Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Learning from Dubai's Poor PR

Define a PR crisis for your organization....

For 'Dubai inc', it could be defined as causing major money markets to fall, having international media 'ridicule' fiscal policy/investments or having your ruler cartooned as drowning in a sea of debt on the front page of perhaps one the world's most respected newspapers.

Such is the past 10 days for Dubai.

What happened and what can we learn from this?

I think it went down something like this.... Picture a boardroom 50 stories high with all glass windows, over looking sun, sand, the beautiful crystal clear coast and major development including infrastructure that will soon be appearing in the Guinness Book of Records. Imagine the smell of coffee, and the obligatory three facial tissue boxes on the large, modern board room table, surrounded by black, ergonomic, modern mesh chairs.

Someone mentions in passing that there is a loan for something like $3.5-billion that needs to be paid by next month, but it's questionable whether money is in the right place to make that happen. "No problem," someone says, "everyone wants a piece of Dubai, we'll just ask our debtors to hold out for another 30 days". Someone more senior replies, "Interesting idea, but seeing as we're asking for 30 days, lets just ask for 6 months - I mean, why not?". Several nods of heads, because that's what you do when someone more senior suggests something.

A couple of faces look to the person who has to think about publicity. "No problem here. Next week is Eid so we'll all be taking it easy for a week and isn't the U.S. celebrating something along the lines of Thanks Giving so Wall Street will be closing early? We'll sent out a note to a couple of the media who always write exactly what we ask them, most media outlets will be on vacation - no one will remember a thing".

Nice idea... except... while that might of worked 2 or 3 years ago, in the dusk of 2009 there have been changes that have even permeated as far as Dubai...

1 - Media is less of a puppet. Days are gone when they simply 'cut and paste' from a release just because it comes from someone important. Many reasons for this - all of them good.

2 - Media never sleeps. Social media resonates 24/7 and the more advanced media groups have reorganized so they can work cross-globe 24/7, irrespective of cultural holidays.

3 - Never, ever, ever create a media vacuum. It's PR101, but if you do not provide the facts and all the facts to the media in a timely manner, the media will get the facts from somewhere else. That somewhere may be less than gracious. That somewhere may include so called experts that known nothing about what they talk. That somewhere might have a grudge to bare. In short - not good.

4 - It all comes out in the wash. Organizations that play it less than 100% clean risk dirty washing falling out of the hamper every now and again... and in tough financial times it can be like someone turned the hamper upside-down. Was always this way, but today's ultra-connected and social society means that no one is exempt and news travels fast.

The lessons are pretty simple really. It's not rocket science and someone should of seen this coming. Maybe they need a new PR agency...

Wow, did Dubai just get a beating in the international press!

It was felt around the world, but perhaps the most punishing in the ever-cynical British press.

Unfortunately the 'Dubai Machine' was not at its tip-top performance, and whomever was in charge of media on that day must of been out of the office celebrating Eid Al Adha, because they created a media vacuum that the press love as they can make things up and call on non-experienced 'experts' who really have no idea.

Lets set the story straight.

1 - Dubai World is NOT the country. Saying that 'Dubai World' has a $59b financial problem is not the same as saying that Dubai (or the United Arab Emirates) is bust! Dubai World is an investment company that manages and supervises a portfolio of businesses and projects for the Dubai government across a wide range of industry segments and projects that promote Dubai as a hub for commerce and trading. It is not, however, guaranteed by the Dubai Government.

2 - Some might argue that $59b is not a huge sum when compared with some other corporate bailouts (e.g. when Lehman Brothers went into bankruptcy protection, it owed more than $600 billion). In reality, Dubai World still has a lot of valuable divested assets, so their only shortfall is a US$3.5-billion loan, which the company is unable to repay by its December deadline.

3 - Concerns over the fallout from Dubai's debt problems contributed to the main European stock indexes falling over 3% on 26 November. This was followed by drops in Asian stocks on 27 November. However the European stock markets rebounded as investors' fears subsequently subsided as they decided the estimated debt wasn't big enough to trigger a systemic failure in global financial markets.

4 - And pretty much anything else you've heard around this subject is just false. Dubai is as bankrupt as 1920s Germany (The Guardian) - not true. India may take over Dubai as Russian oligarchs shoot at each other on the Burj Dubai (The Independent) - certainly not true. "There are not that many people when you go out shopping, and there are almost no Westerners in the bars and clubs," according to Sarah, speaking to the BBC - we don't know where she's going - certainly not the places this office socialize at! It's not a fiscal Armageddon. It's just not, in global terms, actually that significant.

But what sells newspapers?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Millennials working in agencies – R U ready?

Research from over 200 global PR agencies by the University of Oregon shows interesting conclusions that Middle East agencies should take heed of. The Millennials (or Gen Y, Generation Me, The Net Generation, or Echo Boomers) can broadly be defined as those between the ages of 12 and 28 years – in short the younger members of our agency teams.

Gen Y is the most wanted & coddled generation in history. Howe & Strauss (authors known for their theories about a recurrent cycle of generations) summed Gen Y’s up neatly, “they are more numerous, more affluent, better educated, and more ethnically diverse. More important, they are beginning to manifest a wide array of positive social habits that older Americans no longer associate with youth, including a new focus on teamwork, achievement, modesty, and good conduct”.

Why are they like this? Most commonly brought up by helicopter parents (remaining closely overhead, rarely out of reach, whether their children need them or not) with both parents working and more disposable income than previous generations, Gen Y has often been branded as having attention spans less than a goldfish and only being able to absorb information in very short chunks.

Having grown up with the Internet, it's also the first generation that's completely comfortable with technology. And their childhood passion for computer games means they like clear objectives, with a start and an accomplishable goal (games end), knowing exactly where they are at all times (i.e. how many points they have scored).

This is important as there are a lot of Gen Y – 70 million - almost three times the number of Generation X. So what does this mean for the managers in Middle East agencies? Well, if we understand what Millennials want, we can make our agencies run more efficiently. So here’s the top 10 ways to cultivate relationships with Millennials:

10 - Less politics & favouritism. Add more team building events - especially if you also have Baby Boomers in your team.
9 - Keep your promises as a manager. Gen Y has been brought up being given what they expected. If you disappoint they’ll walk.
8 - Understand mistakes. Gen Y sees no harm in making them so have realistic expectations and don’t view mistakes as failures (their parents didn’t).
7 – Give more autonomy & responsibility. But paradoxically don’t expect accountability.
6 - Allow & encourage innovation. Gen Y live for innovation.
5 - Listen, solicit opinions and recognise their influence. Gen Y like to give it and just as their parents did, they’ll expect you to listen to them.
4 - Provide training & opportunities for growth. Gen Y loves to learn.
3 - Prioritise employees’ needs and work out how to provide a work-life balance with home commute options.
2 - Provide fair compensation: based on achievement, workload, level of responsibility, market norms.
1 - Communicate! More regular, recognition, openness, honesty, instructions, feedback & defined roles.

Gen Y like to communicate, so speak to them… you could also email, Tweet, blog, connect over FaceBook and get LinkedIn… but whatever you do communicate.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

LEAD & detractors

It's not exactly rocket science, but one simple method for getting online and embracing social media is LEAD (listen, experiment, apply, develop). This creates a simple road map that will help companies thrive in the online world’s environment of constant change.

We see a lot of work on attracting new advocates, but one thing that I am constantly asked about is how to work with detractors.

The most important thing in social is to address your detractors. Influencers are a combination of advocates and detractors but detractors are 4-8 times more likely to speak than an advocate (yeah, I made that stat up). Understand and disarm your detractors by talking to them.

But should all detractors be treated equally?

First up, we like to differentiate between 'branded' and 'unbranded' social noise makers. Waggener Edstrom define this very neatly... "Branded media has an associated value exchange with its name. Unbranded media has voice and influence, but the name does not (yet, perhaps) carry value by itself. Regardless of whether it’s branded or not, each voice carries weight and influence, from either the edge (unbranded) or the center (branded). And media can move between the two states: X, the gossip guy, started out as a nobody, while Z, who used to be influential, is rarely heard from anymore."

Then it's traditional (yes it still exists) PR methods that need to be implemented to actually make a difference.

Only the paranoid survive.

Monday, August 10, 2009

3 easy steps to extend your social media beyond Facebook & Twitter...

So you have a handle on Facebook and Twitter. You may even blog a little. Think you have it covered? Sorry – not even close. At NettResults we break social media sites out into three levels:

Tier 1: Register and engage
Business week's Business Exchange
YouTube (also Vimeo, Viddler, Revver & Yahoo video)

Tier 2: Set up branded profiles, use as warranted:
Google Groups
Windows Live Space
Yahoo Groups

Tier 3: Claim your name and monitor
New York Times (TimesPeople, NewsWeek)

The hard way: go to each site and do what you have to do.
The easy way: call a reputable PR agency such as NettResults and that agency set up and engage social media sites for you.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Three Steps for Positive Crisis Communication when dealing with Online Social Media

In March, The Home Depot found themselves in a crisis situation due to a picture taken in-store and posted on a blog site. The company had done nothing wrong, and a good-natured employee had done something they thought was customer focused, but it turned out to hurt the company.

Whether it could be a sting of customer complaints on Twitter, a clutch of employees blowing off steam on Facebook on a Friday afternoon, or someone posting company video on YouTube – organizations are increasingly finding themselves in a crisis due to the avalanche of online social media sites. And don’t even get me started on the Dominoes Pizza YouTube debacle.

The threat comes from two groups of people – the harmful insider and the pissed-off outsider.

So what, if anything, should a company do to protect itself in online social media?

1 – Be prepared. First and foremost, this means paying attention to the conversation in places such as YouTube & Twitter, and where possible social media sites such as Facebook. Have people who understand the capabilities and etiquette of the forums.

2 – Don’t overreact. Hyperbole’s the stock-in-trade online. Not every action deserves a company response.

3 – Get in the game. When it’s time to respond, use the medium where the offense took place. Provide value with new information, and be sincere.

This is just the beginning...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Middle East press releases and their use

The latest research about the media and PR in the Middle East by Media Source makes interesting reading.

The bad or good news – depending on your point of view - is that there are more press releases filling journalists’ inboxes than two years ago. The Arabic and English language media are more closely aligned than previously, particularly in the 0 – 20 and 21 – 40 categories but there is growth across the 41 + categories. This is not really surprising given the enormous growth we’ve seen in the number of new agencies in the region through 2007 and 2008.

Interesting reading for the PR industry – there may be more releases around but more of them are being used. Whereas ‘none’ or ‘less than 10 percent’ stood at 55 percent across all respondents in 2007, this figure has dropped by 11 points to stand at 44 percent. Use of releases has increased markedly among the Arabic language press with 41 percent of them claiming to use a quarter or more of all the releases they receive. Virtually every agency resists the tag ‘press release factory’ but should they, in fact, play up their skill in generating this humble communication tool?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Is Iran the birthplace of citizen reporting?

Whether you watch traditional media or get your news online, it is only thanks to citizen reporters that we knew what was going on during the June riots in Iran.

Ahmadenijad’s forces were doing all they could to shut down social media communication channels; Facebook and YouTube have both been blocked in Tehran. But Twitter was widely used to get the news and images out to the rest of the world (once the mobile network was working).

And for those that don’t follow Twitter, it didn’t really matter – television broadcasting will never be the same again. Fox News was the first one to set aside regular programming and only focus on the photographs and tweets coming into studios. For some hours, it was the only major network broadcasting bring the sights and sounds up people protesting on the streets of Tehran and other cities across Iran. It gave Fox an immediate competitive edge with an audience spike as Americans tuned in to keep up with the events.

Fox News chose to go global, while CNN and MSNBC stuck with their usual programming, broadcasting continuous coverage of the escalating political crisis and chaos in the streets with vivid photos and messages from protestors. Eventually, the other stations caught on and changed from the usual programming to focus on Iran events.

Twitter has broken through press censorship in Iran. It’s allowing reports from citizens that would have been suppressed to be exposed to a wide audience. Obviously we have to be cautious in how we react to the information. We must never take everything on face value and ensure that we aren’t being duped by someone manipulating anonymity. However, with the users claiming to be Iranian giving updates with consistent stories, we can perhaps assume that most of these people are offering legitimate and authentic views from Iran. On top of anecdotal stories we’re getting a stream of pictures and videos of scenes on the streets.

Twitter can be a powerful tool.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Too much talking?

An interesting phenomena is going on - and Time has just picked it up.

All the news is bad. News from the Economy is depressing, 'Britain's Got Talent' is accused with treating contestants badly, 'Jon & Kate, Plus 8' is imploding with cheating and child labor, Brown is being asked to resign, jets falling out of the sky, a man in CA got sentenced to death for starting a fire, Pakistan mosque bomb just killed dozens, China landslide just buried 60 people... I could go on.

At the same time - there is a never ending hunger for us all to get and share the news. In the past few weeks the amount of Tweeting has grown substantially.

As Time puts it - The weather reports keep announcing that the sky is falling, but here we are — millions of us — sitting around trying to invent new ways to talk to one another.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How to get great media coverage… don’t send a press release

Those learned soles in PR agencies have forever been touting the advantages to colleagues and clients of NOT sending press releases.

In their research, HubSpot estimated nearly 50,000 press releases are issued every month. Roughly one every 12 seconds. So on to the big question: is it worth it?

Do press releases generate publicity? That really depends on your definition of publicity. If publicity for you is any website that publishes your release, then releases are very effective. If on the other hand you consider mainstream news media to be your target, you’re probably not going to have much luck with press releases.

Do journalists read releases? According to the PRWeek/PR Newswire 2009 Media Survey, 38% of journalists look at opt-in press releases from commercial newswires when researching topics and writing stories, and 27% search the websites of commercial newswire services.

But are press releases the most effective way to generate publicity? The short answer is no. According to the 2009 Media Survey, 90% of journalists prefer email pitches over every other media. If email is the top way that journalists like to receive information, then a press release isn’t the best way to get their attention. True, a release could be excellent supplemental information to use in supplement to an email, but it should replace your pitch. A well-crafted and brief pitch letter sent via email can be far more effective at getting a journalist’s attention.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tweet - Tweet

So I’ve given in and am now fully embracing Twitter. I held off face book and hope that between blogging and tweeting my online social network can be fulfilled.

One reason that I embrace Twitter is that I love brevity. If it can’t be said in 140 characters then you shouldn’t Tweet it.

First choice I had to make was whether I was going to Twitter myself or NettResults. I chose NettResults and hope to make it relevant to business followers with a mix of whit and international marketing acumen. By all means let me know how I’m doing.

To follow NettResults on Twitter simply search for ‘NettResults’. Couldn’t be easier than that.

And if you haven’t looked into Twitter then I recommend you do so. Check out what it does, how it works and then get connected.

If you are looking at Twitter from a business point of view, then I highly recommend this article on Macworld - Nine Twitter tips for business.

Tweet tweet.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Multinational Issues in a Multimedia World

I'm getting ready for IPREX's global conference in NYC. This year's theme is "Multinational Issues in a Multimedia World." We'll be discussing social media at Google, the economic crisis at Bloomberg, and how global companies are handling the toughest PR issues at New York University. The main event is a panel discussion starring seven heads of communications for global companies.

What's the most important question we should ask them about PR today?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

It's all about relationships

People buy from people. Information flows better between trusting relationships. And we know we get better PR results when working with a trusted editor/journalist that we have a good relationship with.

The agency’s never ending question is how to build more and more relationships so everyone in your email address book is a ‘relationship’ and not just someone on a distribution list. For the past decade, our experience has been there are four things that can build a PR pro/media relationship:

Think ‘journalist’ – the best way to build any relationship is to understand the world from the other side’s point of view. Never is this truer than with the media. Don’t just call a press contact if you want something. Call then if you see or hear of something that might be of interest to them. Call them if you want to continue a conversation that they have reported on. Call them to congratulate on an excellent piece. None of these may be related to your own press needs, but opening up sincere, honest dialogue will get you better coverage in the future.

Think ‘their title’
– the single most common complaint that journalists make of PR pro’s is that they do not understand the title/show that the journalist works on. Before calling the media, it is imperative that the PR pro has read the title (or seen/listened to the show), understands it and identifies that their client has something relevant to the target group of that media. Without that you are not just wasting time, you’re damaging a long-term relationship.

Think ‘two-way’
– that’s a two-way conversation. Too often an agency pro will call up to pitch a client. That’s just like when you answer your home phone at 7pm and someone tries to sell you new windows. You want to get them off the phone ASAP because you are not looking for new windows – but you can’t get a word in. Agency pro’s need to stop the telesales routine, and instead of talking – try listening. The pitch might not be right for that journalist at that point, but something related my work, or that pitch might tie into something that is coming up in a forward feature.

Think ‘time line’
– journalists live by them. And theirs are written in stone. So your client wants to receive results on a certain deadline, but what drives that? If a monthly magazine goes to bed on the 20th of the month, is there really any point pitching a story in that week 13th – 20th? No. The space will already have been taken up. Similarly think of the time line for daily newspapers. Work to the media’s time line. If your client has something else in mind, then manage that client better.

Just think of the media from their point of view. That’s all it takes to build excellent agency/media relationships. And that’s what leads to excellent media results.