January 3, 2014

Think Before You Tweet: Worst Tweets of 2013

While gaining more followers, producing more interactions or having people click through to your website can be the end goal for businesses (and personalities), sometimes content can do more harm than good. Case in point, recently the communications manager at IAC, Justine Sacco (@justinesacco) made a tweet that she probably wishes she could take back.




While entertaining for others, this tweet instantly proved to be a detriment to Sacco’s employer, IAC, the parent company of everything from match.com to Vimeo. Their brand was suddenly dragged through the mud by association. And what’s even more puzzling is how a seasoned communications manager might think her posting wouldn’t be highly scrutinized.

But before we burn Sacco at the stake, this isn’t an isolated event. It happens every day. Case is point, take a look at a recent post on “The Worst Media Tweets of 2013.”

So before you tweet, step away from the computer, tablet or mobile phone and think.

May 1, 2013

The Online Troll: To Engage or Not to Engage

It’s a scenario that I’d bet virtually EVERY SINGLE company has endured: an unwarranted online attack against its reputation. Much of the time, at the heart of these attacks is what people refer to as an online troll.

Wikipedia defines a troll as “Someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”

To paint a clearer picture, most trolls hide behind a fake name, a pseudonym or post anonymously. Trolls often act alone, but they may occasionally band together.


The troll can’t just be labeled by one generalization. He or she comes in all shapes and sizes. Andrea Weckerle, author of Civility in the Digital Age outlined five types of trolls in her book:

Spamming trolls: These people make the same post to many platforms.

Kook: These regular members of platforms consistently post irrelevant comments.

Flamer: These users make inflammatory comments.

Hit-and-runner: These trolls stop on a platform, make one or two comments and then disappear.

Psycho: These people have the psychological need to hurt others in order to feel good.

Now that we’ve got the types of trolls clarified, let’s get back to the heart of this post: What to do when (notice I didn’t say if) your company comes under attack from an online troll. My answer isn’t a blanket statement. You’ve got to take the type of troll into account, what his or her accusations are, etc.

As a general practice, my stance is, don’t give the trolls the satisfaction of a response. No matter how articulate your response is, nothing is going to be enough for them.  In the end, your comments could get manipulated and used as more ammunition against you. Plus, a response generally (not all of the time) makes a company appear weak or desperate. If a troll’s comment is unfounded, why stoop down to that level?

Another way to combat trolls without a public response is to reach out to a website’s moderator to report unfounded or just plain malicious posts. More often than not, those moderators will recognize the issue and strike out the troll’s posts that cross the line with slander.

The Internet is a powerful tool, and unfortunately, some people have decided to use that power to smudge businesses, either out of maliciousness or for fun. To come out smelling like roses when you combat these cyber trolls, think before you click.


April 19, 2013

Kill The Press Release Obituary

If you work in the PR, marketing or the media world, you’ve most likely read or heard about the death of the press release (see Simon Dumenco’s article in AdvertisingAge, “RIP, the Press Release (1906-2010) — and Long Live the Tweet” or Tom Foremski of Silicon Valley Watcher’s post, “Die! Press Release! Die! Die! Die!”).

diepressreleaseFunny thing is, with the 24×7 media climate we find ourselves in today, predictions of the death of the press release couldn’t be more premature.

Fact #1

Journalists, much like the entire workforce, have less time than ever. They need a tool that gives them the facts, all of the facts, in one centralized place for their stories. The press release accomplishes this in a succinct, easy to read document. Unlike blog posts in general, the press release is a semi formulaic document.

Fact #2

Content is king. The press release actually gives companies a formatted piece of content that editors can use to link to tweets, Facebook posts, newsletters, etc.

Fact #3

SEO rules the (digital) world. If you want your companies’ digital footprint to be positive, press releases are a great tool. They are built, if utilized properly, to leverage the most current SEO algorithms.

Fact #4

Even though we live in a digital world, there are times and places where reporters don’t have Internet access. For example, a TV reporter may be working on a report for the evening news in the field. Before they leave the office, they (gasp!) often print out a press release before they set up interviews. That way, they don’t have to rely on an Internet connection to refer to the facts of a story. Granted, their story might not be about a particular press release, but chances are some facts might be contained in an old press release that will be leveraged.

These facts are not a comprehensive, be-all-end-all list. But they are a good guidepost for explaining why the press release is here to stay. Long LIVE the press release!

April 10, 2013

PR Damage: A Retrospective Look at the Super Bowl

He became public enemy number one heading into the 2013 Super Bowl.

San Francisco 49er Chris Culliver made anti-gay remarks on a radio show as his team prepared to play the Baltimore Ravens.

“I don’t do the gay guys, man,” Culliver told radio host Artie Lange. “I don’t do that. No.”Culliver

Asked whether there are any gay players on the 49ers, Culliver said, “Nah. We don’t got no gay people on the team. You know, they gotta get up out of here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff.”

Lange then pointed out that gay players might be able to play well, too, but Culliver responded, “Nah. Nah. Can’t be… can’t… uh… be in the locker room.”

Culliver was then asked whether he thought gay players should stay in the closet while playing professionally, and Culliver responded, “Yeah, you gotta, you gotta come out 10 years later after that.”

As you’d imagine, the 49ers PR team scrambled to play damage control quickly preparing a written apology on behalf of Culliver:

“The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel. It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly. Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart. Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience.”

In retrospect, all of this got me thinking that some good PR planning might have avoided some of the outrage in that week. Here are some highlights:

- At the beginning of the season or at least heading into the Super Bowl, the 49ers PR team should have issued guidelines to speaking with the media that included some topic no no’s. Topics that should be off limits could include homosexuality, politics, drug legalization, etc. (Note: this may have been done and Culliver just ignored that advice.)

- When a player makes such sensitive comments, that player needs to make a public apology immediately and not a written one that some in the press have said is obviously written by PR brass. Sincerity with apologies is essential.

- The organization, in this case the 49ers, needed to take some sort of action when such a sensitive comment is made. You may say I’m overreacting here, but I’m thinking a symbolic benching might have been in order for Culliver. Had he been a starter, suspending him for the first half of the Super Bowl could have been a consideration. Like the cliche goes, actions speaks louder than words.



March 11, 2013

PR Consultant Offer to Journalist: I Write The Stories, You Put Your Byline on Them

As a former journalist/current PR practitioner, I’d like to say that I’m surprised by a recent blog post that I became aware of based on a tweet by TechCrunch’s @AnthonyHa. But sadly, I’m not. Turns out, according to website  jimromenesko.com, PR practitioner Jan Hutchins is offering this in a pitch to reporters.

“I would like to propose engaging in a relationship where once in a while I supply you with fully developed stories (completed articles) that you can publish under your byline, with or without editing, at no fee.”

And on Hutchins website, he further explains how his offer to journalists work:

The demise of paper-based journalism threatens to put down our watchdog, weaken the forces that traditionally comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, eliminate the institutions in our society which enforce civic accountability through their ability to expose and hold other institutions accountable.
How can we create an economic model that supports investigative and accountability journalism? I say we start with beauty and work our way to truth.

I’m here to cut through the problem, disrupting the existing business model, to help media break even or even make money acquiring first rate content.

I’m here to help entrepreneurs rethink their publicity process to obtain guaranteed media coverage where traditional PR can’t. I do it bypassing press releases and media pitches – I investigate, come up with a story that is relevant for editorial and develop articles that media is interested to publish. Both win. Media get quality content – visionaries get their dreams told and gain an audience for their idea.

While, yes, our role as PR practitioners is to have our client’s name and viewpoints appear in the media. But when it comes to actually writing the stories, the independent voice of the journalist is essential.

What’s your take? How far is too far with PR’s role in a media placement?

March 1, 2013

Social Media as a Business Tool; The Winner is…

It’s a common question we receive from clients on a regular basis here at VOXUS: “What social media outlet is most beneficial for our business?”

The Wall Street Journal recently released results of a survey that tried to shed some light on this question, at least when it comes to small businesses. According the survey, which took into account the opinion of 835 small business owners, 41 percent said LinkedIn could benefit their company in a positive way. Twitter garnered just three percent of the total vote. YouTube got about 16 percent of votes while Facebook took in 14 percent.

Social for business

Picking apart the survey a bit more, it found LinkedIn was used by 30 percent of businesses on a regular basis, Facebook by two percent, Twitter by 14 percent, YouTube by 13 percent, and Google by seven percent.

About 60 percent of respondents said social media sites could positively benefit their company.

Here at VOXUS, we have found LinkedIn to be a beneficial business tool, but so have the others. It really depends on a combination of your target customers, industry, goals, etc.

February 1, 2013

Automation (Is) For Dummies

It’s an age old practice of people in our industry: Buying press lists from media databases like Cision, Vocus (not to be confused with VOXUS) and others. The thought is, just input a couple qualifiers like industry and type of media and voila. With a couple clicks you have yourself a ready-made media list that will help identify the right media a client should be targeting/talking to.

One problem, you are relying on others to cultivate and constantly update this list, AND much changes in the media world in just a matter of days. For example, said reporter might no longer be at said publication or said reporter might no longer be covering said beat.

Therefore, I nearly always find it beneficial to “pound the pavement” when looking for the right reporters. When I say pound the pavement, I don’t literally mean that (although that might have been the case a couple decades ago). What I mean is pound the search engine pavement. Google is a great resource for this. It sounds relatively simple and it is. For example, let’s say I was trying to track down reporters that have been writing about social commerce for twitter lately. Just type in a news search for social commerce and voila. Or what about reporters writing about social commerce for bands? That’s right, a quick Google or Google news search reveals a plethora of possible contacts. The point is, although shortcuts are tempting, good old time-consuming research can usually yield better results.

So what are media databases good for? I find that sometimes contact information is not so easy to come by, either being hidden deep in the depths of a website or not available for free. Media databases provide an easy way and centralized location to gather this contact information.

Automation may be an enticing shortcut, but the easy way may not always be the best way.

January 23, 2013

Social Commerce or Just Social Advertising?

The rise of social commerce has been all the rage these days, but a recent report from hip company (insert laugh track here) IBM has poured cold water on this trending topic. Sales directly attributed to social media took a deep dive on Black Friday last year compared to 2011 says an IBM Smarter Commerce benchmark report.

“Shoppers referred from Social Networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube generated .34 percent of all online sales on Black Friday, a decrease of more than 35 percent from 2011,” stated the report. The report also concludes that Twitter drove ZERO SALES on Black Friday.

While social networks have to be responsible for referring some sales, this report missed one key point. Social referrals (aka links to listings on other websites) is NOT social commerce. It’s just commerce driven by advertising or social advertising. And this is extremely difficult to track, and cannot be easily quantified.

Here at VOXUS, we represent in-stream social commerce platform Chirpify. The company offers the ONLY way for commerce to take place on Twitter and Instagram without ever leaving the social media outlets. Tracking its success is relatively simple. Someone tweets or posts a listing and people respond with “buy” or “donate.” No hop to a website followed by entering credit card information, legitimizing with a captcha, etc. Just a response or comment, and you’ve got your digital or physical goods.

So the next time someone mentions social commerce, take it with a grain of salt. It might not really be social commerce.

December 14, 2012

What Does Your Year Look Like? A Twitter Retrospective

I’ve blogged about Google’s year in review, but Twitter is also taking its own spin on the year that was. Twitter recently introduced the 2012 Year on Twitter. They separated the recap into 6 categories: 1) Golden Tweets 2) Pulse of the planet 3) Only on Twitter 4) Trends 5) New voices and 6) Your year on Twitter.

Some of the top tweets? President Obama’s election night “Four more years” victory tweet featuring a photo of him hugging the First Lady remains the most re-tweeted message of the year. Some of the other noteworthy tweets and the subjects they encompass; the Summer Olympics generated 150 million tweets, Election Day prompted more than 31 million and superstorm Sandy generated more than 20 million.

But perhaps the most interesting item to come out of Twitter’s 2012 Year on Twitter is, “Your year on Twitter,” developed by Portland’s own Vizify. Here’s how it works: Visit Vizify’s website, click the “Get Yours Now!” link, and sign in with your Twitter account. Vizify will then produce an infographic that highlights your most talked-about tweets, and how many responses they garnered. They even highlight your top follower or “golden follower” as they call it which is essentially the person that interacted the most with you.

Taking a closer look at this data-driven report, you many notice trends your PR team could hone in on in 2013. For example, you may want to build campaigns around trending topics, or engage with active and applicable media, analysts or potential customers.

On the grander scale, there’s no denying that Twitter reflects the voice of the people. As such, their years in review could be considered more accurate than the ones your local TV stations cobble together subjectively in their news meetings. Here’s to the age of big data where numbers don’t lie.

November 2, 2012

I’ll Buy That With a Comment!

We do it literally every day at VOXUS. Launch the latest/greatest tech solution or company. Just this past week, we found ourselves in the midst of a launch that seemed to take the press by storm and captured their imagination more than ever.

What am I talking about? The company is called Chirpify and it’s the first and only platform to buy, sell, donate and give in-stream on Twitter and Instagram. Chirpify initially launched this social commerce platform on Twitter this February. Well, last week, they expanded that footprint by enabling the same in-stream transaction technology for Twitter on get this—Instagram. How do they make the magic happen on Instagram you may ask? Take a look from last week’s press release:

Selling and fundraising with Chirpify on Instagram is easy. Sellers and fundraisers can create a listing directly from within the Instagram app. To sell within Instagram all they need to do is post a photo and set the initial comment to “#InstaSale $amount” and Chirpify will automatically create a listing that people can transact with by commenting back. Fundraisers can list requests for donations by setting the initial comment to “#InstaFund $amount.” Chirpify will post back a comment on the photo that instructs followers how to purchase.

Consumers use Chirpify to securely connect their Instagram and PayPal accounts, and once linked, comment on an Instagram post to transact with “buy” or “donate.” Chirpify then sends a secure download or receipt via email.

Coverage by the press came fast and furious with outlets like Fortune, TechCrunch and Mashable writing glowing reviews of the new service. We’re talking dozens of articles and more than a dozen interviews in just a few days!

Some VOXUS colleagues asked me, “Why so much attention.” Well that’s simple. It falls right in a sweet spot. Chirpify is something new and totally original that both consumers and businesses need, and media seem to be dying to talk about—solutions that actually enable people and businesses to transact, and not just exchange ideas on social media. It doesn’t hurt that it’s so easy to use that some people are simply calling it magic.