Let me tell you about Horrible PR, “twitter stupid” and the latest headache for both the University of Maryland and Delta Gamma. “For those of you that have your heads stuck under rocks,” both are dealing with a viral email crisis (think: WWE meets Clueless meets Mean Girls) after a sorority leader penned a potty mouthed email to all chapter members chastising them for being “f****** boring and awkward” and (horrors!) misrepresenting the sorority (“HORRIBLE, I repeat, HORRIBLE PR!”) at critical social events with their fraternity match up. The nastygram went completely viral within the last 24 hours, popping up everywhere from Gawker to the Huffington Post and traditional news outlets. The author was termed “twitter stupid” once her handle was publicized (then the account cancelled) for representing the very worst of online communications with dim, racist, crass commentary on her daily interactions.
There is a growing generation gap among social media users (and abusers, perhaps, in this case). As my colleague discussed yesterday, there are fundamental rules of engagement for virtual relationships in social media that many established professionals can learn from. And, likewise, there are some pretty basic rules from the “real life” camp worth refreshing as we lean on technology for our primary communications.
Think of who you represent.
No, I’m not just talking about your sisters. As a professional, employee, student, family member, or athlete, you have a built-in audience of people watching and listening. Sure, they’re hanging on your every word, but not necessarily for the reason you think. Be mindful of your future and theirs. As it’s been said, a bad tweet is no different than a bad spring break tattoo – forever and eventually ugly. Taking something back is far more difficult than biting your tongue.
Be social but know when to be traditional.
The message, “stop embarrassing the rest of us in public” could have been delivered as effectively in person verbally without a name-tarnishing, internship-stomping paper/hyperlink trail, though I will concede that the author’s penchant for expletives perhaps rendered the message more effective for her particular audience.
Timing is everything.
Before hitting “send” consider the implications and the potential aftermath of your message and your chosen form of delivery. Sleep on it if you can. Or at the very least share it with someone else (preferably not while under the influence of sorority anxiety disorder, seething anger, alcohol or stress) to get a second read.
If this message is your end-all crusade for your employees, colleagues, clients or sorority sisters, put your name on it and be prepared to defend it. Hoping for anonymity in a virtual world where histories are documented on everything from Facebook to Zabasearch to page visits and old family photos on someone else’s page, is naïve and cowardly. Be prepared to face the music when you take private conversations so very public.
There is something sacred (and safe) about leaving some things unsaid or unseen. Even more, content posted online is subject to the legal and law enforcement processes.
Finally, as mom always said, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all – or email it, tweet it, text it or leave it lying around in a public forum with your name or Twitter handle attached to it.
When was the last time your team talked about “impressions” outside of the context of analytics?
For PR pros, impressions are at the foundation of what we do… that is, public relations. We help individuals, organizations and businesses communicate at every level and through just about any medium, in hopes that what they say makes a meaningful – ideally positive – impression. It’s tough to be meaningful with egg on your face. Or with a typo in your recipient’s name. Or when you’ve hopped on a conference call ready to negotiate with another party only to discover that it truly is a small world and you’re on the phone with that person whose bridge you’ve burned in a prior life (pre-yoga).
Thanks to social media, most of us are “friends” or LinkedIn with colleagues and contacts online that we’ve never actually met face-to-face, who may not have the benefit of knowing our likeable quirks through water cooler chit-chat. Studies show that those of us on our computers daily have social networks of around 700 people, never-mind potentially thousands of professional contacts.¹ That’s a lot of competition for attention! Making meaningful personal impressions in a deceivingly personal online world is more critical and advantageous than ever. Here’s a quick refresher for all of us (myself included) on making impressions that count in our daily work.
5 tips for making meaningful PR Impressions:
1. Make A Sandwich
Honesty is good. Brutal honesty? Not so much. Even the most constructive feedback on a decision, program or project will fall on deaf and likely fuming ears if delivered in a harsh or rushed way. That extra time and thought put into how you deliver your feedback often results in a much more receptive response. Try a “PR sandwich.” Offer genuine feedback of what worked or what you agree with, then provide constructive comments on what will get this project to the next level, then top it off with a mutual agreement of timing, note of appreciation, etc. But if you can’t be genuine, don’t. Just be polite.
2. Know your audience
Basic, but bears repeating: be thoughtful in your correspondence. Show your client, media contact, colleague, vendor and industry that you understand what they do and how they do it. Your background knowledge will add substance to your work and lead to more meaningful conversations.
3. If you don’t have time to send a thoughtful response, DON’T. SEND. ONE.
Split-second typing is dangerous. If you don’t end up with a typo or a mortifying auto-correct selection, you end up cc’ing your spouse, mortgage broker or worse. That is, if you auto-select the right person in the first place. Even with the best of intentions, rushed responses to a client, colleague or member of the media will likely – if not always – do more harm than good. Being responsive is great, but not at the risk of quality or tone. Why waste an opportunity to engage meaningfully in your very best light?
4. Less is More
Do you know that it takes 64 seconds for our brains to recover from reading one email?² Ouch. Avoid strings of emails that could have been addressed with a concentrated initial approach. Provide context in your writing to avoid easily anticipated questions. Your recipient (and their brain) will thank you.
One of the easiest ways to make a memorable impression professionally is to connect. Ask questions that show your care and interest. Use someone’s name and their professional title when appropriate to show respect. Take the time and make the room for friendly conversation.
“Public” = “People”
At the end of the day, our profession is about helping people. Let’s keep that in mind when we are tempted to tally “impressions.”
(Yes, I am Mom Enough to Say It.)
Everyone is talking about food these days. If it’s not pink slime, bug juice, mechanically separated something or high fructose corn syrup, it’s flax seed, juice diets, kale, greek yogurt, and panko crumbs. In the last day or so, a group is pushing for the White House to ban photos of the President enjoying apparently taboo foods. (more…)
A few souvenirs from the Sonoma experience:
In the midst of a glorious early morning wine tasting at Hanzell Vineyards, the clouds began to part, the view from the hill was a majestic and piercing shade of lime, and all was good with life. Especially the wine. (more…)
What do fine wines, James Bond, Wikipedia, venture capitalists, control freaks and online privacy have to do with each other? In a few words: good public relations. This past week, I joined nearly 30 colleagues in Sonoma, California to explore the latest in online reputation management in today’s digital world.