Social Media Engagement: The conversation is happening now – with or without you…

Corporate circles active on Facebook were going crazy wondering why their Facebook fan pages’ likes are dropping so drastically today. Its simple, according to news.cnet.com Facebook is getting rid of fake accounts, likes and users! ( http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57521074-93/facebook-trashes-fake-accounts-users-and-likes/ )

This has been a point of discussion in social media circles for a while – when will corporations understand the need for engagement and not increasing likes and follows?

It is best practice to outsource your social media activities to a digital marketing agency as it is very extensive and creative work. However, the grievance of any digital agency is the same; clients are always asking for increased likes and follows for their brands. So far it can be managed by using applications that ensure large numbers of fake profiles to get the deed done. Guess what? This approach doesn’t do anything for your business.

The key is to engage! A simple three-step process really…

1. Be Present:
Consumers today expect companies they do business with to have a social media presence. By being there you give them the satisfaction of being accessible and having the capacity to move with the winds of change.

2. Listen:
Consumers expect brands to listen and acknowledge when they have feedback to give. This is real-time market research, brands learn more about their target audience by hearing them out and understanding their needs.

3. Act:
Acknowledgement can only be communicated via engagement which is what you must do in order to maintain an active social media presence. This gives you the opportunity to improve according to the needs of the consumer and recommend them of any misconceptions they may foster.

Community isn’t developed through campaigns it’s developed through continuous, authentic engagement. The rules of social media are being written everyday – brands that experiment, innovate and engage will see the most success.

Avoid a Disastrous Event – Cancel!!!

In today’s fast paced life, anything can happen at any given time; may it be civil unrest or a natural disaster, one can never predict. In such scenarios it is likely that a media event will definitely take a big hit with no-shows and cancellations. Know that it is perfectly acceptable to cancel your event; however, a change in plan such as postponement or cancellation may lead to confusions and even complete disasters. It is advisable for any PR pro to always have a contingency plan ready to be put into action if such a scenario occurs.

The name of the game remains the same – COMMUNICATE!!! Here’s how…

- If you do decide to cancel, email/text all invitees (speakers, sponsors, presenters, media partners, and everyone else involved in the event) immediately. Mark it as URGENT in the subject line to maximize readership of the message.
- Post daily updates on your website and Facebook/Twitter channels about what you’re doing to wind down the event.
- For your regular contacts, show the courtesy of calling them personally and informing them of the change in plans.
- Try and use other PR tools to salvage the news dissemination. Send the news out via emails and fax. Arrange for exclusive sound bytes with local press via phone/email/skype etc.
- Be available and accessible for invitees to be able to get in touch if needed.

What not to do when pitching a story.

It is essential for any PR professional to know how to pitch their clients’ story to the media. It is equally imperative to know how NOT to pitch your stories as well. 

The basics; know your clients’ business and audience stays in place, the learning here is to know your media just as well. This entails knowing the following:

1. What story should be pitched to which media outlets

2. What story should be pitched to what tier of media, reporter, editor, business editor, city editor etc.

3. What segment/section of the newspaper/program is relevant to your story

Once determined who to take which story to, while pitching avoid the following:

- Never mention a competitor’s similar news story as the journalist may take this as a demand or worse complaint. It may also come off as a ‘me-too’ situation bringing your credibility down as a strategic consultant.

- Never quote a similar story that has appeared in a competitor media outlet. No journalist wants to do a story which has already been published/aired by their competitor. Repeat – Nobody wants to be a ‘me-too’

- Remember media relations does not mean that the journalist you have previously worked with is your ‘friend’. Stick to the facts of the story, if you are talking about the journalists’ area of interest, they will definitely listen. Overly friendly attitude will get you nowhere since you are never off the record with the media and they expect you to know it!

- Never pitch a story to a journalist on a casual or social platform. Ensure professionalism and ethics to win the trust of the journalist. You may call them to pitch a story but never facebook them for a story. Understand the meaning of personal space. 

- Never, EVER, pitch a negative story of a competitor! More than anything, it is unethical and bad practice for any business. 

- If pitching a stealth story, don’t tell them it is a stealth story. Give them all the material, try to tap a human interest angle which they can relate to. Make it a discussion and make it sound like their idea – not yours. 

- If you have previously done the journalist a favour, don’t mention it while pitching a story. It’s all about relations and even a gentle reminder of a favour you may have pulled will make the journalist question your intentions and character. 

- Don’t deviate from the topic to another story you want to pitch or a press release of another client. Stay focused.

- Lastly, once you grab their attention, don’t disappear for a second and always be available to provide more information or support to the journalist. 

If you guys have any more tips and tricks from your experience, please feel free to share them.

Happy pitching! :)

Remember, it’s called ‘happy’ hour…!

Having a casual hang out with colleagues is always a good idea as it allows the reinforcement of a positive and friendly working environment. This in effect is the key to a more productive organizational structure.

However, it can also go horribly wrong.

As a PR professional, your colleagues are not restricted to your own firm but in fact can extend to people of the same industry, clients or worse – media. The key to interaction at leisure is to always remember – it is called happy hour for a reason. Means no shop talk! Here are some simple rules that can help you stay clear of potential conversations that may go sour.

  • Avoid gossip

After a long day at work, you might let down your guard and steer the conversation to a negative place. It’s never a good idea to make happy hour into a place to vent about everything you hate about the workplace. This may help you vent and feel better for the time being but may not give the best impression about you to your colleagues.

Bitch sessions about work should stay restricted to limited friends or a spouse – anywhere else and you may as well burn your CV and stay stuck in your ‘sucky’ job for time immemorial.

  • Watch what you say

Even worse than gossip are threatening remarks. Just as in the case of media, remember – you are never off-the-record with work buddies. Speaking out of turn or acting too smart may lead them to judge you. You want to keep your reputation as a competent, reliable employee in tact. Don’t give in your two cents into conversations just because you should take part. Nobody likes a know-it-all and it is completely acceptable to be a listener.

  • Keep it kosher 

Happy hour doesn’t necessarily have to mean the consumption of alcohol. It can just as easily be a relaxing coffee date with your work buddies. Just a light unwinding session to shake off the happenings of the day.

  • Remember, it’s called happy ‘hour’ for a reason

Don’t linger, because you might end up making a casual relationship with work mates into an intense heartfelt debate. You don’t want to be the talk of the office come Monday because you disclosed too much. Keep it clean – keep it classy!

Cinnabon Karachi goes ‘Social’!

Knowing the local social media gurus in your locality is becoming an important practice for any business. The F&B industry is catching up to it as well.

The idea behind engaging bloggers to advocate your product is simple.

- Drive brand awareness

- Increase engagement

- Quick turnaround

- Up those sales!

Cinnabon hosted its first ever Bloggers’ Meet in Karachi in anticipation of creating hype for their second outlet in Karachi. This particular kiosk style outlet offers the full range of Cinnabon delicacies ranging from their scrumptious Cinnamon rolls to their refreshing and ultra delicious Chillatas. My personal favourite are the Cinnamon sticks.

Definitely a great way to keep up the quality and recall of the product. Kudos to Cinnabon for setting up a good practice.

From Pakistan to the World – ‘Come dump on us, why don’t you?’

It is not about improving the image of Pakistan but cutting down the parallel economy of Pakistan. We are so fixated on getting our way by hook or by crook that we don’t realize the collateral damage we do for the sake of making a quick buck. This is the reason the rest of the world uses us for all things negative!

Our country has been a target for all sorts of waste. It started from defected clothes and accessories in “Landa Bazaars” to the e-waste coming in, in the form of used computers, then dengue came in with tyres and now end of life plastic in the form of IV tubes, urine bags and what not.

My question is when will this end?

Most recently I learnt that large containers of medical waste have been entering Karachi with medical waste, I also learnt that they were confiscated by the authorities. I relaxed a little. But then to learn that this end of life plastic has been transported through the dry port in Lahore and already available to local manufacturers??

On my visit to Lahore two days ago I along with some other media friends of mine took a drive down to Shadran which is the scrapyard heaven in Lahore. I see crushed plastic, piles of medical waste, IV tubes and infusion bags lying on the ground in warehouse and people coming to buy them, I caught hold of one of the kids who works there, to my utter shock he tells me that local manufacturers who make plastic products even down to utensils come and buy this scrap to reuse!

Disturbed and frustrated with the lack of common sense in my fellow countrymen and the selfishness of the world for sending us their waste, I researched. Under normal circumstances all medical waste must be disposed off through incinerators after which their smoke should undergo a special process before being released in the atmosphere. The import of medical waste used in operation theatres of countries abroad poses the risk of bringing new and unfound diseases to Pakistan. Pakistan a country where health facilities are not strongly developed, the manufacturing of plastic products from medical waste is a calamity in the making one that can have devastating consequences if the relevant authorities do not step in to curb these practices urgently.

While Pakistan’s import policy clearly mentions that plastic scrap is only importable by manufacturers only for their own use subject to the condition that they shall furnish to Customs authorities a certificate from relevant government agency of the exporting countries that the goods are not hazardous and comply with the provisions of the Basel Convention and it shall not be used in the production of bags for packing of foodstuff”. Unfortunately if one is to look at statistics, the rise in import of plastic scrap by almost 23 thousand tonnes in the last five years is also mainly due to the fact that local trading of plastic scrap is being carried out. The outbreak of Dengue in Punjab was also due to the import of plastic scrap where a mosquito entered Punjab in an imported used tire. More than 300 people were killed as a result while over 14,000 were infected by the disease.

Keeping statistics in mind our masses are uneducated and will eventually be exposed to this plastic in different forms. In fact, the educated population will also not know the difference. As sensationalism goes, I think this new finding is definitely catering to all that our media stands for. Creating a hype over something that actually matters. Stop this waste from being sold any further and care about your fellow human beings Pakistan!

And for the western world sending us their trash – stop dumping your problems on us, we have enough of our own!

How to better your communication skills.

The strength of a good PR pro is to be prepared for the unexpected and keep an open, calm mind to be able to best deal with different situations. As in every other case, in PR also, practice makes perfect and the practice of PR is the art of communication. May it be spoken, written or through your actions, knowing how your audience will decode your message is what counts for effective communication.

By making some basic practices part of your life, your communication strategy will automatically refine itself.

1.       Read

Reading opens the mind. In today’s fast paced world, bookstores have basically become a footnote. It is important to change that, reading enhances the language, imagination, information and the perception of what one reads is subjective to each individual. If one doesn’t have the time to read for leisure, at least read articles, features and blogs – helps in collecting a variety of perceptions.

2.       Write

A PR specialist has to write. From emails to press releases to articles, a PR person must be a pro when it comes to writing. The written world should be simple and crystal clear to the reader.

3.       Hear

Listen to what people say and think before your respond. Listening with concentration kicks into gear your ability to understand and comprehend. Listen not only to the words but also to the tone.

4.       Understand your message

Getting your message across is paramount to progressing. To do this, you must understand what your message is, what audience you are sending it to, and how it will be perceived. You must also weigh-in the circumstances surrounding your communications, such as situational and cultural context.

5.        Observe

Be interested in what is around you. Everything tells a story. By observing your surroundings, the interactions around you, it is easy to assess similar situations you may have to handle. Observation is the key to understanding human behavior and will teach you how to deal with different people as well as gauge their reactions beforehand.  

6.       Know-it-all

For any PR person it is very important to have a substantial knowledge of everything under the sun. Agreed that it is impossible, but current affairs, history, law, politics and basic world news should be any PR person’s forte’. Knowledge is power and having the ability to speak at ease on any given topic is the sign of a good PR pro. Flaunting your knowledge is never a good idea.

7.       Keep it simple

Communication should be clear and precise to get the best feedback. Using complex words may not get your message across as clearly as you would hope.

 

The Communication Process

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