Category Archives: PR

How AT&T Could Have Used Social Media During Crisis

AT&T U-verse outage demonstrates lack of social media marketing and public relationsThis week AT&T had a massive outage of its U-verse network that offers voice, digital cable and high speed Internet to consumers and businesses. This most recent fiasco has further tarnished the AT&T brand that it appears the company has either given up on PR and customer service or does not have a strong and savvy management team in place to deal with the challenges of being a major communications company.

In the most recent chapter of the ongoing AT&T saga, a total lack of understanding of the ability to communicate to customers, media and the public was evident. With social media there is a clear channel beyond calling customer service to easily facilitate broadcast messages to an engaged audience.

I was actually affected by the outage and followed AT&T’s actions and lack off during the most crucial times. Customers began experiencing service disruptions on Monday. My service died sometime Monday night after I went to bed. Noticing the error we contacted the company on Monday and were informed that there was a widespread outage for Uverse and that North Carolina was not being affected according to the representative.

My wife then went to Twitter and saw that other customers in NC were affected. I immediately looked at the Twitter chatter and noticed that despite a flood of customers asking for information the company just issued a standard, we’re having problems tweet. If you look at the stream below captured on Jan 24, 2013 AT&T U-verse social media and PR team did not utilize Twitter as frequently or early on during the crisis.

AT&T U-verse Twitter stream during network outage was poor to weak at best
AT&T U-verse Twitter stream during network outage was poor to weak at best.
AT&T’s communication and reaction on Facebook was just as poor.  For the whole first day of the outage the company only had a simple post about MLK holiday.  All day Tuesday as customers were asking what was happening the company did not up a single post.  Then on Wednesday 2 posts. One that said the problem was related to hardware issues, the next saying that it was software issue.  To add insult to injury they tried to downplay the size of the problem stating that the outage was only affecting 1% of customers.  This clearly did not seem to be the problem as outages were reporting across several states.

AT&T U-verse Facebook Page was poorly utilized during crisis. What little information shared appeared inaccurate and unclear to customers.
AT&T U-verse Facebook Page was poorly utilized during crisis. What little information shared appeared inaccurate and unclear to customers.
By Wednesday evening several customers were asking AT&T why there were not communicating using social media and other digital communication channels like email and text to keep customers informed.  Between the trickle of information on social media and what appeared to be radio silence on text and email AT&T just feed the customer frustration fire that gets flamed with viral reposts, likes and sharing on social networks.  I think most customers including myself would understand that shit happens and sometimes, major network fails can occur.

Affected ATT U-Verse customers were pleading for information and receiving nothing substantial.
Affected ATT U-Verse customers were pleading for information and receiving nothing substantial.
What customers don’t want is to be ignored during a crisis.  They want transparency and clear communication as to what the status is and anticipated recovery time.  The majority of your customers will be satisfied with confident and timely communications.  What amazes me is that we are at a point in time where using social media and digital communication should be primary part of crisis communication plan.  You would think that someone at AT&T had to either be asleep at the wheel or choosing not to participate in the discussion.  Either way it’s another PR black eye for the communications company.

What’s Your Data Crisis Communication Plan?

Klout (@klout), the online standard for influence and scoring site suffered a severe system error that caused users social media profile scores to drop in value yesterday. I noticed a few people questioning their scores on Facebook so I went to my Klout page and noticed that my score dropped by 50%. I was not really bothered by the drop but more intrugued since it appeared to be happending to several users.

Between 8:30 and 12 noon I watched how Klout dealt with the situation. They did a great job of informing their users that there was an error and that they were sorry for the problem. They quickly sent tweets out informing their users that there was a glitch and they had not changed their algorithym as many people speculated on Twitter. By noon, Klout CEO Joe Fernandez had written a post explaining the problem and offering an sincere apology. Looking at the comments people were forgiving and appreciated the company explaining the problem and offering an apology.

Klout Twitter messages about scoring problem

With data being the currency of the social web, it’s vital that you have a crisis communication plan in place to deal with unplanned data loss or corruption. All systems can fail at any given time no matter how much we plan. Humans and machines make mistakes and often do. We are a forgiving culture as long as we know someone is listening and responding.

Klout did several things right. First it used Twitter as a customer support channel by addressing some of the first people asking why their scores had dropped. Secondly they acknowledged the error and informed users that they were working on the problem. Within a few hours it was fixed and they issued a nice post explaining the issue in more detail and apologizing for any problems it may have caused.

Sometimes when we have a crisis we can get unfocused fast. The first reaction is to find and fix the problem. But it’s equally important to have a crisis communication plan in place and enacted at the same time. Those responsible for the social media and outbound communication channels need to have a plan in place to know how to adquately react to consumer and customer questions. Chain of command needs to be properly identified and contingency plans in place in case spokespersons are travelling, on vacation or unavialable.

Let’s face it in today’s instant gratification and social media world you are being judged on how well you react, communicate and respond in a very short period of time. Klout’s example happened in less than 4 hours! Klout’s glitch has no life or death implications. But for a company that relies on accuracy and awareness of their service it’s important for them to have a reliable scoring system that does not frequently crash!

Do you have a crisis communicatoin plan for your data?

Can Your Marketing Manager Do This?

When you look at job descriptions for marketing managers these days you wonder if any one person can really fulfill the role.  Marketing has expanded greatly in the past dozen years as the Internet and digital marketing has exploded.  Today when I look at position descriptions for marketing managers and directors I see a huge list of skills required including:
Can your marketing manager do this?

  • Planning and coordinating marketing programs and campaigns
  • Identifying new marketing opportunities
  • Manage and develop CRM programs
  • Manage and track social media communications
  • Development of traditional sales collateral
  • Trade show and special events management
  • Development and management of online advertising, pay-per-click campaigns and Google Adwords programs
  • Create, manage and administration of website content with knowledge of HTML, CSS and other web technologies
  • SEO/SEM administration and tracking website traffic
  • Develop and promote demonstration videos, kits and point of sale programs
  • Write, edit and distribute press releases
  • Manage relationships with vendors
  • Develop and manage marketing budgets
  • Design and implement email marketing campaigns and programs
  • Various duties to support sales teams

What really amazes me is when people looking for managers to fill the roles they state 3 years of experience. Really 3 years to learn all of this?  In my first three years of marketing I learned about developing corporate collateral, managing tradeshows, direct mail promotions and tracking PR efforts.  We had a 3-5 person marketing team for a company of approximately 110 people with 3 distinct product lines.  Other members of the team were responsible for content development, budgeting, high level planning and CRM.

Realistically any company looking to have a single person do all these skills and efforts well is not being realistic.  I’ve discovered that small businesses trying to be all things to all people in marketing tend to skim the surface of these efforts because the one person doing all the work is trying to keep their head above water.  True the marketing manager should be involved in all these efforts but some of the work needs to be outsourced or additional resources should be brought in to help with specific programs like SEO/SEM and online ad management.  Heck Google Adwords alone is a full time job!

Even if you do find someone that is semi-proficient in all these areas how well do you think they can perform them in a 40 hour work week?

BP PR Campaign: Right or Wrong Timing?

BP unveiled a new multi million dollar PR campaign this past week. I first saw the commercial while watching the morning news and watched with great interest. First as a US Citizen I wanted to know what this European based company was doing to clean up the worst natural disaster in our country’s history. I have family that lives in that part of the country and I felt a bit snarky when BP’s CEO Tony Hayward said they would take care of all the problems and he’s sorry that it happened.

Even President Obama said that BP should be spending more on the clean up than on a PR campaign. However would his opinion be different if he was a PR person? I mean we keep telling everyone how this new social media channel allows us to have a conversation and that companies need to communicate to us and not just sell us goods and services? Recent case studies I’ve read about companies doing it wrong continually point out that some companies react and stop the communication in fear of inflaming a difficult situation or crisis communication.

No doubt that the effects of this spill will continue to affect the Gulf region for years to come. It’s a terrible tragedy that in a perfect world would never have happened. But it did and BP as well as those affected have to deal with the aftermath. BP could not continue to run its typical brand advertising in the face of what happened. That would have been a big slap in the face to Gulf coast residents and others that care about our environment and livelihood of our fellow world citizens.

In writing this article I visited the BP YouTube channel to find the link to the ad. While there I noticed that BP has many videos produced in the past several weeks addressing the Gulf spill across a variety of topics. The videos range from updates on the progress of trying to cap the pipe, technical videos on the processes and how they work to environmental awareness and animal release information.

From a PR and social media perspective BP seems to be doing the right thing by engaging and communicating to the public. The ad shows some sincerity in apologizing for the disaster and promises to clean it up at no taxpayer expense. Of course we know that’s not true as the multitude of federal, state and local government workers that are dealing with the problems that have arisen due to the spill. However it appears that BP is following the conventional wisdom of owning up to its responsibilities and taking ownership and communicating that to its audiences. Of course time will tell how well they actually do just that.

What do you think of the recent BP PR campaign? Is it the right step at the right time or just damage control?

Goin Mobile

This month is abuzz with mobile. Both the Triangle AMA and TIMA have speakers on mobile marketing and ads. Mobile Internet traffic is increasing with the proliferation of smartphones and Wi-Fi devices. This post is actually being drafted on an iPhone so I can gauge what a mobile blog post is all about.

For one it’s really intense in terms of keying this in using a keyboard that only uses my thumbs and no mouse. This has made me focus accurately and correctly writing the first draft. Reminds me of the typing class I took in high school. The final result is going to be produced in less than 45 minutes. No links, photos or anything else. Just good old fashioned words strung together to try and keep the reader engaged, informed and educated.

True I could write this on my laptop using Word and its tools like spellchecker. But what is mobile blogging if I don’t actually use the WordPress iPhone plugin to actually draft a post? Editing is a bit tricky but I am curious how viable a Smartphone is as a field reporting unit.

No doubt an iPad would be better suited for the task. And in time I do foresee content being drafted on tablet devices in increasing numbers. I’ve already envisioned my grade school children will be using this type of device in middle school within the next three to five years.

But going full on mobile is rapidly happening all around us. Home phone accounts are giving way to a family of four wireless plan. Our phones have address, contact information, calendar and notes stored in them for easy access. Geo location features and apps allow us to find each other and share locations. Smartphones have become the mobile convergence devices that deliver true computer telephony integration.

But I gave to say that mobile blogging on such a device is difficult. It’s taken me longer to write this post. And many times my large thumbs hit the Shift or Return key by accident! It has taken me longer to write this post and I have had to revisit the copy more than usual but that’s not a bad thing!

What’s your experience blogging on a mobile device? What challenges have you experienced? Or does it not compute for you?