Perhaps Facebook Could Do (A Lot) More

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Tomorrow, the world’s largest social media site will share a bit of important news with subscribers.

Yes, the folks at Facebook will let users, like me, know if our profile data was passed on to data consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

One of the “feel good” messages from Facebook, as shown on a monitor in the CTA Logan Square Blue Line station.

As noted in this April 4 New York Times article, up to 87 million users of the platform may have had data shared with Cambridge, now brought into the international spotlight for connections with the Trump 2016 presidential campaign.

I’ll leave the political discussion of this ongoing story to other commentators. What intrigues me is the total collapse of effective crisis management by Facebook since news broke of the data breach.

Want to get a perspective on how the crisis has unfolded over the past three-plus weeks?  This PR Week report offers a play-by-play recap right up to March 27, when the number of impacted users was just 50 million.

Coming up: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be testifying before Congress Tuesday.

For an organization built on letting users share ideas, news, images and videos — purportedly all for “free” — Facebook has lost the trust of subscribers and failed miserably at managing the sustained crisis that’s embroiled the company over the reported misuse of member info.

Note the image above. That message — and others from Facebook — was on a monitor in the CTA Logan Square Blue Line station, which I visit each weekday to travel to and from work. Other similar digital and print billboards can be found at other CTA stations.

Frankly, these communications, which I just noticed recently, are weak, an after thought of sorts to mitigate the collapse of confidence experienced by many of Facebook’s 2.2 billion users.

Following these developments, the questions that surface with me: Is this the “new normal” in crisis management? Are companies becoming too large to effectively anticipate and mitigate threats? Are CEOs like Zuckerberg unable to effectively lead and regain trust?

Tomorrow, I’ll learn if I’m about the 87 million Facebook users who had personal data shared without my agreement or knowledge. But to borrow from a popular 1980s song, I don’t know if I’ll like the next Monday.

 

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Questions and More Questions on the Impact of Social Media in 2018

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

The article hit home like a virtual thunderclap. Well, for me and perhaps the many others who communicate professionally and ethically.

In question is a piece, “2018’s Biggest Social Media Trends for Business,” published January 2 of this year by Forbes. (Yes, I’m a little behind in my reading.)

For a commentary on the growth of digital, there sure are a lot of “old-school” implements in this graphic. Image courtesy of Forbes.

Here’s why: Author Ryan Holmes (also the CEO and founder of Hootsuite) maintains that there’s “a growing realization among businesses that social media is the single most effective way to reach audiences.” He cites factors like the development of paid platforms (so long free reach via Facebook), a continued growth of video (certainly not surprising) and the integration of prominent social media platforms with leading business software (perhaps Microsoft will own everything digital some day).

And, the article cites compelling statistics like the escalating number of Facebook users (lots and lots and lots), time each day teens spend online (around 540 minutes) and the growing dominance of sponsored video (more bucks spent than on that once dominate medium — television).

All this led me to ponder these questions about the future of social media:

1. All these developments are happening at lightening-fast speed. So  how do communicators measure results and effectively keep up?

2. And, given the preponderance of new digital platforms, how do communicators determine if what they recommend to clients is the most relevant one?

3. Not too many years ago, I recall reading that the public relations field “owned” social media. Is that still the case?

4. How do you effectively integrate rapid-fire digital with more traditional strategies and tactics?

5.  Will those of us not raised on digital (this writer included) continue to have a voice in modern communications?

In the conclusion to the article, Holmes offers this rationale: “For companies already fatigued by the onslaught of new technology and strategies, relief, unfortunately, is nowhere in sight. But for those that can keep up, social media may promise bigger audiences and more return on investment than ever.”

Not sure where I stand in that equation.

Now it’s your turn. Given the virtual communications whirlwind ahead, what questions do you have about the impact of social media on communicators?

 

 

 

A Milestone: Reaching My 1,000th Twitter Follower

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

At last.

Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

As noted in the image above, I finally have arrived in the Twittersphere.  Or, at least I think so.

I reached follower 1,000 earlier today. And, as of this afternoon that number has catapulted to 1,001!

Frankly, this process took much longer than anticipated.  As examined in this August 2015 post, I had attracted more than 700 followers and anticipated a meteoric ascent to four figures.

Well, it only took around eight more months. Now, the quest continues to 2,000 and beyond.

But, kind followers, I’ll need your help to crack the 2,000 follower mark.

What strategies and tactics should I employ to reach that next digital plateau?

Change the image on my profile page? Tweet early and often? Retweet and favor more selected tweets? Follow more people, organizations and companies that are public relations based?  Should I follow the Real Donald Trump?

Your thoughts are most welcomed. I’m confident I’ll land 1,999 new followers by year end. And, that will be no mean tweet.

I’m mean feat.

 

 

 

This Thanksgiving, Really Thankful for Virtual Friends

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

As time ticks off on Thanksgiving 2014, I can reflect and be thankful for many things this last weekend of November. Yes, there’s health, family, work and our home.

(Must also make a special shout out to my sister-in-law’s outstanding herb dinner rolls served Thursday as part of an outstanding Thanksgiving meal.)

And of course, friends.

But thanks to our brave new digital world, I have friends beyond those who I’ve met in person and enjoyed time in each others presence.  I’m referring to virtual friends.

Hey, for many of us adults, virtual friends also are important.

Hey, for many of us adults, virtual friends also are important.

I trust those of us who have embraced digital communications have “friends” or people (hopefully not robots) they communicate with regularly. These virtual friends — rest assured I won’t try to fabricate and use some silly made up word like “virtuends” — can be f0ound through social media or perhaps through a common interest.

Here are two of my virtual friends. I’ll just use their first names to protect their privacy.

  • Debbie, who’s retired, loves football and starts most days with an uplifting Facebook post. She also is fond of a gourmet blend of coffee, participates in an online radio show and is always quick to respond to my Facebook commentary with a positive message. How we became virtual friends: Through a now defunct social media site.
  • Elena is a communications professional, a very good and
    Wonder what my virtual friends would like for the holidays?

    Wonder what my virtual friends would like for the holidays?

    successful one. She’s earned industry honors, writes fiction, manages on of the most popular communications blogs and is a leader within her market. I’ve been honored to serve as a an unpaid “consultant” for one of Elena’s recent works of fiction. How we became virtual friends: I contributed content to Elena’s blog.

Things can be fleeting in life, especially in the virtual world.  But I hope my virtual friends will be around for a long, long time.

Better yet, I hope someday we’ll get to be friends the old-fashioned way — in person.

In Defense of Public Relations: Take That Meghan Daum

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Ah, the New Year.  We wipe the slate clean. We enthusiastically embrace new challenges. We gang tackle the roadblocks thrown haphazardly before us.

Okay. Enough senseless hyperbole.

Columnist and person who needs to get a better grasp of "public relations," Meghan Daum.

Columnist and person who needs to get a better grasp of “public relations,” Meghan Daum.

Today, The PRDude will address an all-too-often misuse of the way “public relations” is employed in written and spoken communications.  The culprit this time is columnist Meghan Daum, a terrific writer and essayist based in California whose work I read regularly in the Chicago Tribune.  (Print edition, of course, as regular followers will attest.)

In a column published Friday, January 4, Ms. Daum takes on one of the world’s most popular social media platforms — Facebook, known for being founded by a guy who likes to wear hoodies and for frequently changing its privacy settings.  She bashes the site over the course of 722 words (thanks Microsoft Word), claiming Facebook has devolved into an online resource that let’s its users:

“Brag brag brag. Bait for compliment. Self-promote. Promote someone else so as to be able to self-promote later. Brag.”

I trust you have grasped the thrust of Ms. Daum’s perspective: Facebook today can be defined as the online equivalent of that Beatles’ song from Let it Be, I Me Mine.”220px-LetItBe

And, The PRDude certainly respect’s her opinions and even supports some in this piece. But, let’s get to the focus of this post.  As, stated by Ms. Daum:

“(Facebook) used to make you feel connected to the world, but now it makes you feel bad about yourself. That’s because it’s becoming less a place for exchanging ideas and more an unmitigated, unapologetic opportunity for public relations.”

Gloves off time, Ms. Daum!

“Public relations” has been defined in many ways by many people.  The Public Relations Society of America (of which I’m a long-time member) has posted a definition of the practice to meet the modern times.  And, there’s definitions printed in textbooks and espoused by those of us who practice public relations.

At its essence, public relations involves communications.  (So far, Ms. Daum is on target.) But at its core, public relations is driven — or it should be — by sound strategies.  I don’t envision a Facebook user who publishes  a “look at the cake I baked today” post being guided by a strategic process.

I’ll stop picking on Ms. Daum, because there are plenty of instances where “public relations” is thrown into the modern lexicon because it seemingly fits. Well, most of the time it doesn’t.  And, it’s up to those of us who practice effective, strategic and ethical public relations to set the record straight.

I welcome comments, including those from Ms. Daum.

A Few Social Media Hot Buttons

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

Earlier today, I had the pleasure of attending the monthly luncheon hosted by my friends and colleagues from the PRSA Chicago Chapter.  Those loyal followers of The PRDude know I’m a proud, full-fledged member of the chapter, and I even do my best to promote the Accreditation in Public Relations when I can.

Today, the packed audience gained some great insight into the always-changing subject of social media.  Three guys from public relations agencies with household names in the industry presented some great thoughts.  My apologies: I did not get the names of the speakers.

Without further rhetoric, here’s what I scribbled down.

  • Clients are becoming smarter in the social media world and demanding better metrics to measure results.  The challenge remains “how to connect the dots” or results from various platforms.  Makes sense to me, and let me add that measurement of defined objectives should be a factor in every public relations program.
  • B2B clients are accepting the value of social media and recognize the need to reach a small, targeted audience.  And, social media is projected to rise 60 percent in the B2B arena this year.  Since my “real job” (I don’t make any money off this, you know) requires I communicate with people in the commercial real estate world, this is good news.
  • The death of the “one-way” web site is a reality; communicators who are on the ball transition static sites into “blogging platforms.”   Yea!  As a blogger and manager of my organization’s web site, this is the best news to cross my desk — er, monitor — in a long time.  The speaker who made this proclamation went on to say, “Web site should no longer be full of happy corporate talk.  Have your peers  become your ‘brand evangelist.'”  Don’t agree entirely with this statement, and I think evangelists belong in church or on a street corner.
  • Facebook is the most important platform, even for B2B audiences, because that’s where the big dollars are being spent.  As long as money continues to make the world go round, I’ll have to agree.  But I have read that Facebook has reached a saturation point of subscribers here in the U.S., so it’s focusing on other parts of the world.  I do know people outside the U.S. have computers and friends.
  • The geographic platforms — Foursquare, etc. — are still struggling for a foothold in the online world.  Full disclosure: I registered for Foursquare and only checked in around two times.  Both were to the Small Bar, my local watering hole. I know some businesses offer discounts to those who check into their sites.  That won’t work at the Small Bar yet.  Besides, Parker usually slips me a free pint once in a while anyway.

The panel offered more insight about sites that will rise to uncharted heights — Empire Avenue and Get Glue were two that I jotted down.  But I’m not so sure I need to know about these sites just yet.

One observation: I’ve read that good old-fashioned email will someday go the way of the manual typewriter.  If that’s true, then why do all these cool new sites require you to register with your email address?

 

My Burson-Marsteller Experience, Long Before “Googlegate”

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka the PRDude

Most professions have some kind of licensing system, an accepted credential or prescribed checks and balances in place for fairly obvious reasons:  Being a “professional” in a particular discipline means you have the knowledge, skills, abilities and experience to do the job right.

This holds true for the medical professional who treats your skin rash, the auto mechanic professional who fixes your transmission, the culinary professional who prepares your $40 entree.

Same goes for the public relations professional who develops and executes communications programs that are based on research and driven by proven strategies to deliver measurable results.  Those who bill themselves as “public relations professionals” are expected to be experts in the practice of public relations.  There’s no licensing or prerequisites of any kind.

Last week, one of the world’s foremost public relations agencies — Burson-Marsteller — was charged with violating a few of the guiding, defining principles of public relations.   By now you’ve probably read the story: B-M was contracted by the folks at Facebook to take on one of its rivals for global online domination — Google — through a so-called “smear” campaign concerning user privacy issues.

In short: The agency reportedly pitched negative and erroneous stories about Google to big shot bloggers and traditional media, and they even offered to draft copy!  The effort is totally contrary to what many of us in public relations identify as being “professional” because the B-M team did not disclose the name of their client and true public relations is not structured around lies.

There are broad lapses, no, avoidance of ethical standards here.  And, the plot just thickened with news that B-M censored comments on the so-called “Googlegate” by removing negative posts on its Facebook page.

Disclaimer time: I hold the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR), am a member of the Universal Accreditation Board (the body that grants and administers the APR) and a member of the Public Relations Society of America.  I am aware of and steadfastly follow accepted ethical guidelines I learned through the APR program and are required by PRSA.

The Accreditation in Public Relations

B-M’s actions last week are a violent kick-in-the-shins to the public relations profession and the industry.  I’d ask, “What were they thinking?” but really don’t want to know the answer.

Now, to my B-M experience.

In the early 1980s, I lost my position in the public relations department at a local community college.  It was my first job in the industry, as I came out of journalism.  I answered a help wanted notice for an account position with the Chicago office of Burson-Marsteller, and was invited to interview; my mentor told me B-M was a top-notch national firm and to go out and sell myself.

This was truly a great opportunity, and I prepared my portfolio, dressed in my best dark suit and confidently dove head-first into the process.  First, I met with a nice man who was a vice president.  We met over lunch, where I did my best to point out my background at the legendary City News Bureau of Chicago and avoid doing something clumsy with a fork.

A few days later, I was invited to meet with other members of the account team.  Lots of other members of the account team.   Six, in fact.  All on one day.

I dutifully went from office to office, recounting my experience, asking relevant questions and responding to questions posed.  None of the interviews were confrontational, I recall.  I felt good, but tired and ready to go home.  But, there was one more person to speak to:  Another vice president, an attractive blond woman with impeccable grooming and a warm personality.

The lady executive and I exchanged questions and answers, and all was going well until she asked this:  “So how are you spending your day?”  “Well, I’m taking on some freelance writing assignments, and of course, I’m actively pursuing another full-time position. And, one more thing: I’ve been playing lots of guitar and trying to figure out Jimi Hendrix licks!  Just can’t grasp how he’s getting that tone,” I said.

She muttered something about “it must have been the drugs,” and I immediately ascertained that I perhaps should have withheld that last comment. Hey, I was being honest.  And, I was tired.  We concluded the interview.

A few days later, I called and learned that the position was offered to someone else.  B-M probably made the right decision by taking a pass on me. I had no agency experience and probably was too cavalier for big-time corporate PR back then. To me, “public relations” was writing news releases and pitching stories.  But, I did have a firm grasp of the truth and ethical behavior in communications.

The account managers who were behind “Googlegate” also were originally from the news industry:  An anchor from CNBC and one-time  political columnist.  Perhaps they didn’t know they were violating the rules, but I don’t think so.

One more thing: I still haven’t mastered Jimi Hendrix’s passionate playing, but really neither have too many other guitarists.  But I have both hands around the ethical practice of public relations.