I Just Work Here: Reputation Management When You Don’t Control the Experience 0

brand-reputationNot unexpectedly, Apple Pay continues to fail to live up to its hype. In the Walgreen’s today, I was waving my phone over the terminal expecting something to happen. The clerk was waiting for me to pay. After a few more futile swipes and taps, she said, “Oh, that doesn’t work. You need to swipe.”
I mumbled, “it never seems to work for me.”
She replied, “I just work here.”

And that is the problem. No one seems to know how to make my iPhone connect to the cash register. I’m sure someone in Cupertino does, but the folks behind the counter at the Walgreen’s have no idea. They are not in the business of troubleshooting the payment terminal. They just want to collect what is due to them. And they certainly don’t care how this reflects on Apple Inc.

Businesses and companies make promises and anytime they fail to keep a promise they take a reputation hit. People only trust you when you keep your promises. Many new Apple Watch users are bound to find they can’t make payments because of broken or wonky terminals. They are not going to be favorable to the experience despite their past loyalty. Eventually, this will affect Apple Inc.’s reputation.

So, how do you maintain your reputation when you don’t control the customer experience?

The short answer: You can’t.

Why? Because reputation is something attributed by others to your brand or work.

Just as people believe in a politician and give them power to lead, people award a sterling reputation to a brand they believe in. Or they turn on you and slice you up when you fail to deliver.

Reputation is earned and requires constant feeding. You can maintain a reputation and you can grow one. But in the end, you are at the mercy of those who look through their powerful lenses and attribute a reputation on you.

If you don’t control your reputation is there anything to do other than sit and stew?

  • Tell the Truth — A sterling reputation begins with telling the truth and admitting when things are imperfect. Inaction in the face of a problem immediately tarnishes a reputation. Admitting there is a problem shows sensitivity. When a customer suffers through a poor experience, the loss of satisfaction and brand loyalty is a substantial hit. Ignoring the problem, or announcing everything is perfect, further erodes your reputation.
  • Listen — Opinion research tells you what is going on. Despite the corporate rosiness about Apple Pay, the company is aware of problems. Listen beyond your sphere of immediate influence. Go beyond the obvious fandoms. Get into the trenches and see if you have a reputation problem. A small chink in the armour might turn into a stress fracture. You want to learn how your customers are feeling.
  • Remain Calm — Because your reputation is a reflection of your character and culture, you must earn it. Do good things, respond to problems, and honestly look for ways to improve. Pounce on errors and correct them. Ensure your entire company reflects and acts according to your best practices. When your business is under attack, take a deep breathe and avoid panic. Be reasonable and never angry. If you have a good story to tell, and you are doing all you can to show your character, in the end, it will turn out for the best.

Protecting a reputation when you have little control over the experience is fairly typical. Because you earn a reputation, you can only control how you behave. Those in the know recognize I have relied heavily on Arthur W. Page for this advice. He said, “All business in a democratic country begins with public permission and exists by public approval.”

Protecting a positive reputation is only achieved if you earn it.

Google Favors Source Newsrooms Over Syndication 0

five-web-content-tips-for-the-perfect-brewIn September 2014, Google started giving press releases new life after nearly killing them entirely as a SEO tool with the Panda 4.0 update. As a refresher, Panda took away authority for stacking a press release with keywords and required authors to create better, more relevant, content. My feeling always has been content will trump any keyword tricks, so in many ways this was a plus. However, Panda did relegate press releases to the dust bin.

Now, the search engine is giving priority to press releases again, which has been reported on by Reuters and others. The key take-away: Google will reward relevant content even if it comes from a press release.

“The goal of search is to get users the right answer at any one time as quickly as possible — that may mean returning an article from an established publisher or from a smaller niche publisher or indeed it might be a press release,” [a] Google spokeswoman said.

Now, a new revelation has come forward through Mickie Kennedy. Google only rewards a high placement of a press release when the link comes from an online newsroom on the source’s website. The “in the news” section of Google’s results page is a top level placement and will only contain links from a primary source. Press releases added by blogs, curators, or social syndication will be buried in the secondary search pages.

This means link building will drop a step below building quality content and sharing relevant information. Again, the press release must come from your own website to achieve top-level status in the news section of the Google search results.

Setting the mechanics aside, this is great news for anyone communicating a source story. We can select the tone, talk to our audience, and provide the information we choose to share. If it makes the top-level of the search results, then we have done our job to provide relevant and helpful information. It also means the press release writer just found another reason to stop packing up her desk; writers are still needed by organizations wishing to shine.

Google also offers tips on publishing content to the Google News site, which might be worthwhile to visit and review. For instance, sites offering opinion, industry news, and other relevant content might find they want to be a Google News Publisher.



Riff: A Tactical Tool for Creating Event Awareness 0

The Riff video app from Facebook allows users to create a 20-second video that can then be shared with friends. These friends can add another video clip, and another, in a chain to create a longer video. Sort of like linking up train cars or editing linear video on a U-Matic deck (I age myself and digress). The potential is there to create a collaborative video that will be seen by many, many people.

riffWith this in mind, consider the idea of using Riff to build brand awareness for an upcoming event. The key to using this tool is to build the first video in advance, then promote the use of Riff at the event. Because the app works interactively with Facebook (it owns the app), Riff requires Facebook friends in order to work properly.

So here is how to use Riff to build brand awareness during a public event:

  • Prepare advance publicity announcing your event and the opportunity to participate in a collaborative video creation event.
  • Organize friends to attend your event and be able to use the Riff App
  • Create your own 20-second video; choose a category (create your own!) and a name for your video
  • Share the video with your pre-arranged video collaborators on your Facebook Profile feed
  • Edit your post and add a description of the event and instructions on how to participate
  • Announce incentives or rewards for participating
  • Encourage friends to share the video link in their feed
  • Add clips to your own Riff; it is a video in progress and can be added to by the original creator as well as other collaborators
  • Watch as your Riff becomes a collaborative video of your event

In some ways this only works in a controlled environment, such as your event, and if people agree to collaborate. The video also can be highjacked. Riffs can be added onto by anyone who is a friend of a collaborator. This means, there may be some video additions way off topic. Luckily, the original video creator can edit out clips and the creator of the new clip can also delete their clip. Viewers can flag offensive video clips too. So while the video is a work in progress, it might stray from your intended project. If it gets too messy, the original Riffer can just delete the whole project.

The lack of control can be a bit scary for anyone attempting to protect a brand image because you have no control over who can add to your video. However, for a small event, with a large number of Facebook friends, this might be the sort of tool to build awareness for a project in a fun way and reach a wider audience. The best fix would be for Facebook to allow Riffs to be created and collaborated by brand awareness groups created especially for the video project.

As a social sharing and brand awareness tool, Riff has potential. For a non-profit group attempting to reach more people, this might be the perfect tool for generating buzz and awareness.

I also see it as a powerful crowd-source journalism tool giving people with a mobile camera the ability to document events from multiple angles. The idea of a connected community providing immediate views from anywhere in the town square is a powerful one. Riff is yet another interesting video tool that may or may not change the way we document our shared lives.

The Impending Doom 0

Earthquake(1).jpgI can think of no better example of how a crisis can build to epic strength than the 1977 movie Earthquake. From the moment the dam starts leaking the audience can see that this is going to be one nasty accident.

And it just keeps getting better with the construction shortcuts and the system breakdowns that lead to the total destruction of Los Angeles.

Crisis events can be prevented if the organization checks the systems from time-to-time. And the job of the communicator is to ensure they have tools at the ready before the strategy hits.

This is incredibly important for those times when nothing is wrong; all of the systems are working. But then an event happens across town. An accusation is made, or a question is formed about your organization. Before you know it you are pulled kicking and screaming into a crisis event.

This happened recently in my organization. An individual made a statement questioning our reputation. It was a simple statement. It had an extensive ripple.

Our systems of monitoring media, keeping up with social channels, and preparing in advance for our reaction served us well. It also helped to have an advisory role and open door access to the chief executive officer. An instinct for drafting acceptable language and, then of course, the ability to get ahead of the story certainly helped. All of the things we preach in communication were in place.

Evaluate your systems before the crisis to ensure you are ready. Then the crisis is less of an event and more of just another challenge to face in your career.

Live Video Tweeting 0

My friends Deborah and Kim at Creative Vision Las Vegas recently purchased a selfie stick. I immediately thought “Ugh.” Its fun and all, but what value could it bring to public relations? It turns out quite a bit.

1528535_943035362382473_2311345543470668694_nFirst off, the idea of taking pictures of yourself still seems a bit ego maniacal to me. I still haven’t exactly gotten used to the idea of taking pictures for the sake of self-aggrandizement. Call me a slow adopter of pic-worthy publicity.

What I have discovered is they use the tool most effectively for taking pictures of clients at events and including themselves to promote the event. Sure, it still seems a bit self-promotional, but it is what all the cool kids are doing and it has value.

Now, comes a whole other reason to purchase a selfie-stick: Meerkat and Periscope. These two tools allow you to live stream to Twitter. Oh, the possibilities!

As a former journalist, this is on the cusp of being a complete paradigm shift in live reporting. And it has public relations value. Communicators should join the bandwagon just as we did to promote Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram because these tools work to engage audiences.

meerkatImaging using Meerkat to live stream a client event, produce a live webinar, take folks behind the scenes into your secret lair, or set up a satellite-type tour with your CEO? The immediacy of the event and the ability to make it live turns your cellphone into a powerful tool.

There are two tools currently vying for everyone’s attention with Meerkat the outsider and Periscope the Twitter-authorized service. So we will see who gets the most followers and who succeeds in the long run.

As for me, I’m running out to buy a selfie stick with a tripod attachment to allow me to start using my cellphone as a video camera. Sure, I could continue holding it and waving the phone around, but I am too much of a broadcasting professional. I do not want my Meerkat streams to induce motion sickness.

The whole notion of bringing immediacy to an event makes taking a closer look at these tools. I’ll let you know if I think of any other uses.