Wednesday, December 17, 2014

#SydneyCafe Hostage Drama Shows Power of #SocialMedia

During the ‪#‎SydneyCafe‬ hostage crisis on December 15, once again the power and importance of ‪social media and the Internet as major sources how we get ‪news in the 21st Century was on full display.

It seems with every major event - be it a natural disaster, a political event, an entertainment death, or a terrorist event such as this one - the Age of the Internet shows just how interconnected the world has become, and how events even on the other side of the world can reach out and change us and our attitudes.

While cable news kept to their scheduled, pre-taped shows, millions, like me, streamed Australian TV stations live throughout the world, and we followed frequent twitter and facebook updates, and made many of our own observations, passing along data as it became known.

The dangers and pitfalls of the immediacy of Social Media as a source of news were also on full display.

Misinformation was rife - one online newspaper flashed a screenshot of a supposed twitter feed of an Islamic terror group taking credit for the Lindt cafe attack, only to be discovered later that it was a "parody" account, much to the paper's embarrassment (though the correction was swift - another benefit of instant media.)

Speculation was also rampant, with fears that this was a carefully coordinate attack with others immanent, rather than (as it turned out) a lone gunman who was facing charges in other cases and who was well-known to police and local Muslims as a fake, wanna-be Imam.

But the same could be said of TV reports, streaming from Australia (and eventually from the US) which were desperately trying to fill the air with speculative statements that turned out to be just that.

Coming back to the TV networks in the US, what was shocking was their failure to break in and report the news on what in the US was a lazy Sunday afternoon. FOX News, which seems obsessed with reporting on Islamic extremist terrorism, eventually, hours after the attack began, broke in on a re-run of "Huckabee" to show a rather nervous young woman - whom they had apparently just thrown in front of the camera -  stumbling through the basic facts, before letting an Australian news network stream for a few moments, then back to regular programming. CNN also broke into regular programming, but only for a half hour.

Blame cutbacks or the fact that it was Sunday, but the coverage was inexcusably poor, especially since this could have ended up much worse than it did.

The real winner of the day, in terms of coverage, was Bloomberg TV. With offices in Sydney just above the chocolate shop, the network dominated coverage and broke away with business news and other commentary in just the right balance, proving that there was no reason the older networks couldn't have done the same.

Meanwhile, twitter again, as in the Arab Spring and in other major events, demonstrated the sheer power of crowd-sourced news to demonstrate how well it can inform us.

The world has changed. When will the ‪Mass Media‬ catch up? Only time will tell whether they'll wake up to the changes, or whether they'll go the way of the "Big Three" American networks' news departments: a shadow of what they once were, and irrelevant.

Stephen Abbott
Principal, The Abbott Media Group‬

Also visit: World Politics News, dedicated to expanding our knowledge of politics around the world

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How reclaiming your PAST customers can save your current ones

APR's mission statement reads, in part: "Abbott Public Relations offers written communications services and strategies that strengthen your reputation with your past, present and future clients, within your company and in your community."

Wait... "PAST" clients? 

Yes. While it seems counter-intuitive, APR believes that reaching out to those who haven't been using your products and services lately, but still might, is a great, untapped resource many businesses fail to re-tap.

Going back to a well that you thought was dry and finding water (or business) is an amazing experience. 

It also yields valuable information from these past clients, such as: Why did they stop using our products and services? What would bring them back?

Learning the answers to these questions is really invaluable to your business and its ongoing reputation, because they can help you to identify ongoing problem areas and avoid problems that avoid making your CURRENT customers into PAST ones.

Obviously, not all prior customers or clients are WORTH reaching out to and bringing back. Those who didn't pay you, were difficult to deal with, or were not a good "fit" in other ways are best left in the past.

Once you have reached out to your past customers, you've taken the first step to bringing them back, and you could have prevented your current customers from fleeing, as well.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Value of Bad News and Negative Feedback

Justin Bieber has a tattoo of his mother's birthday (1975) to show how much he loves her. How sweet.

The tat, which he got in January, 2013, joined 15 others, including a crown, an Indian head (his high school mascot) and an owl, a Jesus portrait, along with LOVE spelled out on his knuckles. How bad-ass of the boy.

But there's a tiny problem with his inky tribute.

The tattoo reads: "I IX VII V" which is NOT the year 1975, but simply "1, 9, 7, 5" - a mere list of numbers. The year 1975 in Roman Numerals is ACTUALLY rendered "MCMLXXV." M = 1000, CM = 900 (or 1000-100) LXX = 70 (50 + two 10s) and V = five.

So, yeah, that was unfortunate. And it received heavy and snarky coverage online when he first revealed it. (see here, and here, and here.)

This raises a couple of questions. Who got this wrong - was it the tattoo artist? Unlikely. Even an artist who's been in business for a week would have known better.

Or did he come up with it himself? Well, that's possible. He might have looked in a book and seen the numbers, and put this together himself, presenting it to his friends and then to a tattoo artist.

But the most important question is: If he showed this list of Roman Numerals to others and to an experienced tattoo artist, why didn't someone tell him it was not a rendering of the year?

If he did show others, it's entirely possible that they simply were too afraid to tell him it was wrong - a case of "The Emperor's New Clothes," in which no one will tell the emperor that he's not wearing an invisible cloak, but is simply naked - out of fear of offending the emperor.

In the case of Bieber, is he surrounded by sycophants who were afraid to say "no, you're plan is wrong" to the Star who may send them packing for scuttling his poorly laid out plans?

If this is true, he’s not alone. Business owners and political leaders are often presented with “bad news,” by their advisers, including their public relations consultants. 

Sure, negative feedback is not always welcome, and not always fun to hear. It also should be offered tactfully and presented gracefully.

But it must be presented, and should be welcomed. 

To demand that, “We want only positive feedback here,” is a remarkably bad policy, which can lead to something far worse than a tattoo, which can in most cases be fixed.

As Elon Musk said recently, "I think it's important to take as much feedback as you can from as many people as you can about whatever idea you have. You should seek negative feedback, especially from friends." This is a lesson Justin Beiber needs to heed, as do we all.

What those in business and politics (as well as the arts, the military and any other institution) can take from Bieber’s tattoo flub is that it pays to listen to your consultants in good faith. They are not simply paid to be “yes men” and sycophants, but to give honest and frank advice designed to both avoid reputation-damaging mistakes and help to claw your way back when you make them.

Another problem is that often, consultants are not included in major decision-making meetings, and are left out of the loop. That’s a huge mistake, because they are there to prevent major screw ups and poor ethical decisions that can quickly come back to haunt them — like Bieber’s tattoo.

Sadly, either no one has told young Mr. Bieber that he made an error or he didn't care, because a recent photo shows the same erroneous numerals on his chest.

Don't likewise ignore the good advice of your PR professional when it's offered. Even if it's "negative."