Archive for July, 2006

Shel Holtz’s book on blogging

July 31, 2006

Just read about Shel Holtz’s book on blogging:

Blogging for Business: Everything You Need to Know and Why You Should Care. Shel Holtz, Ted Demopoulos. Kaplan Publishing. 288 pages. $21.95.

The establishment of company Web logs — blogging — is an increasingly popular and effective way for businesses to convey information while attracting and engaging existing and potential customers in an informal and practical setting. Both of these books provide good discussions of existing blogs and successful — if not best — practices. Both also would serve as useful introductions if you’re unfamiliar with the subject or unsure how they would fit in with your company’s overall marketing communications strategy.

I’ve known Shel for several years, ever since I contacted him when I first started writing Now Is Too Late. Even had the pleasure of having breakfast together in San Jose area. Here’s Shel’s blog
I haven’t read his book on blogging yet but I know it is good stuff. And since he was kind enough to interview me for his podcast, I’m very happy to return the favor and plug his book.

Best of luck, Shel!


Corporate blogs and customer complaints

July 31, 2006

If you are thinking about corporate blogging, one obstacle may be the idea that too many comments will be in the form of customer complaints about your organization. That this will just be one big customer complaint box with the difference that all the world can see the complaints. First, if your business has a real problem with customer complaints and they are spilling onto the internet now in blogs or critic sites created as forums for these complaints, you had better have a strategy for addressing these. And having a corporate blog may be one of several ways in which you deal with the complaints.

On the other, you do not want the blog to be hijacked by a few who don’t like your company for one reason or another. The blog tools allow a high degree of control over managing the comments and especially in starting out with a corporate blog when you have that concern, it is a good idea to keep your hand on the controls. The downside of that is, if the complainers feel they are not being heard or their voices are being limited, they will just cry out in other ways (other sites) and now the complaint will be that you are hiding their viewpoints–and that’s a big no no in the blog world.

A corporate blog is a very good place to deal with complaints. Not with specific issues of specific customers or clients, with broader issues underlying them. Are there pricing concerns? Are there customers service concerns? Have some been treated rudely? Are the rules of sellling been violated? Are there legitimate product quality issues? This is a great time to say, “Yes, we have had some problems in these areas, in fact, we are still having some problems, but here is how we are dealing with them.”  Non-defensive admission, the fact that you are taking the concerns seriously and very specific ways you are addressing the problems are critical. This is transparency and it builds trust and credibility. And, if you can’t fix something, it’s a good thing to say that you can’t and why.

Landis not very convincing

July 28, 2006

Personally I’m hoping that Landis and the Tour de France comes through this latest drug question in great shape. I’m pulling for almost any sport that provides an alternative to the big professional ones with their outrageous ticket prices. But so far, the crisis communications is pretty disappointing. Landis was on my local TV news last night. The anchor introduced his comments to another reporter by saying that Landis denied drug use but, she said, listen carefully and judge for yourself. Well, with that introduction she decided not to let us judge for ourselves. She made it clear with her words and her knowing smile what she thought of Landis’ answer.

Not that she was wrong. When asked directly if he had ever doped up he said something vague about it being an issue in the sport and then said “I’m going to say ‘no” to that.” Well, if you are going to deny something, for goodness sake deny it. Half hearted denials don’t go very far. Of course, if you did it, keep your mouth shut, stay away from the microphones, or come up with a much better key message dodge than that. Best thing is to stay away.

I see he has a news conference scheduled today. I’ll be eager to see if he does a better job of denying it or, if he did use illegal substances, I hope for the sake of the sport he admits, apologizes, commits to help clean up the sport, and graciously congratulate the real winner. Hmmm, I doubt it.

Saving Tour de France

July 27, 2006

The news that the latest Tour de France winner Floyd Landis tested positive puts the Tour de France event into the crisis/reputation management category. Here’s the news story via newsvine.

On first glance it may look to be Floyd Landis’ crisis, but it is deeper than that. First the accusations, apparently proved false, that the legendary Lance Armstrong may have used illegal substances. Then the disqualification before the race of the leading contenders. Now the revelation (yet to be verified by the backup test) that this year’s winner tested positive. It has to add up to the general impression that those riders are playing a game of who can use what and not get caught. Does it matter to the public? Again, saints, sinners and saveables question. The true fan will be disappointed, disheartened and very eager that those in charge get this whole drug thing under control in a hurry before it destroys a sport they love. The ones who could care less or who think it is a silly thing to have a bunch of men in tights riding bikes up those hills when they should be riding Jeeps, well they are simply going to feel fully confirmed in switching past the monotonous OLN coverage. It’s the saveables that matter. The ones who think maybe there is something to all this hoopla. Don’t ride bike myself but gotta admire a guy who can win a race like that. These just might be athletes to respect.

Armstrong did amazing things in the US to bring this sport to the public’s attention. But as much as it took his years of winning to build an audience and respect for the sport, it can take hours, days or weeks for it to disappear. The communication team at the Tour de France office have their work cut out for them.

I’m sure they would like your advice, so here’s the question of the day: What should the Tour de France organization do to restore respect and credibility?

Well, it ought to blow BBC’s mind…

July 26, 2006

Robert Scoble on scobleizer apparently had some folks in the BBC in to have a look at his blogging. Here’s his post from scobleizer. What blew their mind was his stats on his blog. They said their stats weren’t much bigger on their website. Interesting, huh? One of the largest, most prestigious news organizations generates similar traffic to one guy writing with nothing more than a laptop and a Ford Focus. OK, so he doesn’t need the Focus for writing. The point is we are in a “post-media world.” A term I coined or at least used in my book Now Is Too Late back in 2001. When a single person can generate global audiences with as little investment as this–along with good writing, savvy SEO, a best selling book and all that–it means the media no longer dominates as they did.

That’s a no brainer to a lot in the blog world, they are there already. But as I work with lots and lots of communicators and executives in the world of large government organizations, global corporations, large non-profits and the like, I can tell you that it is news to them. And it is going to take a long time before the reality of what this means to them really hits them. When it does, as I like to say, it may be too late.

Princess shows how to go from disaster to disaster

July 26, 2006

I was going to post a blog about Princess Cruises’s poor communication now that it is known that human error caused the ship to list dangerously injuring 240 passengers. I wanted to make the point that not explaining anything further than “human error” only adds to the fright and mystery. Good for them for admitting that somebody made a big mistake. But why not explain what the mistake was. Why leave the mystery stand as to how one person (presumably) can make a huge ship with 5000 people aboard nearly tip over for no apparent reason.

As I said, I was going to make that point, then I got a comment on this blog from someone who was on board. Please read the comment on the earlier post. It makes the point for me. Their “human error” explanation only adds to the fright. And this passenger says she may never cruise again. How many more current and prospective cruisers are thinking the same right now. If I was head of the cruise industry association I would be going absolutely nuts. I’d be all over Princess to come out and start talking about what they did. I went to Princess’s website. Nothing. Oblivious. Clearly they don’t want people to think there might be a reason to not go on a cruise.

I guess the fact that big successful companies like Princess clearly don’t get it is what keeps people like me in business. Sad.

Congressman Wexler video on how to lose an election

July 26, 2006

One of the more popular videos on YouTube right now is a replaying of Congressman Wexler’s interview on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report. Colbert tells the Congressman since he is unopposed in the election he can’t lose, but suggests some things for him to say that could lose him the election if he was opposed. So on camera, and with considerable coaching, he gets him to say, “I enjoy cocaine because it’s a fun thing to do,” then “I enjoy prostitutes because it’s a fun thing to do.” Yes, the good Congressman, with a slightly uncomfortable smile actually says those things.

But that’s not what the YouTube posting is about. It is about Fox News’ coverage of the statements. Clearly the video poster is outraged that Fox News would cover this and then demonstrate their extreme rightwing bias by actually editing the Colbert Report video to skip the prompting and coaching. Colbert asks the question and Wexler answers.

My comments. First of all, it is pretty funny and Colbert shows his ability to entertain through the outrageous. Second, it was a very silly thing for the Congressman to do. Of course, when you go on Comedy Central you want to go along with the fun, but certainly he ought to be media savvy enough to know that anything captured on video tape can and likely will be used completely out of context. That’s why one of the first lessons of media training is when the cameras are rolling and the mike is on, don’t goof around. Reagan’s offhand comment about launching the missiles ought to be warning for everyone.

Third, what a hopelessly naive young man who posted that video and commented about Fox’s coverage. His complaint was that they edited it. Well, duh. That’s what news people do. Do they edit it in ways that shows the story they want to show? Of course, that is their business. Is Fox the only one who does this? Yeah, right. Is this only done against Democrats by right wing media? Yeah, right again.

The real lesson is this video poster may watch news coverage all day long and not notice the bias and storytelling that is at the heart of all edited news coverage until it conflicts with his own political leanings. None of us are unbiased, none truly objective. But our viewpoint almost always is, we are the balanced, objective, truth-only ones and anyone who doesn’t see it our way is either ignorant or malicious. This interesting clip tells far more about the outraged young editor who is attempting to unmask Fox than it says anything about Fox or the rest of the media–including bloggers.

How to do crisis communications–follow the Coasties

July 25, 2006

There is probably no better organization in the world at managing crisis communications than the US Coast Guard. They demonstrated it in Hurricane Katrina and they demonstrate it almost daily in their “routine” work of saving lives and keeping our coastlines safe. Today was just another day and another example of outstanding rescue work and outstanding communications about the rescue work. The Coast Guard uses their virtual communication center technology to great effect including aggressively posting videos and images. In the case of today’s rescue of 23 crew members from a nearly capsized auto cargo ship in Alaskan waters, their communication style, approach and technology are on full display.

CG rescues 23 from Cougar Ace

Congratulations men and women of the Coast Guard and another great job!

To see for yourself how the Alaska (District 17) Coast Guard communicated about last night’s rescue, go to their public information site. 

CIA blogger gets fired

July 24, 2006

Now, at first glance, it would make all the sense in the world. The blogosphere exists for open, transparent communication. Spies are not into open, transparent communication. And I would guess most of us wouldn’t want those in covert operations to be telling the world what they know is going on. So the first point is, smart blogging sometimes means not talking about things that shouldn’t be talked about in this environment.

But this story is not about an open blogging environment and it is not about sharing secrets. The blogger in question was blogging to others in the intelligence community on a closed blog. Interesting point–blogging isn’t just about talking to the blogosphere and the whole world. it can be a fast, easy, convenient way to communicate with a closed group. Even a very closed group. Even a group we want to be very closed.

And the blogger wasn’t sharing secrets–at least that is not why she was fired according the reports. She was fired because she expressed an opinion that a certain kind of torture was bad. OK, now it is about free speech, and political opinions being expressed in wrong places or wrong ways. Now it isn’t so clear who is the bad guy here–the blogger for not using good sense, the CIA for getting someone fired, or her employer for firing her.

There’s no doubt that we are going to hear all kinds of stories about bloggers getting fired. Shouldn’t surprise us. It’s not about blogging, really, its about getting in trouble with your superiors. There are all kinds of ways to do that. Blogging happens to be one of the newest and potentially loudes. Blog smart.

CIA contractor fired for blog criticizing torture.

What the blogger had to say about it after she was fired.

Aine McDermot and Purposeful Journalism

July 22, 2006

I am a fan of newsvine and the model it presents for the global “watercooler”. By that I mean the real time discussion of current issues by those participating. Aine McDermot is a familiar name to newsvine junkies. And here is a very insightful and thought provoking article posted on newsvine by this talented writer and thinker. Purposeful Journalism.

I especially appreciate the comments about how mainstream media has blurred the lines between entertainment and journalism, driven by their need to run profitable businesses. For those interested, this is a major topic of my book “Now Is Too Late: Survival in an Era of Instant News” and the soon to be published second edition, Now Is Too Late2.

Her comments on “Social Journalism” are equally relevant but I sense are just touching the surface of this fascinating and incredibly important topic. Everyday I become more convinced that the world of public information, news, reporting, public affairs, corporate issue management and crisis communication is changing dramatically and the change is driven increasingly by the blogosphere and the huge culture changes that the blogosphere represents and is leading.

If you are in corporate communications, or are a CEO or senior leader of an organization that operates with a public franchise, I encourage you to check out Newsvine but also read this intriguing article.