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 nigght aferr 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 look 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.

10 Tips for Searching for Jobs Online

Employers are leaving the world of print media behind by posting their jobs exclusively online. They are advertising on message boards, through social networks and on huge job posting sites. Businesses also advertise on their own websites where applicants from all over the world can vie for the best positions. Here are some tips to help you find that perfect new job.

  1. Find the site – There are numerous sites available to find your next position. You can go to Monster.com, Indeed, SnagAJob or CareerBuilder. Each site lists thousands of opportunities, from entry level to executive. Within each site there are search engines to help you narrow the possibilities.
  2. Maintain a professional resume – With so many applicants to the positions, you need your resume to pop. Avoid the overused, boring words like ‘responsible for’ and ‘handled,’ and talk about how much money you saved your employer. Your resume is the first introduction that a hiring manager receives, make it count.
  3. Be adaptable – Employers are looking for skills, rather than job titles, so each employer has a different job title. Look for synonyms in your search, a sales position may be listed as ‘account manager’ or ‘executive sales professional.’ Conversely, a ‘production manager’ at one company may not include your skill set.
  4. Tailor your cover letter – Perform research before you send your application. Find out what the position entails by looking at the keywords that the employer has used. Tailor your cover letter and resume to those hot buttons. If the company stresses attendance, mention how you received the perfect attendance award at your previous employer.
  5. Use LinkedIn in your search – LinkedIn is a social networking site for professionals. Connect with your former colleagues and friends. You can look for jobs within your field and ask for introductions to the hiring managers through your connections. A former colleague may be looking for someone within your field.
  6. Go to company websites – Many companies have a jobs and employment section on their website. They will list their specific positions available as well as their requirements. This option lets you apply for the position as well as do your research.
  7. Track your applications – Make a list of the positions for which you have applied. List all of the available information, including the name of the company, name of the hiring professional and a small snippet of information about the services that company offers. When you receive the callback, you want to have that information on hand.
  8. Forums – Read industry specific forums. There are often boards for employment opportunities. By reading previous posts, you can also gain some insight into your future employer’s needs. Interact with the others on the forums, as they might offer leads or have need for your services.
  9. Give them a call – Follow up on your position by calling the employer. Make sure that they received your resume and offer your assistance with any possible questions. You are telling the employer that you are serious about the position and it offers an opportunity to grow from the job search process.
  10. Follow your gut instincts – If you receive an unsolicited offer, chances are the originator of the email is fishing for information. There may be something about the company which does not seem right. If you feel uncomfortable, do not take the job.

The perfect job is out there. You need to be persistent in your efforts, knocking on virtual doors and following up on your applications. Be professional and available to your potential employers. That perfect opportunity will soon be yours!

This post was written by James Adam who reviews products like HP 351XL ink at a supplier of HP cartridges based in the UK.

8 Subtle Ways to Make Yourself Look More Professional

Look more professional with these tips.Self employed workers have their hands full juggling multiple roles every day, so keeping a professional appearance can be challenging at times. Freelancers and so-called “one man bands” already struggle when it comes to competing with large corporations. It is hard to answer the phones, take out the trash and still create awesome presentations and competitive proposals. To win contracts and jobs from corporations that are accustomed to dealing with other large companies, solo workers need all the help they can get. Here are 8 subtle ways to make yourself look more professional when selling yourself and your business to corporate customers.

1. Take the initiative by shaking hands first: By seizing the opportunity you exude confidence and the energy that only big players have.

2. Dress for the seasons: You may be working on your own and operating on a shoestring, but you can look professional by showing an awareness of appropriate attire. Keep your accessories to appropriate levels and wear appropriate colors. By showing that you have fashion sense you will silently communicate that you have the class and sophistication to compete with the big players in your field.

3. Create brand definition: As a freelancer or contractor you need to learn from your corporate competitors: let your brand drive everything you do. Create a succinct mission statement; keep your fonts and images consistent in everything from your correspondence to your website. Develop your brand this way and you will shed the “Mom and Pop” look and level the playing field in a dramatic way.

4. Get the fax: The online age has left many small players with IP and mobile phones that make it difficult to use with fax machines. Your corporate competitors have expensive phone systems that keep them sending and receiving faxes at will. Don’t be caught having your faxes sent to or from the local office store: subscribe to an online fax service that gives you a toll free fax number that you can use to receive faxes. These services also allow you to upload files to be faxed, so you can avoid the embarrassment of being unable to use fax services.

5. Alternative PDFs: Many freelancers lack the resources to purchase luxuries such as Adobe PDF software. Don’t let that stop you from sending professional grade PDF documents. Free alternatives such as PrimoPDF let you compile everything from invoices to proposals just like your larger competitors do.

6. Video conferencing: A subtle way to make yourself look more professional is doing business by video. Large corporations have cut back on travel to save money and to be environmentally conscious: you can do the same even if you’re low on cash. Dimdim offers a great free service that allows you to set up meetings with up to twenty people using a browser-based application. Show that you have a green company too.

7. Get your brand online: Small players like you can really look bad if a potential customer searches for you online and you cannot be found. Get to work on your online brand. Hire a professional to build your site. Create a blog that supports your niche and get on LinkedIn and other social sites. Let yourself shine online where you can look as professional as you like without much expense.

8. Chit chat: Those who spend most of their time working alone may start slipping in their social skills. Make it a point to develop or maintain the ability to strike up conversations with strangers so you can use small talk to your advantage at your next presentation. Develop an awareness of what potential clients want you to say and do not disappoint them. Focus attention on them: most people love talking about themselves.

These 8 subtle ways to make yourself look more professional only touch the tip of the iceberg. Literally, there are hundreds of small things you can do to make yourself appear professional, capable, and ready to compete. Don’t let the fact that you work on your own hold you back. Get a more professional appearance starting today.

This is a guest post from James Adams, a UK-based writer for a leading ink supplies specialist where he covers developments in tech, analyses and reviews products such as the T0715 and, when time permits, occasionally manages to post their blog.

What Makes a Brand?

Last week I attended the Triangle AMA CMO panel, a great event with four Chief Marketing Officers from SAS, Concord Hospitality, Cheerwine and Genworth Financial.  One of the presenters, Jim Davis, SAS CMO, said something that really hit home.  Jim stated that your company’s brand is not the logo but what is felt and the customers’ reaction.  I could not agree with him more and so many times I find the wrong use of brand terminology and the true meaning.

Branding is not a verb I hear many times a request to, “put more branding,” on a marketing piece or campaign.  This conjures up an image of me getting my iron brand fired up in my workshop so I can “brand” what ever physical piece I can get my hand on.  Word of advice, doing this to your monitor will ruin it so don’t try this at home.  For more about how I dislike corporate America creating non-words that make me feel like at 18th century blacksmith, see my post on “wordsmithing.”

Modern corporate culture always takes great concepts and turns them into buzzwords and verbs.  Personally I don’t feel like you “brand” anything or apply “branding.”  Many reference sites will tell you that a brand exists because there is a logo and a company that offers the brand’s product or service.  These are brand names and brand identity.  Going back to what Jim Davis said, “a brand is felt.”

Most of modern branding research is based on consumer brands.  Surveys and focus groups of loyal customers will tell researchers how they love the brand for various reasons.  Most will focus around quality, consistency and value.  These are what comprise a brand promise.  Consumers will come to expect these values when purchasing and engaging with brand products and services and will let you know when they do not met expectations or fail to deliver.  When asked to recommend a product or service a trusted friend or coworker will express these feelings.

Being in the services industry, brand development takes on a whole new approach.  My company offers business analytics consulting services and I am constantly telling our consultants that their actions are our brand.  How they dress, communicate and deliver on projects is the feelings that the customer will experience and communicate back to us, our partners and potential new clients.  It’s important for our solutions to work and the people that create and deliver them to provide a sense of security and trust.  No matter how much creative marketing I do to communicate my company’s brand values, it is up to each and every consultant to deliver on that value on every project.  If this fails to happen then the brand value is tarnished and requires attention to rebuilding the customer’s perception of our brand.

And that’s what it’s all about, trust.  We hear a lot about trust these days, from government, financial institutions, family and technology.  Privacy concerns are stemming from all the information being posted to social networks.  Consumers trust big institutions less and less as well as our federal government.  But yet we continue to trust our brands to provide the value and level of satisfaction we’ve become accustomed to receiving.  In doing this they build upon the brand promise and reaffirm the customer’s purchasing decision.

That’s why brands have become so important in our life.  The feelings and trust we associate with our favorite products and services give us a comfort level.  And it’s not just consumer products; business brands play a vital role in our life.  From laptops and mobile phones to paper and office furniture, we expect our business brands to perform at higher levels than our personal brands.  And why not, they frequently are dramatically more expensive.

What is your definition of a brand? Is it the logo or commercial or how you feel when interacting with the brand, its representatives and partners?  Do you think adding a logo to a marketing piece is branding?

How Important is Your Online Brand Reputation?

SEO Meetup had another great meeting last night at Media Two on Your Brand Presence & Managing it Online.  Phil Buckley @1918 and Morgan Siem @morgansiem presented some timely and relevant examples on the topic.  Phil began with the concept of that with social media and powerful search engines like Google, our lives are online in some form or another.  Our personal and professional brands are easily scanned, judged and interacted with online as much as in real life with more of the little people getting a bigger voice in the conversation.  So how do you manage our online brand?

The overall strategy revolves around owning and managing your brand versus ignoring it or refusing to admit it exists.  We’ve all heard people say, “I don’t do Twitter, I don’t get it, too much junk.” True there is mindless banter on social networks but that does not mean there is not value in the conversations as well.  I equate it to any media consumption by the public whether it’s art, music, film, food, etc.  There is always junk out there but we use technology, tools and communication to cut through that to get to what we desire most.

Therefore you don’t want to be invisible or portrayed incorrectly because you did not want to join the conversation.  Owning your brand and name online is just as important as it was before the web when you fought for customers’ attention via print, radio, TV advertising and PR.  The challenges are still the same but the method and channels have changed.  In the case of reputation management we still have to deal with crisis communication but have found that social networks can be a powerful tool to react faster and deal with groups or individuals with more relevant information versus the entire customer base with a single message.

Morgan demonstrated how to measure brand impact and determine who is in the conversation with a demonstration of Radian 6 analytics software.  Her presentation used the recent Pit BBQ Tweetup as the data source.  By analyzing the online conversations she was able to determine how the event was perceived by both attendees as well as others.  One of the strategies Morgan demonstrated was to determine who the key influencers are during a campaign.  This allows you to drill down to a specific traffic stream to determine impact and sentiment.  Based on that information you have the ability to engage stakeholders, influencers or customers directly and with targeted message.

Other tools discussed included Filtrbox, Techrigy, and Trackur.  With the explosion of social networks, tools and integration, monitoring and research applications will continue to evolve and scan more data.  Of course there is also the big player in the search market, Google who recently launched some new features in Google Analytics that I’m preparing to dive deeper into on my own sites.  The end result of the growth of these companies will mean more choices and better pricing models to meet your needs.  Whether you’re a large advertising agency in NYC or a one man consulting practice in Wake County!

If you have not attended the SEO Meetup I encourage you to check out their site at http://www.meetup.com/RaleighSEO/.  The group is a good mix of marketing, PR, developers, web designers, business professionals, entrepreneurs, etc.  Plus they have handouts to allow you to focus on the discussion versus having to capture the basic stuff by writing notes.  Great job Phil and Morgan!