Mistakes Happen

January 27, 2012

by Dan Ward

There has already been plenty written about the erroneous early reports of Joe Paterno’s death, and how the media failed in reporting such major news without confirmation.  I’m not going to pile on.

Instead, I want to use it as an example of how to own up to a mistake, because at least a couple of people involved in this mess did so exceptionally well.

We’ve all made mistakes … a release that goes out with a typo, a poorly worded and poorly timed comment, misstated facts and figures.  It’s how we deal with those mistakes that set us apart. You can take the deny/deflect route, or you can take responsibility for your actions and ensure your organizations and clients that it won’t happen again.

In our Message Matrix® training sessions, we often use Lee Iacocca as an example, who upon learning that Chrysler managers had been illegally detaching odometers on “test” cars later sold as new, told the public “Did we screw up? You bet we did … I’m damn sorry it happened, and it will never happen again.” His direct and plain-spoken approach to apologizing for mistakes helped to avert a media crisis. Indeed, he was praised for his honesty.

Compare that to the comments from the managing editor of Onward State, the online Penn State student news site that first ran the erroneous reports of Paterno’s death. Devon Edwards’ letter of apology, which included his immediate resignation, includes several Iacocca-style comments. “Right now, we deserve all of the criticism headed our way.” “All I can do now is promise that in the future, we will exercise caution, restraint, and humility.” “I take full responsibility for the events that transpire.”

Compare also to the tweets from CBSSports.com journalist Adam Jacobi, who says he was fired by CBS for his role in publishing the Paterno death reports. “I’m sorry to everyone, most importantly the Paterno family, for how it ended.” “In the end, CBS had to let me go for the Paterno story going out the way it did, and I understand completely.”

Mistakes happen, and as Jacobi and Edwards have learned, they can have severe consequences. But my guess is that both will be judged not by the mistakes they made, but by the gracious manner in which they owned up to, and took responsibility for, those mistakes.

Time Travel

January 23, 2012

by Dan Ward

I know technology is advancing at the speed of light, but this takes things to an all-new level.

About 10 days ago, I ordered a remote control from AT&T UVerse (to replace one that was not working), and was told it would arrive by early last week.  I had heard nothing since and was about to call for an update when I received this shipping notice from UVerse:

Item Shipped: CYB S10-S1
Shipping Method: UPS
Shipped On: 01/23/2012
Expected Arrival Date: 01/18/2012
Tracking Number: XXXXXXXXXXX


Now that’s customer service.  AT&T UVerse sensed my displeasure in having to wait an extra week to replace my remote, and will now deliver the replacement five days before it was shipped.

I can’t wait to begin using it last week.

Rules for Startups—they’re more like “Guidelines”

January 23, 2012

by Kerry Martin

The PR world has been all abuzz about the recently published stance from serial-entrepreneur Mark Cuban that advises startups to “Never hire a PR firm.”  The commentary appeared on Entrepreneur.com as the “12 Rules for Startups” taken from his book, How to Win at the Sport of Business:  If I Can Do It, You Can Do It.

While my husband does take the time to educate me on all things NBA, I must admit that everything I know about Cuban comes from his five-episode stint on “Entourage.”  With a brazen personality and an aggressive take on business, he seemed like a guy who probably doesn’t owe his success to sheer dumb luck.  It’s easy to see why he would be considered an entrepreneurial guru, but I think anyone looking to him for advice should consider how Cuban’s experience and management style are different from their own.

There are only so many hours in a day, and for many startups, there are a number of decisions and projects that are put ahead of public relations activities.  Mark Cuban’s hands-on approach puts the onus of outreach/media relations on the small business owner, yet another aspect of the business they have to oversee.  Bringing in a public relations firm allows the owner to effectively delegate those responsibilities to a team of skilled professionals who have experience in the field to get results—while taking a load off the owner’s shoulders.

Another consideration is the marketing know-how of the entrepreneur.  For some innovators-turned-owners that don’t have a background in communications or public relations, Cuban’s advice won’t be as helpful.  They know how to make a top-of-the-line widget, but they don’t have the same self-promoter gene that has helped Cuban achieve such success.

In the end, I can see some truth to what he says.  There are some small business owners who are great at seeing opportunities for publicizing their business with many public relations strategies.  Maybe Cuban could have taken a less definite and brash approach to stating his No. 11 rule of “Never hire a PR firm” by phrasing it as “Don’t feel pressured to hire a PR firm.”

I would say that Cuban needs a little PR help himself with softening his rhetoric, but he’s actually doing a pretty good job of keeping up the cutthroat persona.  Maybe it worked to draw a big audience of PR professionals to ABC’s “Shark Tank” on Friday night.

The Gray Area of Social Media

January 20, 2012

by Julie Primrose

Two months after scolding its staffers for breaking a news story on Twitter before it reached the wire, The Associated Press has released an updated version of its social media guidelines.

While the clause that forbids AP employees from prematurely sharing news on social networks remains intact, there are some interesting takeaways from the revised guidelines, particularly those that concern journalists expressing their personal opinions online.

AP encourages all of its journalists to have social media accounts and recommends that they maintain one account per site, for both personal and professional use.  Employees are permitted to express their opinions on social media; however, they “must refrain from declaring their views on contentious public issues.”

They are allowed to comment on less controversial issues, such as sports and celebrities, which in my opinion, leaves a gray area a bit too vast.  All too often celebrities and athletes become the news, for better or worse (but usually for worse).

I commend the Associated Press for maintaining a comprehensive set of social media guidelines, but there are still many gray areas that remain.  I don’t know if social networking will ever be free of subjectivity, especially when the media is involved, but the fact that the AP not only maintains but also takes the time to update its social media guidebook is a great sign.

WESH Makes the Tweet Up Cool Again

January 20, 2012

by Kim Taylor

Tweet Ups are so 2009, right?  Wrong.  WESH Channel 2, Central Florida’s NBC station, managed to put a new spin on the gatherings that some may think are a thing of the past.

Officially dubbed #WeshMeetup, the invite-only event was hosted for a limited number of folks who are presumably social media-savvy and fans of the station.  Orchestrated by the social media brains behind WESH, Gabe Travers, the group was invited to meet at the WESH studios for a behind-the-scenes tour, info session and breakfast goodies provided by one of Orlando’s famed food trucks, Melissa’s Chicken & Waffles and locally owned Barnie’s Coffee.

News Director Bob Longo and Assistant News Director Kirsten Wolff were our consummate hosts as we managed to weave our way from the parking lot to the newsroom and finally into the studio where we enjoyed a first-hand (and Live!) view of the “WESH 2 News Sunrise” newscast with Jason Guy, Aixa Diaz, Amy Sweezey and Kimberly Williams.

Not only did we have the opportunity to mix and mingle with fellow Tweeters, we also participated in a Q&A session with reporter/anchor, Stewart Moore, while he was in the field reporting on a local news story.  We learned about many of the ways WESH is trying to engage viewers with products like U Local, and involving community members in the upcoming election by seeking those who wish to share their political insights and opinionsSyan Rhodes even took time out of her morning for a chat and pictures.

Hats off to the WESH 2 News Team for making the Tweet Up cool again!

Black Wednesday

January 18, 2012

by Heather Keroes

The Twitterverse is filled with question marks this morning.  Some are serious ponderings …

Others, not so serious …

The rush of tweeted questions featuring the tag #altwiki is the answer from several “traditional” media sources to Wednesday’s SOPA-protesting Wikipedia blackout.  The Washington Post, NPR and the Guardian have teamed up to offer (as Washington Post blogger David Beard puts it) “an experimental, one-day Band-Aid.”  While none of these news outlets have taken an official stance on the SOPA bill, they have several journalists and researchers on call to answer questions … questions that you may otherwise look up on Wikipedia.  Just tweet a question to #altwiki and you may get an answer.

I think it is a clever (and just a bit humorous) response to Wikipedia’s protest of SOPA.  As I mentioned, none of these news outlets have taken an official stance on the bill, but in any case, they’ve added themselves to the conversation and reminded some of us that information can come from the news too (there are still people out there, called journalists, who do research for a living).  And sometimes, you may find the answer you’re looking for, even if that answer is unexpected.  Here’s The Washington Post’s response to that ever-tricky woodchuck question:

Love boat anyone?

January 18, 2012

by Roger Pynn

So what’s showing up on every Web page telling the story of the tragic Costa Concordia cruise ship accident in Italy?  But, of course, cruise specials … “Vacation Cruise Specials” screams one; “Italy is only $US606 away” beckons another; and, “Alaska Cruises 75% off.”  Right below that is the headline:  “Divers suspend search of capsized Italy liner.”  Really?  And further down, “Book a 5 day cruise to the Caribbean for only $349.”

Is it just me?

Life Without Wiki (and Wales)

January 18, 2012

by Roger Pynn

No … this is not a political statement.  Frankly, I’m not sure I have spent enough time on the issue to understand the uproar about SOPA and PIPA (a pair of bills that Internet leaders say would censor the Web and result in over-regulation).

This is about a day when Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales decided to go black, people may find that with a little careful digging there are many more meaningful resources than his user-generated encyclopedia … a source I often lazily quote, but also often find vague.  As a former journalist, I know that simply citing countless references isn’t enough to justify a conclusion.  You need to follow paths that often take you down winding roads, but sometimes bring you to a gem.

I don’t find that on Wikipedia.

Mr. Wales is an interesting personality.  A serial entrepreneur he’s no doubt brilliant.  He also has a history of taking his toys and going home when he doesn’t get what he wants.  Cutting you off from his nonprofit encyclopedia for a day as a means of protesting legislation he fears will hurt his business ventures is an example.

Messaging from the Grave?

January 18, 2012

by Kim Taylor

Much has been said about how to manage your social media presence if you were to unexpectedly meet your demise.  But, this Facebook app takes it to the next level.

If I Die,” the “digital afterlife application” (fancy description, eh?), allows users to install the app on Facebook and either pre-record a video or write a text message to be shared with friends should that fateful day arrive.

Some might find the very thought of this morbid, but in today’s digital age, how different is it than making funeral arrangements to relieve family of the burden?

What do you think?  Would you do it?

Coffee Shop Journalism

January 13, 2012

by Dan Ward

Peter Funt’s column in The Wall Street Journal should be a wake-up call to media companies about the pitfalls of coffee shop journalism.

Funt points out that encouraging oxymoronic “citizen journalists” by giving them equal space in newspapers and broadcast outlets is equivalent to a professional baseball team putting a “citizen shortstop” in the game.  Would that team still be competitive, and how long would fans continue to pay for the privilege of watching them play?

Even worse, Funt says that some papers are closing regional bureaus and sending professional reporters to “camp in coffee shops to get a sense of what the caffeine-conscious citizenry thinks is newsworthy.”

Instead of putting professionals in coffee shops and giving bylines to amateurs, perhaps the media should instead invest in professionals and give them all the coffee they need to stay alert to actual news … you know, the product customers pay for.

As Funt says, “news organizations can use all the citizens they can get – in the bleachers, not on the field of play.”

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