Last week Path, a social network that describes itself as a smart journal, found itself in quite a predicament after it was discovered that the company was uploading users’ iPhone address books to its servers without giving notice. With consumer privacy on the top of everyone’s minds these days, this discovery didn’t bode well for the company. Users were angry and reporters and bloggers were taking notice.
Within 24 hours after the first story hit the Internet, Path had issued a very honest and sincere apology, fixed the problem by implementing an opt-in button that gives users the decision to share or not share their personal data and deleted the entire collection of data from their servers. In our opinion, the company’s CEO and Founder Dave Morin, handled the situation with grace, honesty, transparency and most importantly addressed the issue at hand in a timely and effective manner.
For every company or personality that handles a crisis correctly, such as Path, there are a hundred that completely botch it. We thought this provided an excellent opportunity to discuss what to do and what not to do in a crisis situation – especially when sensitive data is involved.
- Be Transparent: We can’t reiterate enough how important this is, especially with a consumer facing company. Users want to know what’s happening and they want to know why it happened. Covering it up only makes it worse when the truth comes out. Path took to their blog to admit that they had made a mistake, explain in detail what happened and how they were addressing the issue. The company respected its consumers enough to speak openly about the privacy issues and very frankly discuss what went wrong. Because of Path’s honesty, consumers felt reassured that their privacy was being respected and that they were being heard.
- Be Sincere: Just as you can tell when your friend isn’t really sorry for taking the last piece of pizza, people can tell when a company or personality isn’t actually sorry for its actions. It’s not just about getting an apology out or addressing the situation, it’s about being real with your users. Sending out an insincere message is only going to hurt your brand. You need to ensure that you mean what you say. For example Path didn’t simply say they were sorry, they created a solution, opened the company up to their consumers, and encouraged users to contact them with questions. The company also didn’t just address what would happen for consumers moving forward, but recognized that the users they already had were just as important and deleted the information they had illegally taken from them.
- Be Active and Timely: It’s not just about transparency and sincerity. As cliché as it may be, actions will always speak louder than words and timely actions will always be heard the best. The public needs to know that you’re on top of change. In Path’s situation a permanent quick fix was feasible. However, we understand that sometimes a company isn’t capable of turning around the right answer in such a short time period. That’s where transparency and action come together. You need to take the little bit of action that is possible. Maybe it only fixes a fifth of the problem, but letting consumers know that you’re actually doing everything you can is going to go along way.
- Sync Your Messages: Last but not least, make sure that what you’re communicating to your employees is both in line, and timed, with your external PR strategy. If you are conducting layoffs or have an unfortunate situation like Path’s, it’s best to be upfront and transparent with them just as you would your external constituents. This approach, in the age of social media, can keep employees from sharing the unpleasant news on Twitter feeds and making your external consequences worse. No one wants to have one story, let alone two surrounding a crisis. So try to let employees know what is going on at the same time, or just before you alert the media. Timing is very tricky but, when done correctly, can be the only thing on your side in times of crisis.
Of course, some crisis situations aren’t as cut and dry as saying something is wrong and there is a way to fix it. BP, NIKE and Tiger Woods can all attest to this. But, the principles above still apply. Be transparent and sincere in your interactions with your target audience and take action in a timely matter, whether it’s an actual fix or in making a statement.
While we hope that your company will never find itself in a situation like this, keep these tips in mind and you’ll be one step closer to turning wrongs into rights.
Last week, YouTube announced that the website now streams 4 billion online videos every day, and has nearly 60 hours of video uploaded per minute. That’s a lot of streaming and uploading.
After we recovered from the shock of this news, we realized this was the perfect time to look at what makes a good video. What are people watching and why? How do you get 4 billion or even just 400 eyes on your video?
From a PR perspective, it’s not just about being funny, outlandish or controversial; you have to deliver interesting content that your target audience is going to find stimulating enough to pass along. Keeping true to your brand and your mission is going to help you meet the right people on YouTube and other video sites.
With that in mind, here are a few tips for going viral:
- Timing: Do unto others as you want done unto you. While many will urge you not to make a video more than 60-90 seconds (and we generally agree with that), there is value in longer videos–with the right content and the right format. So, instead of a steadfast rule of numbers, ask yourself “Would I watch more than a minute of my video?” If you and four other people can truly answer “yes,” then spread your wings. If you can’t, keep it short and sweet.
- Objectives: Decide on your audience before setting sail. Determine what you want from each video. You may want to illustrate thought leadership when you’re targeting reporters or specific businesses, or maybe you’re trying to target potential new employees. Each of these scenarios is going to require a different format and unique content. Identifying your audience for each video in advance will set you up for success.
- Presentation: There are a few ways to present your video. You wouldn’t go to the beach in a suit and tie, and you wouldn’t walk into the boardroom in a bathing suit. “Down and dirty” might be great for showcasing your office environment. Polished and produced may be a better fit for a video in which you’re providing top tips to existing or potential clients. You have to determine your style in relation to your audience.
- Cross-Pollinate: You can make the most intelligent, creative, engaging video, but that will all go to waste unless you make sure people know about it. YouTube is a great network, but most people watch videos that other people have shared with them. Post your video on YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, send out an email or even create a monthly newsletter. Your video will only gain traction if you start spreading it.
YouTube and video continue to grow as mediums of content distribution and it’s important that businesses and companies understand how to reach their audiences–no matter who they are.
For more insight on how to use YouTube for business, check out this Business Insider post and this GigaOm post from 2009. Although it is three years old, this post is still one of the best sources of information on how companies can most effectively use YouTube.
Just in case you haven’t noticed, everything is becoming more and more visual. If you read outlets like USA Today or Forbes, you’ll see more videos, more image slideshows and more pictures in general. The average person spends less than a minute, and often only 10-20 seconds on a webpage, so it’s important that information comes across in a clear concise way, and can be understood in less time that it takes to refresh your Twitter feed.
The world of PR is no different. Finding ways to convey thought leadership, data and messaging in a colorful, impactful way is more than important, it’s vital. Presentation is one way to ensure your work stands out from everyone else’s vying for the same reporters and limited media real estate. One tool that we’ve seen work time and time again is the recently popular infographic.
Infographics can take something that on the surface appears opaque and turn it into a vibrant piece of work, transforming already dynamic information into a viral sensation when done right. The question then becomes how do you do it right?
Creating an infographic may seem daunting at first. Your graphic team is already over worked, or maybe you don’t have one. And paying a freelancer is out of your budget. But once you have the “info” portion figured out, there are a variety of tools available to help with the “graphic” part.
Here’s a list of four infographic tools that won’t break the bank and will help you get the coverage your data deserves:
- Creatly is a an easy to use online diagramming tool that provides one click styling, pretty shapes, and curvy connectors that draw as you type the data in. Creatly has an easy to use interface that will leave you stress-free and on your way to a great infographic. Most importantly, Creatly can be used for free and starts at just $5 a month for one of their premium packages.
- StatPlanet is a great program that has a myriad of user-friendly features that allows you to make interactive maps, animated graphs, and customizable visual experiences. StatPlanet comes in three versions, regular for the average user, Plus for the user who needs a broader range of feature and Lite for the person who wants to get it done quick and willing to pass on a few choices. All three versions are downloadable for free on StatPlanet’s website.
- Tableau is a service that lets anyone publish interactive data. All you have to do is download the program to your desktop and get started. No programming skills are needed at all, and the company offers a plethora of visual content that you can use with your data. Tableau offers a public version that is completely free and includes 50 megabytes of free storage on the Tableau server, so you don’t have to save the large files to your computer.
- Wordle is a tool for words, not data. But it provides a great visual representation of almost anything. It’s fast, simple and free. All you do is type in the words you want to their website, and poof, an amazing word cloud is created. You can also provide whole webpages or blogs and the tool will take the most prominent words from that site.
All of the services mentioned above, except Wordle, also come with their own data that you’re able to utilize.