Going Viral for all the Wrong Reasons

Every time someone reads, clicks or shares a link or piece of content that we have created, it sends a small dose of dopamine into our brain. This release provides us with a sense or reward, pleasure – and encouragement. It’s why (for the marketer) digital marketing or social media can be addictive. It is also why those who don’t use social media fail to understand the way that participation can become contagious – or how content can go “viral”.

Unfortunately, the concept of “virality” has positive and negative connotations. And while the highs that come with a viral “hit” can be dwarfed by the lows that come with a viral “miss”. Where once we held that there was no such thing as bad PR, we now know that there IS such a thing as bad social media – and there are very real impacts on our reputation (personal and corporate) and even downsides for our corporation’s share price.

For those who have one eye on the audience and another on your corporate reputation, Sprinklr’s recent whitepaper on crisis management will be a must-read. Covering the five essentials for crisis preparation, it includes a handy score card to help you assess when a crisis is likely to move from medium to critical, and even includes a sample flowchart which you can adapt to your own organisation.

The whitepaper by Rick Reed (Intel), Melissa Agnes (Agnes + Day) and Sprinklr’s Ali Ardalan and Uyen Nguyen is a handy document to model your own crisis plan on. And it might just be your saviour should you find yourself “going viral” for all the wrong reasons. Download your copy here (registration required).

Pungent Granularity – Penn and Teller take on the Anti-Vaccination Conversation

Social media has a powerful ability to stimulate and create conversation. But when you are planning your communications, it’s essential to know your audience. And these days, “knowing” your audience isn’t just about mapping, analysing and researching. It’s about understanding their “pungent granularity”.

Pungent granularity and the social audience

To survive in a world where consumers expect one-to-one marketing and real time business responsiveness, we need to move beyond the simple targeting of our consumers. This means responding to:

  • The three forces of self-segmentation: Before we take an action, make a decision or puts our hand into our pocket to actually transact, we make a quick personal assessment. We self-segment according to our needs (does this “thing” solve a need state that I have), behaviours (does this “thing” reinforce, challenge or shift my behaviour) and attitudes (how does this “thing” make me feel?). Marketers must understand the nuances of this self-segmentation and bring this understanding to their efforts
  • What we already know about our consumers: Whether we capture “big data” or just quickly trawl the social web, we can quickly amass a detailed knowledge of our consumers. The challenge with this becomes not one of data collection but of frameworks for making decisions and taking actions. This is where I quite love Sam Gosling’s OCEAN framework. Moving away from the MBTI mappings, he suggests that Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism can be easily assessed via our digital footprints. And in doing so, we can plan our communications accordingly

When we pull together all this information, we get a deep sense of our consumers. We know not just what they say they “like” but how this influences their actions and decisions. We understand their connections, social graph and the way that they operate in a digitally-connected world. And deeply buried amongst all this is the “trigger” – what motivates.

The “trigger” is the kicker

Take a look at this fantastic video featuring “illusionists and entertainers”, Penn and Teller. It’s on the subject of vaccinations. It’s forceful and NSFW (with a few F-bombs scattered throughout). The language is direct, the message clear and in your face.

But will it achieve what it is intended to do?

Unfortunately, I don’t believe it will. The motivation here – not of the creator – but of the viewer is triggered by the same level of frustration shown by Penn. Those who are pro-vaccination will be keen to share and validate their own position. Those who are anti-vaccination will reject the facts, figures and approach outright. The frame is out of focus for the second group – and the argument will be based on the framing of the data as a way of disputing what is “true”.

This is why wheeling out big data will also be challenging. While the Mayo Clinic clearly states:

“Vaccines do not cause autism. Despite much controversy on the topic, researchers haven’t found a connection between autism and childhood vaccines. In fact, the original study that ignited the debate years ago has been retracted.” Mayo Clinic – Childhood Vaccines: Tough questions, straight answers (here)

… many still view this sceptically.

But if there really is a desire to change the point of view (or point of belief), behaviours and attitudes of anti-vaccination folks, there is a need to more deeply understand them.

Hungry? [Explored] Riccardo Cuppini via Compfight

This Holiday Season, Get Your Social Media House in Order

It’s been a long year, and I know you are tired. Worn out. Ready for a break.

But how READY are you? Because when it comes to social media, you need to be business READY, and by that I mean:

Responsive Don’t bury your head in the sand. An issue can turn into a crisis very quickly. Make sure you have protocols and people that allow you to respond to issues as they arise. Even over the holidays.
Engaged It’s hard to hose down a crisis if you’ve never engaged with your audiences via social media. There’s an old saying, “dig your hole before you need the water” – and the same applies to social media. Be sure to engage with people before you need to. And if a crisis eventuates, be sure to remain engaged with the topic, the participants and your stakeholders.
Active In a crisis, remain active. Initiate communications. Actively monitor inbound and outbound channels. Check the facts and correct inconsistencies. Become the authority.
Direct When things are going pear-shaped, it’s tempting to “gild the lily” – to put some positive spin on events. Resist that urge. Be direct in your communications and engage with the issues that you need to, but don’t feed the trolls.
Y-front prepared There can be no doubt that a social media crisis is embarrassing for your brand. Are you ready to be caught out in the spotlight? What do you do when your dirty laundry is aired? Be prepared to talk dirty laundry.

And if you need a more detailed guide to managing a social media crisis, take a look through Simon Kemp’s excellent guide. It may be the best present you’ll get all year.

Social Media: How to Listen

Businesses are often advised that the first step in any social media program is to LISTEN. But who do you listen to? What do you listen for? And how do you do it? This infographic steps you through the process I follow. It should get you started. You can download this PDF from Slideshare, or get a copy of the image here.

Social Media Channel Matrix

Many years ago I created a communications channel matrix. It acted as a ready-reference guide that allowed me to map out messages first and then choose the channel and the medium that was most appropriate. I have used it ever since.

I even had a version that I used for social media. But then the folks over at CMO.com produced a version for social media marketers – the CMO’s guide to the Social Media Landscape. They have recently updated the guide for 2011. Interestingly it still includes Digg which I find next to useless – and have replaced Delicious with Tumblr. But – as with any form of communications – you need to know where your audience is use the media appropriately. Use this as a start, and overlay your own audience metrics and mapping to make this as customised as it needs to be.


What Marketing Students Need To Know – in 140 Characters

One of the powerful aspects of Twitter is that, with the right connections, it creates a powerful, live, expert network. Within hours you can reach well outside the walls of your own business to tap into the experience and insight of others who may well have the knowledge you need to solve a current business problem.

Darryl Ohrt explains that a friend was preparing for a class on PR and decided to tap the collective wisdom of his Twitter network.Brad Ward went ahead and asked the question:

HEY!!!! If you had 133 characters to tell a class of PR college students something, what would it be? Tag it #jr342. Thanks!! And retweet.

The replies that came back apply not just to students of PR (let’s face it, that is all of us), but can be readily applied to any form of marketing.

I like Douglas Karr’s take on reputation and focus on outcomes.


  And I think Allie Osmar’s focus on continuous learning is also important. 


But perhaps the most insightful response was this from Jason Kintzler who acknowledged the changing focus and shape of our industry and the growing influence of non-traditional media. 


Take a look at the full range of responses here.

Free Marketing Strategy eBook

Earlier this week I received a LinkedIn question from Jay Ehret, wondering whether I knew of any good, free eBooks on marketing. Unfortunately, most of the eBooks that I knew of were not free. But then, yesterday, Andrea Vascellari, sent a message on Twitter advising on the availability of a free marketing strategy eBook.

From a quick scan, "Strategic Communications Planning" by Dave Fleet is a great introduction to the steps required to develop a corporate communications plan. It covers context, audience, messaging, tactics, budget and even evaluation. For those wanting to go into further detail on the planning process, I would advise you to join the Plannersphere and begin reading the blogs of various members. AND don’t forget to visit the Staufenberger Repository to download this valuable (and rare) PDF of Stephen King’s Planning Guide.

But remember, while this material is available free of charge, putting the recommendations and suggestions in place in either a client or in-house setting is a challenge. The ideas are out there, but the devil is in the execution, in how you actually turn these ideas into frameworks, notes, analysis documents and creative briefs — and that is where professional planners can add real value. Good luck!

Read this document on Scribd: Strategic Communications Planning

Creating Key Themes and Messages

My brother is starting out in business for himself, and as we have begun talking through what he needs to do to begin marketing himself, I realised that there is much that I know that I have not shared with him. For example, he doesn’t know much about my work and the way that I go about my business … he reads my blog but confesses that he understands very little … and even when I try to explain concepts I can see him nodding while glazing over.

I have been fortunate enough in my various careers to have been given opportunities that have expanded my knowledge and skills. Often I have taken an approach from one discipline (say organisational design) and applied it to another with great success (say branding). And always, I have tried to break down processes so that the clear next step can be discerned.

So when I read Russell Davies’ recent call for propositions on maple syrup for his Account Planning School of the Web, I was reminded of how easy it is to forget the basics. And after coming up with a proposition or two … where do you go? For me … I go to key themes and messages. From there I go to in-depth audience analysis and segmentation. And then to a fuller campaign or comms plan. I also have a rather groovy individual initiative plan that helps plan each piece of communication in a modular way … but woah — I am getting way ahead of myself.

In order to help my brother out, I decided to put together a little template that tries to explain how to build your key themes and messages. It is only a template … so you still have to do the hard creative work yourself — but it is a structure that you can work with. It is free for you all to take and use as you see fit — and if you have additions or things that I have missed, please let me know.

Oh yeah … and if you find this useful let me know and I will do up some others that help make sense of the way that we communicate.