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Social Media Is Not A PR Suicide Mission

Download now or preview on posterous SocialMediaIsNotPRSuicide-Blumenthal.pdf(65 KB)
“The dream is always the same,” as Tom Cruise said in Risky Business. I’m sitting in my boss’s office nervously. She is waving some papers around as I squirm. She looks me right in the eyes and says:“You’ve been on Twitter and Facebook and the message boards and blogs. You’ve seen the crazy things people post there.”Yes, I nod.“And you’re saying that we should get involved? Without moderating the comments or controlling the message in any way?”Again, yes. I gulp. (My boss is nothing like this, by the way. And I have never gulped about anything. I never even say "gulp." I promise.) “My G-d, you must be crazy. You are going to take us all down. You’re fired.”This nightmare is a composite of everything I have absorbed about organizations and their decision-making processes about engaging in social media. And I mean a LOT of organizations over the course of the past 7 years, both anecdotally and as…

When Communication Betrays The Truth

(Gilad Shalit photo from Flickr titled "Day of Draft")

<<Date: Friday, June 11, 2010Hello uncle Erwin, This is Amir writing you after reading what you sent to my father. As you know, it was my unit and my friends who were on the ship. my commander was injured badly as a result of the "pacifists" violence. I want to tell you how he was injured so you could tell the story. it shows just how horrible and inhuman were the activists. my commander was the first soldier that rappelled down from the helicopter to the ship. when he touched ground, he got hit in the head with a pole and stabbed in the stomach with a knife. when he drew out his secondary weapon-a handgun (his primary weapon was a regular paintball gun- "tippman 98 custom") he was shot in the leg. he managed to fire a single shot before he was tossed from the balcony by 4 arab activists, to the lower deck (a 12 feet fall). he was then dragged by other activists to a room in the lower deck were he…

I Hate Meetings And They Stink

I have had this happen to me SO many times.

I’m sitting in a meeting, and something is going on. Not something like an actual thing, but a tense, negative, or unproductive social dynamic between two people or within the group. I must be like the Terminator of sociology because I can actually sense these situations, like in the movie where the heat-seeking goggles glowed red when there were humans around.

Bad vibes like this are why I usually hate meetings. Particularly because people are generally averse to working out conflict openly, so I have to watch it and not talk while it’s actually going on. Just sit there and have to wait it out till it’s over and I can be real again.

Here are some examples beyond the usual Blackberry/smartphone/cell phone abuse—

1. Asserting, without explanation, that an idea will definitely not work
2. Completely ignoring a suggestion and going on to the next person
3. Making the “are you crazy?” face
4. Rolling eyeballs behind someone’s back
5. Responding to idea …

Fear and Communication Don't Go Together

Download now or preview on posterous FearandCommunication-Blumenthal.pdf(49 KB)
I saw a woman in the elevator yesterday. She was a Holocaust survivor
who once gave a short talk in synagogue about her experience in the
war. The talk made more than a few people cry, including me. She was
so brave. I can’t imagine how anyone could go through what she went
through and come out the other side. It hurt to hear the story but I
was grateful that she had shared it. The woman in the elevator was with a friend who had also decided to
speak out. In fact she was on the way to the Holocaust Museum to sign
copies of her own book about the war. And I know of another person in
the community who published an account of his own at the age of 90. There is a reason that people are publishing their stories in the
latter part of their lives. There is a reason they didn’t write about
it right away. In my own family, when I was growing up, we never talked about the
war, though everyone was touched by it. Som…

The PR War Nobody Talks About

Download now or preview on posterous The PR War Nobody Talks About.pdf(36 KB)
The real star of the new Karate Kid isn't Jaden Smith, although it's
clear that he is a natural. It is Jackie Chan, who, in a departure
from his usual comedic roles, shows a much more serious side. In fact
to me it seemed that he wasn't even acting. In the movie, Chan very believably teaches Smith that the way to win a
war, paradoxically, is to put your mind at peace. Banish anger and
hatred, and replace it with stillness. It's a paradox because one instinctively thinks that anger at the
enemy breeds the ability to destroy them. Dehumanize them and you can
take them down. But that's not true - the emotional instability creates vulnerability
to attack from someone who is calm and focused. The same thing holds true for PR. We may instinctively think that to make the client look good, we have
to tell ourselves that the client is good, has done good, can do no
wrong. That's not always…

When nobody is driving - thoughts on being a Gen Xer today

My kids think it's funny that I watch 90210 reruns on The Soap Network every time they're on. That I search for music on iTunes with the keyword "80s." (And won't let them change the local 80s station in the car when we are doing the shopping.)They can't understand just why it is that I laughed so hard, and cried, when I saw A Serious Man. Why Ben Stiller's characters in the movies are worth discussing to me on an academic level. Why I love Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Say Anything, St. Elmo's Fire, Less Than Zero.They think it is funny that I like things that "old fashioned." What they don't understand is that for me those shows and that music are not about being stuck in the past. They are about helping me to deal with the present, and to think about the future.I remember when I was a kid and we used to take these long car rides to visit my grandparents. We usually drove about 10-12 hours, a lot of it overnight. My dad would ge…

Social media is not about me

I am learning something I didn't fully understand before: Social media is about interaction much more than self-expression.The whole way it is set up makes you think the former. After all you start with an "account" where you proceed to "update" the world on your thoughts, comings and goings.If you are lucky you figure out a way to "monetize" the "followers" you have made online and turn yourself into a product, or "brand."Me, me, me, it's all about me - yecch.The people I follow online understand the difference between self expression and social media and they don't mix the two. For example Penelope Trunk has her blog, Brazen Careerist, and a social network that is affiliated but separate.Give your shpiel (speech, routine in Yiddish) in one room, socialize in another.Another good example is Seth Godin but in a different way. Where Penelope has two spheres of expression, Godin melds them both into the blog, providing advice…

Non-transparency is better than pseudo-transparency

My mother always told me that the one thing she hated was a liar. She
isn't always comfortable with bluntness, because she doesn't like to
hurt anybody's feelings. But lying for her is a cardinal sin. (As is
racism.) As an adult I have internalized my mother's values. They are mirrored
by my larger family on all sides, and I am drawn to friends and
colleagues who simply "tell it like it is," even if it hurts and even
if I disagree. So I naturally embrace the modern buzzword of "transparency." But with
experience I have learned that just because you use the word, that
doesn't mean you actually live in a glass house. Rather, you choose
wisely what to share and set boundaries around the rest. In today's
social media environment however, the difference from the past is that
you share by default and restrict as needed, rather than the other way
around. (Heard that from social media expert Shel Holtz.) Yet I have the disturbing sense that a lot…

Customer service is the brand - for worse and sometimes better

Oh the examples of bad customer service I have seen lately. I suspect
these are generally due to companies' myopia about where the brand
really lives - the customer's point of purchase interaction either
with a person, a website, a machine, whatever. How else would one
explain paying frontline retail reps minimum wage or close to it? Or
designing websites that annoy the customer, don't work on all
operating systems, etc.? Here are just a few things I personally experienced the past few days. --Cell phone carrier took 20 minutes of cellphone time to explain
overbill and correct error --Retail store employee hovered over me while I browsed then quickly
folded up the one item of clothing I picked up, the second I put it
down (disapprovingly) --Fast food cashier argued with me when I gave back burnt coffee --Website where I sought to buy something took me to last step then
said it didn't work on a Mac --Online vendor refused to accept return of defective item till I

10 Signs of Dysfunctional Communication

Download now or preview on posterous 10SignsDysfunctionalCommunication-Blumenthal.pdf(64 KB)
Every day I see examples of bad communication. Lately I’ve been
thinking about some of the things they have in common and what you can
do about them. Here’s a “top 10” list, though I’m sure you can add
more to it. Please do, and share. #1 – Groupthink With all the disasters that have resulted from bad group decisions,
you’d think we would have learned that free speech is worth more than
conflict avoidance. However, it is the rare organization where most
people can truly speak freely. To deal with this you have to use a good deal of emotional radar to
scope out when to speak and when to shut up. My personality tends
toward bluntness so I lean that way, but I also recognize that not
everyone appreciates that or can deal with it. I also get scared like
everyone else. So I usually give myself a pep talk in my own head
before I open my mouth to speak (yes, all of these things go through
my head pr…

When Leadership Flaws Become Brand Killers

Download now or preview on posterous WhenLeadershipFlawsBecomeBrandKillers-Blumenthal.pdf(39 KB)
I saw the BP ad featuring BP CEO Tony Hayward on TV Monday. I felt
angry after watching it, of course, how could I not given the scale of
the disaster and the discrepancy between the image being portrayed and
reality. On TV I saw images of blue water, white sand, and lots of
workers. On CNN I see endless murky waves of brown and tough questions
about cleanup crews who only seem to be hired for the TV cameras. There was other stuff that bothered me too, and from a general-public
perspective I can understand why, as the Wall Street Journal reported
June 6, “the ad isn’t hitting the mark with consumers and crisis
experts.” But from the perspective of having someone personify the BP
brand, I thought Hayward did a pretty good job. --He seemed honestly to appreciate the magnitude of what had happened. --He seemed sorry. --He seemed to take responsibility for paying for the cleanup. --And thou…

Effective PR vs. Modern Terrorism

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Effective PR Versus Modern Terrorism
Copyright 2010 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D.
(Feel free to repost with author attribution. All views my own.) If it is true that people are “basically good” (as former eBay CEO Meg
Whitman once famously said), then they seek to find good in others as
well. This may explain why, despite all the news we hear every day about bad
people doing bad things, people still react with disbelief when they
hear about them. The reality is that some people are, to reverse Whitman’s quote,
“basically bad”—hateful and destructive. It doesn’t matter why, but
they are. But most people, who are good (I agree with Whitman), and
who want to believe in good, can find this hard to believe. Psychological resistance to the reality of terrorism can be a problem
for the PR specialist who has to combat their propaganda. If you are a fan of the TV show “24,” as I am, you know wh…

BP as a communication failure

I've been watching the people at BP say and appear to do all the right
things about the oil spill and it still doesn't feel right. A good example occurred the other day on CNN. There was video of the
oil workers charged with the cleanup, sitting around outside looking
kind of disengaged and gesturing to the cameras not to film them.
Meanwhile, local business owners were saying bad things about BP and
its workers. And the BP spokesperson responded earnestly, saying that
if those bad things were happening, the company would look into it and
fix them. Perfect, perfect PR. That is exactly what I would have told any
company to do when it is accused of wrongdoing. But when I think about it, something is lacking here. Urgency. The
sense of urgency you get when you know that you did something wrong,
and you really, really have to fix it fast. Here is a completely minor example in comparison. One time I was carrying a glass mug full of juice from one room to
another as I tend to d…