Trading Up The Chain: How To Make National News in 3 Easy Steps (Excerpt from Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator)

Trading Up The Chain: How To Make National News in 3 Easy Steps (Excerpt from Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator)

I enjoyed clicking through this interesting Slideshare presentation on how to manipulate the media into giving you national coverage. The author really seems to understand the ins and outs of how the media works.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on if you think he has taken the “deception meter” too far in pursuit of his goals?


On Hiatus for a While…

In case anyone stumbles upon this blog, I just wanted to leave a note that after two years of supporting clients whose missions were specifically tied to social media, my client since October 2009 does not have such a focus. As such, I have been more focused on traditional strategic communications (e.g., website content, speeches, event planning, newsletters).

Hence, I have not kept up with this blog since learning social media best practices and trends is completely on my own free time — which is very limited as a new dad 🙂

I hope to be back to share more in the future!

Ford Motor company’s engagement through Twitter

During the BlogPotomac conference in June, the head of social media for the Ford Motor Company, Scott Monty, shared some social media best practices that I would like to pass along to you…

Scott used Twitter to announce his steps during the process of responding to a crisis, tweeting things like, “I’m checking with legal right now”… etc. so people didn’t think he was just saying “no comment” and getting upset, thinking he wasn’t doing anything.

Tweeting should be your first response during public relations crisis management – It is the “low-hanging fruit” — immediate and widespread. But it only helps once you’ve already built up a community.

Monitor and respond to social media mentions of your organization where appropriate. When you have people complaining against your organization, invite them into the process to better understand then help address their issues, if it’s not terribly detrimental.

Sometimes a key to crisis management is actually calling someone to talk (gasp!). He combined online (twitter/blogs/forums) methods with offline (personal phone calls) to combat a crisis where one of Ford’s big supporters felt mistreated and was letting people on his website know how upset he was at the company.

Companies need to have their own “digital hub” – an anchor where they can post updates/comments/videos/etc. in addition to the typical sites (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.).

There are only so many social media sites you can realistically get to. You need to decide where your customers are and stay actively engaged in those limited digital outposts. You can’t be authentic with customers if you just do “fly-bys” on the sites.

But on the other hand, organizations need to pay more attention to the people around them and less to Twitter. Don’t neglect your internal employees – they are the key audience invested in your organization’s future.

  • Ford has 200,000 employees worldwide, so Scott postulated that if he could get just 1% willing to talk about Ford on line, that would be 2,000 people on these digital outposts (e.g., Facebook/Twitter).

The tools are irrelevant – they will always change. By giving employees broad guidelines on social media, we’re creating a culture of people who can speak on behalf of the company.

Some of these basic guidelines include:

  • Tell the truth
  • Write with accuracy
  • Include all points of view
  • Never delete people’s comments

The goal is to humanize Ford as a brand. There’s nothing personal or inspirational about the “blue oval.” Scott wants to put faces to the brand and connect employees with the public.

Social media is just part of the mix. It’s not a panacea. Ford still communicates with customers through surveys/phone calls/mailers/etc. The company realizes it has millions of customers and they don’t all communicate in the same way.

Not every comment/post requires a response. Many times people write something factually incorrect that is derogatory toward Ford. Scott said he wanted to jump in and respond, but then chose to stand back. What happened? Someone from the community would often correct the record for him, since the company had built up a big fan base.

When you do need to respond, match the tools used against you. If someone is putting you down in a video, respond with a video. In a blog post, respond with a comment. But that’s just the starting point.

Scott asked, “Does your ‘C suite’ vet your phone calls or your emails? If not, why do they insist on vetting your blogs, tweets, etc.?”

He related social media to when the telephone first came out and then later when email came out where there was all kinds of corporate guidance about not saying certain things. The technology doesn’t matter. This is about culture change.

Social media is not going away. It’s going to be more and more integrated into our daily lives.

Cultural Barriers to Social Media

Back in June, I had the pleasure of hearing Shel Holtz as the keynote speaker at the BlogPotomac conference. He described several cultural barriers to implementing social media, and I wanted to share some of the high points with you…

The Legal Department

Legal will often be like, “Don’t say anything so no one can use it against us in court.” Communicators can often say, “Let’s put everything out in the public.” There’s space in between.”

If legal says “no,” that’s only one lawyer’s opinion. Use statistics to convince other lawyers that the risks of social media are outweighed by the risks of not having a social media presence.

Shel quoted a study where in times of crisis, organizations that acknowledged the crisis, and spoke to their problems publicly and openly saw a bigger drop in their stock prices at the outset than organizations that kept silent. But months into the crisis, the tables turned; and only those organizations who engaged their communities (rather than solely issuing sterile press releases) were able to see their stock prices rise back up to above pre-crisis levels. Those who didn’t…never recovered.

Ownership of Social Media (SM)

Many organizations have disputes between IT and public affairs/marketing/PR regarding who “owns” SM. The organization’s leadership needs to coordinate the effort so everyone plays where they can bring the most value.

Don’t get into the trap of simply giving this responsibility to the employees who are most adept at SM. Just because they’re good at Twitter or Facebook doesn’t mean they know how to implement a company’s communications strategy.

Identify the Return on Investment (ROI)

You need to speak the language of CEOs or they won’t pay attention to you. Translate SM to the goals they’re responsible for when they go before their board of directors to report out.


Don’t violate any regulations. Reinforce that the rules that apply everywhere else (e.g., state and federal regulations) also apply in SM.


It’s imperative to baseline how much effort you’re spending to do communications. Then when you implement an SM strategy, you can show people how much time it takes to do communications campaigns to reach people, and how you can now reach more people faster, easier and cheaper with SM tools. This is essential to justify the resources required to engage customers online.

Speaking with One Voice

Leadership wants the organization to “speak with one voice.” However, while it’s important for everyone in an organization to know the organization’s story, everyone has their own voices. And your employees are talking about your organization anyway.

People are afraid to release control of the message since they’re afraid of losing power. But releasing control of the message can actually make you more powerful since you can get better results and say your decision made that happen. “I see my role as making my client/boss look good.”

Other Insightful Thoughts from Shel

“Every organization should have at least one blog. The strategic motivation for this is rapid response – in a more authoritative, archived type of fashion.” When crises hit, the public and journalists should go to your blog as the primary source. Twitter, Facebook, etc. are important but secondary – they should drive traffic to your blog.

“There can be stand-alone SM campaigns. For example, the new Transformers movie has a tool that allows people to create Transformers avatars, Twitter wallpaper, etc.”

“Every employee is a front-line public relations representative. I believe Public Affairs/Public Relations needs to assume responsibility for customer call centers since this is the front line of the organization interacting with the customers. Companies can rise or fall on these folks.”

Has social media changed the amount you communicate face to face?

In a recent International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) pulse survey, the majority of respondents said that, despite the explosion of social media tools, the amount of face-to-face interaction in their organizations has remained the same throughout the past year. The survey was conducted by the IABC Research Foundation earlier this month and received 218 responses from communication professionals.

The survey found that:

  • 63% of respondents said that face-to-face interaction in their organization has remained about the same.
  • 16% said there has been more overall face-to-face interaction in their organization.
  • 12% said there has been less overall face-to-face interaction in their organization.
  • 8% said there has never been significant face-to-face interaction in their organization.

What do you think? Have social media tools changed the amount of face-to-face interaction in your organization? What about in your personal life?

Sharing two good blog posts: Corporate blogging tips and A to Z of new media

Happy Friday! I wanted to share a couple good blog posts with you… had an article I liked that lists 5 Tips for Corporate Blogging. Some highlights are below:

  • Be the expert
    Be the expert on tangible topics that people can understand
  • Establish a social crossroads
    Take advantage of other social tools out there and link them back to your blog
  • Don’t forget your archives
    Find a way to link back to older posts when creating new ones
  • Get into a routine
    Whatever routine you decide to do (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly), stick to it so people condition themselves to return to your site when new content will be there
  • Stand for something
    Don’t remain unbiased; make sure you’re not afraid to take a position

As a bonus this week, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the 3 minutes it takes you to check out Mark Drapeau’s post on “The A to Z of New Media” (adapted from a Marriott handout at a Washington, D.C. event called “New & Social Media: Leading the Way”)

Automatic Retweets from Washington Nationals — Good business practice or a big gamble?

Are companies taking a big risk by automatically re-tweeting Twitter content?

I usually try not to complain, but last night I felt like venting because it took WMATA an hour and a half each way for me to travel from the Vienna Metro Station to the Navy Yard Metro Station to attend a Washington Nationals game (and, yes, the Cubbies did win – so life was good).

When I got home, I made a vow that I would rather have to fight DC traffic and pay for parking than ever have an experience like that again. I logged into Twitter a little before midnight and tweeted, “I’m NEVER taking the Metro to a Washington Nationals game again. 1.5 hours each way from Vienna metro station to game.”

Then this morning I was really surprised to see that the Washington Nationals’ Twitter account had automatically retweeted my post an hour afterward…

Nats Twitter

Nats Twitter

At first – for about half a second – I was afraid some underpaid, bloody-eyed Nats marketing guy was up at 1am Sunday morning looking for people referring to his employer so he could retweet them. I thought to myself, “Wow – the Nats sure are committed to engaging their stakeholders through social media. And they’re so transparent that they’re even willing to retweet complaints about how hard it is to get to one of their games.” Then I started thinking they might have the evil ulterior motive of stealing WMATA’s customers in order to sell more parking spaces.

But, no, they had definitely automatically retweeted my complaint to their 750 followers (much less than the 12,000 following my Cubbies!). In fact, on the Nats’ Twitter page, they even retweeted one user who noticed this trend as well, who wrote, “If you need to build your RT file, just mention Washington Nationals!”

Is this a good business practice?

While this is transparent, is it worth the risk?

What if I said something really bad – like trying to start a Nats boycott?

Have you seen any other examples of this – or other strange Twitter business practices?

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