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Top 2 PR Crises of 2010 involve taking eye off social media

What were the top-5 PR nightmares that got you fired up, or made you realize that social media is playing a bigger role in our reputation systems, marketing strategy, and media presence?

There have been just too many mis-steps this year, but here are my top two.

But… why stop at two stories? Here are some other categories that 2010 will be remembered for.

As for the best of, here’s the one campaign we could learn from:

And for the Evergreen PR Issues of 2010, I have two strong contenders:

Most Overblown story of 2010

Media Foot-In-Mouth Stories

Why was it that this year saw so many ‘name brand’ media people get into trouble? I was personally shocked

  • When NPR sacked Juan Williams. No one really knows what’s hidden in the code words it used when NPR stated that William’s comments were “inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”
 
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Posted by on December 29, 2010 in Social Media

 

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Could PR industry do some crisis PR in post-BP mess?

Now that the BP oil leak has been stopped –or so we hear today – has anyone considered that it may be time to create some good juju for PR, after what BP has successfully done in maiming the industry?

Many of us PR and non PR types have railed against the dark stain that BP’s oil spill is leaving. I have tremendous respect for those who handle corporate PR whether they are consultants or internal PR folk. It’s a tough job getting the organization to say it as it is, and to stop publishing mindless statements just for the sound-byte effect.

So I was hoping to see a coalition of PR agencies coming together, perhaps under the umbrella of PRSA, and the CIPR (British PR association), to bring in some of the largest booms (thought leaders) and heavy equipment (smart technologies) to stop polluting our pristine beaches (er, reputation).

PRSA’s mantra is “Advancing the Profession and the Professional.” Looks like the industry has been mugged by flaks who are effectively planting land mines along this path. Search for BP at PRSA’s web site and you see articles such as “Can the BP brand survive Tony Hayward?” I was hoping to see some folks come out say why “BP’s PR has been toxic for their business.”

Meanwhile BP continues to write about its wonderful response about how it is “Flying higher to get closer to spill response,” and its sea bird rescues.

And nobody in the PR industry seems to mind.

 

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Oil, tweets, and the gushing blogosphere will drown BP

There is no such thing as a ‘top kill’ procedure (the attempt BP made to put a huge concrete dome on the leak in the Gulf of Mexico) to cap off the gushing anger at BP  in the blogosphere.

Each day brings a new wave of voices –comments, creativity, social media channels –to shame the company that has caused the worst environmental disaster here in the US. Like this logo attack.

This one, a blog called Apologize To BP taps into the collective wisdom of anyone who has a twitter account, or some time to add some content to the site.

A post contributed by one David Diehl, alongside this picture, is titled ‘Sea Of Contrition.’ He apologizes to the captain of BP this way:

“Thanks again for inviting me to the yachting excursion this last weekend. I’m so very sorry I ate up all of your delicious shrimp during the preliminary revelry on Friday. The staff did indicate it was the last of the Gulf shrimp…”

Apologize, is acerbic and funny, obviously, but content like this (and there are hundreds of tweets being fed into the web site every minute) create a virtual gusher that intentionally or not contaminates anything that BP tries to do by way of PR.

I know, most PR people tend to say that it’s inappropriate to even use ‘ BP’ and ‘PR’  in the same sentence; the company has made so many PR blunders it’s not even funny.

The site urges readers to submit  “videos, photos, quotes, whatever you want, as long as you apologize…”

The feed of tweets into the site is a smart way to keep content flowing through the pages, even while it feeds the tweet-hungry searchers who only see it on the micro-blogging platform. The hashtag #ImSorryBP

At the time of writing, this Twitter account has had just 213 followers. I’s one more way that people will channel their frustration.

There are more. Check these hash tags that are being used to aggregate the comments and conversations:

#BP (of course, usurping the brand initials)

#oilspill

#gulfoilspill

So, despite the news that BP is trying to clean up its online rankings using SEO tactics such as buying keywords, it’s quite apparent that the groundswell is not going to be more powerful.

 

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Google’s Caffeine rocks, but don’t shut your eyes to offline information

I’ve been waiting for Caffeine for a long time, since I heard it being mentioned at SMAZ last year. So this week we get a taste of what a caffeinated search looks like.

It’s Caffeine, and it’s finally a way to see real-time information (not archived results).

If you’re concerned about page ranking, keywords, meta-tags and most importantly rich content, it’s worth trying to understand how the complex Google search algorithm works. Not that even the so-called experts know, because there is the secret-sauce factor that Google will not disclose.

However, this video from Google is as far as they will go. serving as a refresher course in search:

But is it that all?

Now while I find Caffeine a terrific improvement, I don’t only rely on (or recommend) Google to deep dive for all information. It’s easy assume that ‘everything’ is out there online, having been spidered and indexed online, when the fact is there are stacks of information you may never see or know exists.

Unless you make a trip to a library!  Or visit bookstores, read journal abstracts –the ones that have not gone digital yet — or scale the walled gardens of subscription-only sites.

So I have two questions to the search experts:

  1. Do real-time search results change how archived content shows up? All those white papers, videos, sample book chapters, podcasts etc. Do they get buried and pushed down away from the main results page?
  2. Is Caffeine –the real-time engine — trying to be Bing –the relevance engine? Or is it the other way around?

I took a screen shot of similar searches for the keywords “Gulf of Mexico” on Google and Bing today. Big differences!

Google Caffeine - search for "Gulf of Mexico" 9 June 2010

Bing search results - "Gulf of Mexico" - 9 June 2010

Take this one from the Associated Press. A story about a reporter who dived into the oily waters in the Gulf. It’s up there on Bing, but not on Google.

The story is probably a good metaphor of how murky it is when you dive into search as well. “I open my eyes and realize my mask is already smeared,” the unnamed reporter says.

 

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Should BP spin its wheels on its pesky little PR problem?

I bet this will be question that many presenters on crisis communications and PR turn to –at the IABC World Conference in Toronto this week, and many other events.

Variations of this question could come range from “can social media rescue a company’s reputation,” to “Is this a warning shot for corporations dabbling in social media?”

You could say BP which has the  nation’s largest environmental crisis on its hands should ignore the PR disaster they have inherited (as Len Gutman at ValleyPRBlog noted, “There are some things PR can’t fix”) and stick to fixing what it has wrought. It’s near impossible for them to address the ‘wisdom’ of the passionate crowd leveraging new media.

Take these responses to the oil spill:

BP Logo

  • The BP Logo Redesign Contest. I’ll don’t need to tell you what this means in a Web 2.0 world where images are shared, commented on and archived forever.
  • Wikipedia edits. Lots of activity on the discussion pages of BP’s Wikipedia page, where editors this week seem to be dredging up –still unpublished– unsavory details of cancer etc.

In the face of all this, what in the name of crisis communications is the value of the full page ad in the New York Times, and some of those TV spots? Is there any value in using old media Tylenol-type tactics to fix the situation BP is in? I recall BP used to run a great series of ads, when it was re-branding, that said things like “It’s time to go on a low carbon diet.”

I think its time for BP to go on a low PR diet!

 

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No traipsing down Sustainability Avenue

For the past year, I’ve been hist by two keywords: innovation and sustainability.

It’s hard not to notice the deliberate attempt by many organizations to tie the two concepts into their marketing, strategic planning and advertising.

BMW says it is “preparing for a Hydrogen future” with “pie-in-the-sky, what-if technology.” Honda has invested in a solar cell company. BP is into bio-fuels. But it’s not just consumer brands that are onto it. The city of Phoenix has a “sustainability blueprint. Tucson has a volunteer-led “Sustainable Tucson” network.

The city of London has a Sustainable Development Commission, promoting community-friendly policies for climate change, education and energy.

It’s tricky to balance growth and sustainability –and getting buy in. At ASU, we wrestle with this all the time. The Global Institute of Sustainability, a block from where I work, does a fine job of defining what it involves, and applying it. Here at the Decision Theater, we actually show organizations what sustainability means by taking their data, and putting it into interactive visualization.

So every time I see ads like the one about building cars out of straw (Toyota) or the Land Rover‘s paying for carbon credits on behalf of the customer, I realize many are only scratching the surface. Once you see how small decisions can change the air quality, water table or traffic patterns in your immediate locale, you’ll see that wearing an eco label requires you to do more than build a neat micro-site, or shooting a great commercial.

 

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