engagement. The Facebook SMB team shared that small businesses who post a minimum of 3-5 posts a week will have the best success. In fact, they shared that if you are posting more than once per day, you are actually stealing from your own engagement because you’re not getting the full benefit of the 24 hours of life in a post. (What I WISH they had shared was the average page size for which this statistic is valid).
The typical small business owner wears many hats and choosing and placing advertising is just one more burden. While the process can seem daunting, here are four takeaways from the Facebook seminar that can turn a burden into an opportunity.
- Boosted posts are the most elementary way to begin advertising. However, they lack the precision of more targeted ads and are often more costly per “click.” Smart small businesses revise and refine targets over time.
- Choose one objective for your campaign – it could be page likes, website visits or purchases; then target your audience and the amount you will spend to reach them.
- Test, test, test. If an ad is not performing as you had hoped. Start over. Try a different image, a different target, a different amount.
- Change your ad frequently. The Facebook team recommends that ads should be changed every 3-4 weeks.
The good news for small business owners is that Facebook continues to develop resources to assist this sector. Here are a few:
- In the Facebook Ads Manager window, the help tab pulls up the most commonly asked questions as you can see from the graphic here.
- Facebook has significant resources in their small business center here: https://www.facebook.com/business/resources/
The biggest piece of advice from the Facebook team: set it and forget it is NOT an option.
How has your advertising experience been on Facebook?
Small Organizations CAN Handle a Crisis
Alongside Interstate 65 in Bowling Green, Kentucky, you can see the iconic Skydome of the National Corvette Museum from the freeway. It is a place where devoted fans come to see and admire America’s iconic cars. It is also a small, but smart organization who handled a once-in-a-lifetime crisis. Here is their story.
On the morning of February 12, 2014, at 5:38 a.m., the ground beneath the museum gave way and swallowed eight of the museum’s irreplaceable pieces. It was a sinkhole, 60 feet long by 45 feet wide and 30 feet deep, something we normally associate with Florida’s shifting water table. You can see the security video of the first part of the collapse here:
How did they handle the sudden onslaught of media at their doorstep within three hours?
The National Corvette Museum team was prepared for rapid notification to some of their key stakeholders because they had several email distribution lists. This allowed them to reach staff at work AND at home and to quickly notify their board of directors too.
“I think everyone was in shock when it happened because a sinkhole in a building is not something you ever imagine happening, so it took us a few beats to get our communication rolling,” Frassinelli says. “But once we got going, we got faster and faster about letting people know what was going on.”
“We wear a lot of hats –we learned to prioritize,” says Frassinelli. “We didn’t go home until we responded to everyone.” They also didn’t discriminate by size of media outlet. As she noted in her presentation to the PRSA Travel and Tourism Section conference last month, “you never know who could pick it up.”
On the day of the crisis, they held two press conferences, which went a long way toward getting their story into the news. They held a press conference the second day, too, but their team worked around the clock to make sure the museum opened that day, so their message became “business as usual” instead of “devastating crisis.”
At the time, the Corvette Museum had 80 staff, 20 of which were full time. There were 12 on the management team and 2 full time and one part time staff in marketing and communications including Frassinelli. One clever tactic they used is the part-timer answered and logged all the incoming calls while Frassinelli responded to the calls. This is a great way to divide the work in a crisis and stay organized, too. As well, most interviews were conducted by Frassinelli or the Executive Director. This made their messaging consistent and focused.
After the second day, the interest tapered off until they started the process of retrieving the cars out of the sinkhole. This gave them another surge in inquiries. When they began that process, they installed additional live streaming cameras so fans could watch. It was so popular, the broadcast maxed out their servers.
Every “first” after that created a wave of new interest, according to Frassinelli. When they let visitors in to see the sinkhole, they got a wave of media coverage. When they decided to keep the sinkhole, they got media coverage. BUT all of that media coverage was positive!
Key Takeaways from the Corvette Museum Team
- The team immediately collected media emails and turned it into an update list. Now they have a massive list of media which they can continue to communicate with over time. They used it right away for those periodic updates, saving them a LOT of time.
- They took lots of high quality photos and videos so they had assets to share for news media inquiries.
- They also uploaded video footage from their phones to get it out quickly. They chose speed over quality so their message was being shared, but also made high quality available for those who didn’t have tight deadlines.
- They changed the way they wrote their press releases, using an article style they had not previously adopted. This made it easier for news media to use and they were able to re-purpose the content for members, a key stakeholder group for the organization.
- Saying thank you and expressing gratitude goes a long way.
Turning a Crisis Into an Opportunity
When they began the process of recovering their lost cars, they installed additional live streaming cameras so fans could watch online from every angle. It was so popular, the broadcast maxed out their servers. The construction company got special Operation Corvette + badges for their cranes and helmets which became a positive buzz factor as they began the clean-up. Their Facebook page grew as a result of the incident – from 50,000 fans to 200,000 fans. They had a 67% increase in visitors to the Museum. They even bottled the dirt and rocks from the sinkhole in little jars and have sold more than 2000 in the gift shop.
But here’s the icing on the cake: they have turned the entire event into an exhibit called Corvette Cave In, which opened on the two year anniversary of the event—Feb 12.
A key question to ask someone who has survived (and thrived!) in a crisis is ‘when did things return to normal?’ When Frassinelli was asked this question, here’s what she said: “I think things will be back to “normal” by the end of the year.”
Demand pricing, also called surge pricing, is a methodology in which prices fluctuate based on perceived or actual demand for a product or service. It has been used by the airline and hotel industry for decades and is also used by ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.
For Disney, this means that on low demand days, a visitor could save $5 on a single day ticket. But on peak days, ticket prices are $20 higher. A single day “value day” ticket to the California attraction starts at $95.
When the LA Times reported the price change, they shared that a one year operating calendar for the parks would include 30% value days, 44% regular days and 26% peak days.
Looking at Disney’s online ticketing calendar, which shows prices by day for single day tickets, the breakdown is fairly even. This month, prices are at peak due to Spring Break, but during subsequent months, all three prices are available based on day. You can buy a regularly priced ticket every day in June, but if you plan a visit in July, the weekends will reflect peak pricing, and weekdays will be “regular” prices.
Universal Studios Hollywood also uses demand pricing at their California theme park, but their online ticketing calendar shows a mix of prices, with the incentive to purchase a reduced price ticket in advance online versus “front gate” pricing.
Pricing Strategies Changing at Theme Parks
Anytime a travel organization changes pricing, they are subject to criticism. Last October, Disney raised the price of its annual passes, one of which is now in excess of $1000 per year. At the time, Fortune magazine speculated that the changes in pass features and benefits was an indicator of a move to dynamic pricing. They weren’t wrong, as Disney made that move in late February.
Managing attendance during peak periods is a challenge for attractions. As Bloomberg reported on the price move, Disney is attempting to match price to demand. The double digit growth that Disney has seen for the last two years also played a part in the decision and let’s face it, every theme park has physical limits to the number of guests they can handle each day, no matter how many new attractions are added.
Now that two of the big players in the theme park industry have taken the plunge to demand pricing, there’s no doubt that others will follow.
Pros and Cons of This Change
If you run a theme park or attraction, why wouldn’t you want to manage your peak season crowds more efficiently? Create a better guest experience by limiting the number of guests and give them actual space to enjoy their visit.
If you are a traveler and you are taking a trip in a high demand period, you already paid a premium for airfare and most likely, your hotel stay. If a higher price at the museum, theme park or zoo meant that you and your family could actually see the place without the oppressive crowds, wouldn’t you take it?
This is just the beginning. Watch for demand pricing to change the way we experience theme parks, zoos, museums and other attractions in the coming years.
There’s nothing like getting a heartfelt apology. And nothing more disappointing than an apology that feels insincere. Setting aside the snark of the Internet – just search for #sorrynotsorry and you’ll see why – apologies are REALLY HARD. They are hard for us as individuals in the course of being human, but they are even harder for organizations.
In their article “The Organizational Apology: A Step-by-Step Guide” in last September’s Harvard Business Review, co-authors Maurice E. Schweitzer, Alison Wood Brooks and Adam D. Galinsky, write that humans are predisposed psychologically to avoid apologies. So the fact that we are human makes it even harder to apologize if we’re doing so on behalf of an organization. Ouch.
Even more telling is the authors’ suggestion that as soon as we wear our organizational hat, we are far more likely to look at situations from a legal point of view.
“Even a leader who isn’t actively consulting with an attorney may worry that an apology could create legal problems,” they say. “Companies need to stop thinking this way. Most apologies are low cost – and many create substantial value.”
If your organization hasn’t thought about how apologies might be given and under what circumstances, the rest of the article poses 4 questions to consider whether an apology is warranted and suggests the right and wrong ways to apologize, keeping in mind the audience, timing and details of preparing one.
It’s no surprise that business leaders aren’t sure how to apologize since crisis communicators and business advisors often disagree on the tactical side of delivering apologies.
But is our hesitation to apologize part of our culture? Another article in the Harvard Business Review from 2012 analyzed cultural differences between Americans’ approach to apologies and that of the Japanese.
“Our own work found that a core issue is differing perceptions of culpability: Americans see an apology as an admission of wrongdoing, whereas Japanese see it as an expression of eagerness to repair a damaged relationship, with no culpability necessarily implied. And this difference, we discovered, affects how much traction an apology gains.”
Are we so worried about who is to blame that we have trouble offering sincere apologies at all?
Time after time, crisis communicators and reputation management experts advocate swift, sincere apologies. Yet every week, we see another example of a corporate leader delivering an insincere or stilted wreck of an apology.
It turns out, though, that there is a body of research which shows that apologies can affect stock prices immediately. Sincere, sad, responsible? Stock price recovers. Smiling, insincere? Stock price may be affected – and not in a good way. You can read the story about smiling during a crisis in Cyber Alert.
It’s time to remember the importance of sincerity and communicating from the heart. The right apology is part of that sincerity.
My clients ask this question frequently. Up until recently, I usually answered this question with a resounding “NO.” I love Instagram and use it myself, but it posed significant challenges to my clients, for two reasons. First, many struggle with creating images that are aspirational or that include a soft brand message. Second, Instagram has been very clunky to manage, making it difficult for brands to incorporate conveniently into their social media practice.
In the last six months, Instagram has added significant features and functionality which have made me change my mind. Here’s why I’m changing my advice to my clients and counseling them to invest in Instagram.
Explore and Search Is Better
As Fast Company reported last year, the enhanced explore and search features on Instagram give brands a chance to target by topics in a way that wasn’t possible before. What does this mean for a brand? You can start following and listening to relevant Instagrammers while building your channel.
Geotagging Means Even Better Targeting
If you’re a business with customers who post, then geotagging means you can see and track Instagrammers who visit your business and talk about you. This means you can also engage with them. In the example below, I’ve posted about a dish I liked at a local restaurant and was able to tag them before pushing it live on Instagram.
Visual Content is the Key
Sounds obvious, right? But it’s surprising to see so many brands struggle with creating content where the visual element is front and center, and the text supporting it is secondary. This is what I want my clients to focus their social media practice on this year. It’s what is driving new social media users to Instagram, Snapchat and Periscope.
Manage Multiple Accounts
The biggest change of all for Instagram was just announced last week. And that is, the ability to switch between accounts. Instagram users can now manage up to 5 accounts from one app. Previously, you had to log out of your personal Instagram to log in to your brand channel. This new feature alone should drive additional brands to jump in to Instagram this spring.
Instagram is owned by Facebook, which is increasing integration for advertisers on both platforms. And while Instagram is easier than ever to use, it should still be part of a multi-channel strategy with goals, objectives, strategy and tactics to make it work for you.
If you want to dig deeper, here is a collection of stories about Instagram.
Add the word “live” to your event and there’s automatic excitement. Every host who opens the show on Saturday Night Live, says “LIVE from New York…” and we pay attention. Television stations use “live”and “breaking news” to make us sit up and see what’s going on. In the radio years, a sure sign of something different was the voice of a very stern announcer saying “we interrupt this program to bring you…..” followed by whatever life-changing news was happening.
The same can be said for live reporting on social media. Instead of the terms “live” and “breaking news” we often see a post on social media proceeded by all caps and HAPPENING NOW, especially on FB. On Twitter, we often see the term “BREAKING” on Tweets from reporters. The early premise of Instagram was that everything was “live” unless you tagged your photo with #latergram, but many users treat the Instagram as a look book rather than a breaking news platform.
You don’t have to be mainstream media or a big personality to generate excitement during a live event. There are numerous ways to use social media to cover your clients’ events live. Here are a few ideas and the pros and cons of each.
- Brand-Only Posts: This is where you curate posts for the brand channels before, during and after the event.
- Pro: It allows maximum control of the message.
- Con: Only one point of view is represented. During large or multi-venue events, it’s easy to miss part of the action.
- Anonymous Contributors: Similar to traditional media, a variety of volunteers or reporters are given “assignments” and one person curates what they’re contributing into the brand channels.
- Pro: Coverage includes many elements of the event.
- Con: Someone needs to be at the controls, sorting through and posting photos, videos and other assets as you go along. There is a high margin for error.
- Personality Posts: In this scenario, you are still gathering assets but they may be brand ambassadors or guest reporters with their own following.
- Pro: The personalities give weight to your event.
- Con: They can become the story.
- Community Sourced Posts: Certainly you’re watching one or more hashtags, visitor posts and the @mentions column to sense the general excitement that is unfolding during the event. In this case, you can share, retweet or repost with a hat tip or thank you.
- Pro: This shows the community you are watching and open to their point-of-view during an event.
- Con: Like Forest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.
- Channel Take-overs: Some brands create excitement around an event with a directed channel takeover by a brand ambassador or celebrity. These are heavily promoted and often part of a larger campaign.
- Pro: The intersection of the brand point of view and the celebrity’s point of view often leads to amazing results for both parties.
- Con: Same as community sourced posts, you might be surprised in a different way or do damage to your brand.
- Combination: When we assist a client with covering live events on social media, we often use a combination approach.
- The Cardboard Kids Campaign for ChildSafe included brandposts, community sourced posts and a curated stream by key area bloggers into a Flipboard magazine.
- The San Antonio Cocktail Conference also featured a combination of brand posts, anonymous contributors and directed contributions using social media influencers to cover the 5 day event.
- When assisting a health care client during a one day women’s conference, brand-only posts were the focus due to the nature of the subject matter and the brand’s guidelines.
No matter how you cover your next live event, you need a plan and a moderator to make it all happen.
How do you help your clients cover live events in social media? Leave a comment.
Don’t you wish it was easier to compare social media networks side-by-side? You know, a really cool chart to summarize what’s going on in the network, so you can answer client questions more easily or find that key statistic to drop into your presentation.
Keeping up with the news of each network is tough, even for communicators working in this area. So I created this side-by-side chart to compare the top 8 social media networks so I can answer the questions my clients ask more quickly and without duplicating my research string over and over again.
I compared Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Snapchat, Periscope and Instagram and looked at 6 factors: network size, activity, devices and habits, cool facts, latest move and ownership.
Each network is so different. Sometimes it’s really hard to compare them. Size is important when you are counseling clients on using social media resources, but some networks may not report their size. The way social networks report their Activity can also be confusing, but it’s my hope that the activity metric gives an indication of what’s going on there. For the Devices and Habits category, I had been watching the switch to mobile use for my clients, but now that some of our biggest networks are on mobile only — like Snapchat and Periscope– the category had to change slightly. The Latest Move section allows me to look at the business side of the network and how these networks are changing to meet the needs of their users. Ownership is an ongoing concern for me as a media watcher. Who owns what is important and as you can see from the chart, the ownership strings are complicated. Who doesn’t love a Cool Fact to share with their clients?
Using 36 different sources, I gathered the information into this chart, which isn’t very readable here. So I’ve provided a download link below, so you can look at it more closely. Use it for your business or nonprofit, or maybe to win a trivia contest, but PLEASE, if and when you share it, please note and credit the sources of information in the accompanying citation sheet.
Social networks are growing and changing so quickly, it’s hard to keep up. Having a comparison chart helps me talk to clients about their mix of social channels. Maybe it will help you too.
What would you like to see on this chart the next time I update it?
Download the Social Media State of the Networks Comparison Chart.
Guest post by Jennifer Hatton
Time has flown by and we are already at Part 4 of our channel management series.
Our topic today is one of my favorite things to talk about in social media – Scheduling and Finding Content. There are so many assets you can use and questions you can ask to help fill your content calendar, regardless of the type of page you manage. Let’s discuss how to balance the type of messages you are sending to create a versatile schedule.
Scheduling –Use An Editorial Calendar
Great social media managers need to work to find content – it’s not magic. Scheduling content should be intentional and part of your overall process. The first step in effective scheduling is creating and using an editorial calendar. It does not have to be extremely detailed or on a fancy spreadsheet — although those are nice. An editorial calendar is a map where you plan out what you want to say, when you want to say it and mix your content so you can reach your goals and metrics but also stay relevant and interesting to your audience. Audience identification should be part of your onboarding, which we discussed in Part 2: The Warm Handoff.
Information you need to create an editorial calendar:
- Social media platforms you will be using.
- Audiences – customers, employees, stakeholders, partners, etc.
- Best days of the week to post
- Best time of each day to post
- Metrics that you will be reporting
|12/01/16||8:45pm||Please join us for our upcoming seminar on “How to Find Social Media Content” <NOTE: Link to FB event>||X||X|
Using an editorial calendar will save you time by allowing you to schedule content ahead of time (do you use Sprout, Hootsuite, Facebook or another content scheduler?) in batches. You can create placeholders for when you are waiting on content from your client, such as an event or news piece. The rest can be done weekly or bi-weekly by doing it at all at once. Most social media managers, especially those who are external, have to be efficient with their hours, so they can’t post multiple times a day, every day manually. Plan ahead, save time and have a better variety of content – yes please!
Making sure your content is focused on helping you reach your metrics is important for us and for our clients. If you fill your page with self-serving sales pitches or constant talk about services or products, you will soon have a very small and inattentive audience.
This is where scheduling comes in!
Lay out the “must have” marketing messages, then see how you can organically find and schedule other messages with a share, or by asking a question or posting an infographic – make it interesting! Next you should layer in other types of content, that can be staff focused, client appreciation, educational or even funny. People learn and absorb information differently, so look at the way you are delivering your content to make sure you aren’t doing the same thing repeatedly and missing part of your audience. Have a mix of text posts, photos, videos, links to your website, links to other (trusted) sources, shares from partner pages and memes or infographics. Variety in your content and delivery method will make your page more interesting and effective.
Now that you have a fabulous editorial calendar and you know what content you have and what content you need, you can go to work collecting it.
First take inventory of what internal assets you have. Look at:
- Annual Events
- Presentations by company leaders
Often there is content all around you, but it’s easy to overlook. Remember that your audience doesn’t see what you see every day, so linking them to helpful or informative pages on your website is good. Share photos of employees to show the human side of the business and especially any recognition they receive. A few of my clients have the most views and shares when an employee award is posted in social networks. They have an enormous internal audience on their social channels — it boosts morale to see their co-workers honored and promoted on the company page.
Next, look at external assets including websites, social media accounts and newsletters from among your partners, topic authorities, sponsors, industry experts.
Interest lists are a good way to mine for content. Twitter lists take time to set up, but save a whole lot of time when you need content for your channels. Facebook lists are a little more challenging, simply because they are connected to your personal account and not your business page, but they are still helpful to flag channels to review later. There are other tools you can use including Mention and Post Planner that will search by topic and key words to help you find relevant articles or posts online.
Taking the time to schedule out your posts will not only save you time but takes your social media networks to the next level. Using a diverse content gathering strategy creates efficiencies for an outside channel manager, and increases the interest in your posts.
Jennifer Hatton manages social media channels –from the outside–for clients in healthcare, tourism, retail and the hospitality industry.
Want to learn more?
You’ve just taken over managing social media channels for a client and they, of course, want you to immediately answer the question: “how are we doing?” Before you can answer that question, you should look over each social media network with a critical eye.
Look at Channel Activity
Activity on each channel is easy to see and, in most cases, relatively easy to analyze. How frequent are the posts? In the last week? In the last month? Clients who have turned to outside channel managers often have erratic posting behavior – 3 posts this week, no posts the next. That’s why they hired you—they don’t have time to manage it successfully themselves. With your critical eye, and some quick addition, you can tally up the posts for the month and see immediate gaps that can be filled.
Next, analyze your audiences’ age, gender and other key demographic information. Each network offers varying amounts of this information on their channels. For Facebook pages, look at the insights to see the breakdown of ages and genders for your page. Use Twitter analytics to see age, education, income and occupation.
Finally, you should look at your channel growth. New followers/fans versus lost followers/fans. Are you growing or shrinking? If you want to look at that for Instagram, you can try Iconosquare to see a breakdown of new and lost followers. These stats are available on Facebook and Twitter too.
For small channels, you can do a review of postings for the current or previous month and figure out the “best” and “worst” posts. Usually the best post has the most amount of activity – shares, likes and comments – or some combination of the three. The worst post is one with little or no activity. Compare one of each of those for each network you are managing and look at why. Is it the content itself? Is it the tone of voice? Is it the time of day it was posted?
You won’t have all the answers on this immediately, but if you do this regularly, you will start to see a trend of what’s working and what’s not. And will see differences emerge between channels. Then you can move your client toward better content over time.
There are numerous tools that will evaluate content against these factors. If you’re using Sprout Social (one of my favorite tools), you can scan the Sent Messages report to easily see which posts have the most activity and then click through to see why. True Social Metrics, a deeper analytics program, has numerous tools for evaluating best and worst posts against your own content and against competitors.
What to Tell Your Client
You can use these ideas to look critically at your client’s social media channels. Repeat the process until you see trends emerge and you are able to get better results from your content tests. Sometimes it takes months to see what works on a new channel; other times, you have one great post that opens the door to a successful content stream. So when your client asks “how are we doing” you will be able to summarize past trends and growth which helps frame the future practice.
Coming next: Part 4, Scheduling and Finding Content When You’re an Outside Channel Manager
In case you missed it: