lauantai 17. helmikuuta 2018

Ragan.com: Facebook Live secrets from Southwest to help your content take flight

In terms of content, video is quickly becoming a mainstay in PR and marketing pros’ tool belts.

Livestreaming is an especially effective tactic for those looking to jump on the video bandwagon. Eighty percent of consumers would rather watch a live video from an organization than read a blog post—and 82 percent say they want to watch a livestream rather than read a social media post.

Livestreaming can be even more effective on Facebook because the platform caters to that content type—and 78 percent of the platform’s users are already watching videos.

“Live video is enticing because in an over-filtered world, audiences feel a greater sense of authenticity,” says Brie Strickland, social business specialist for Southwest Airlines. “You never know what might happen and I think audiences really appreciate brands being vulnerable like that in lieu of the heavily produced and scripted videos that are everywhere.”

Follow these tips to take advantage of live video and help your content marketing efforts soar:

1. Focus on your viewers.

“Southwest goes live to satisfy one or more of the following areas—to celebrate, inform, and recruit,” Strickland says.

A few examples are Southwest’s live videos with a member of its meteorologist team, discussing the solar eclipse:

Another Facebook Live video from Southwest’s Network Operations Control warned travelers about the effects of Hurricane Matthew:

Thinking of your viewers when preparing to go live on Facebook can help you create content that your consumers want to watch—but it can also guide your PR and marketing decisions in other ways.

Putting your audience first can also help you decide which platform to use when livestreaming—and where to allocate budget dollars. This can be especially helpful for communicators with small budgets and large goals to accomplish.

Strickland says:

When determining where to allocate budget for live video, we evaluate our ‘why’ and focus on the platform that best suits that pillar. We also believe in cultivating the audiences we already have on established channels, rather than jumping to new channels and focusing budget there before we’ve built it out on our bread and butter. With that being said, we always try to at the very least explore new channels and are never afraid to make a switch if something isn’t working, but that primarily requires resources beyond what constitutes a traditional budget.

PR and marketing pros should use a variety of social media platforms and employ new or different tactics in order to create videos that give the biggest bang for their bucks—but ultimately, cater to the places where your consumers reside online and subjects they care most about.

‘We’ll always try to be in the same places as our customers, in the way that best suits them,” says Strickland.

2. Listen for feedback—and potential stories.

As with any content efforts, livestreams can be greatly improved by PR pros who are constantly on the lookout for trends, customer preferences and news hooks.

“The key to uncovering great brand stories is listening,” Strickland says.

Strickland offered examples of how Southwest uses a Listening Center each day to “scour social for what [its] customers are thinking, feeling, and sharing.” The airline also featured a few employees who are also military veterans live from the center to support its “A Million Thanks” campaign:

However, you don’t need a special room to watch out for news, trends and customer feedback—nor do you need a big budget or team to uncover consumer stories and increase engagement.

Strickland says:

It doesn’t take a command center to listen on some level. Brand managers also hold the key to eliciting some of that user-generated content through engaging, rich media, with specific calls to action. We live in a world where people love sharing their stories, they just need a place to do it and to know someone is listening.
[RELATED: Tune in to watch Brie Strickland along with other speakersfrom Bloomberg, Monster, Humana, AARP and more talk about measurementtips PR pros can use for social media and more.]

3. Plan your videos in advance.

Facebook Live videos should be authentic and are often unscripted, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan an outline with specific goals for each live stream.

Southwest uses a storyboard approach and employs the “5 C’s” when preparing for its livestreams. Those are, Strickland explains:

  • Continuity: The theme of your live stream
  • Content: Stories that support your continuous theme during the live stream
  • Characters: Individuals or groups that are the focus of your stories
  • Composition: Camera shots and the overall look and feel of your live stream
  • Completion: Defining success metrics and gathering the data

Using a storyboard approach can help live videos enhance more produced pieces of content. Take, for example, Southwest’s video introducing its new employee uniforms:

The airline’s Facebook Live video showed off employees’ thoughts and excitement about the uniforms, along with reasons why the new outfits were chosen:

Planning out live streams is a good way to divvy out your budget, too.

Strickland says:

From the outset, I think it’s important to begin by figuring things out organically. If you’re privileged enough to get a budget first, it should still be preceded by organic test-and-learn.

… You should also assess how you’re going to allocate the money—is it going to equipment, the experience, distribution, or a combination? Brand managers should understand the ‘why’ when allocating budget video efforts.

4. Measure, measure, measure.

The goal of any livestreaming strategy—whether on Facebook or other social media platforms—should be to meet your campaign’s goals and objectives and ultimately boost your organization’s ROI.

Strickland says that many times, engagement and sentiment will remain consistent across social media channels, but your audience’s demographics might change from platform to platform—which can change “the kind of experience they’re seeking from channel to channel.”

One Facebook Live video that resonated with Southwest’s viewers was the final flight of former captain Lou Freeman, the airline’s longest-tenured pilot. The livestream racked up roughly 314,000 views along with 9,200 likes and 1,270 shares. More than 1,500 comments congratulated Freeman and his efforts.

“With live video, a good place to start measuring is viewership and the amount of time people are engaging with the video,” Strickland says. “Experiment with time of day and day of the week to better understand when your audience is tuning in most and the longest. […] Authentic engagement in the form of KPIs like shares and comments reveals how well the content is resonating with that audience.”

Learn more from Strickland at Ragan’s Measurement for Communicators Conference on Feb. 20-21. You can attend and learn right from your desk by signing up for our live webcast.

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perjantai 16. helmikuuta 2018

Ragan.com: 5 crisis lessons from Crock-Pot and ‘This Is Us’

At the end of season two, episode 13, we finally get a glimpse of how Jack dies. The Crock-Pot, or more accurately a slow cooker, catches on fire—and the internet is freaking out.

For the past week, Crock-Pot has been working day and night to reframe the conversation, protect its brand, do some serious damage control and throw in some humor at the same time.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has not recorded any injuries or fatalities due to faulty slow cookers, but that hasn’t stopped the whole world from blaming Crock-Pot for killing their favorite TV dad.

An issue versus a crisis

The difference between an issue and a crisis is the latter affects stock price, revenue or reputation in a way that’s hard to come back from.

What makes something an issue, only:

  • It is not harmful to an organization’s reputation.
  • It does not affect the bottom line.
  • It can almost always be avoided.
  • It can escalate into a crisis, if not handled immediately.
  • It’s a blip in the 24/7 news cycle.

What defines a crisis:

  • It has long-term repercussion on an organization’s reputation.
  • It precipitates a loss of money…usually a big one.
  • It can be managed if there is a swift response and quick action.

As people took to Twitter to knock the brand, its stock plummeted and it begged for “This Is Us” to help properly educate fans.

In a statement they released the very next day, it asked for help in spreading the truth about the product’s safety:

Our hope is that the team at NBC’s ‘This Is Us’ will help us spread factual information regarding our product’s safety. While we know their primary mission is to entertain—something they have continued to excel in—we also feel they have a responsibility to inform. Just like many fans, we will be watching next week’s episode to see how Jack’s story progresses and, regardless of the outcome, we want consumers first and foremost to know they are safe when using their Crock-Pot.

That’s not the only thing it did well.

Here’s a look at what it's been doing since January 23 to protect its nearly 50-year-old brand and 5 takeaways for communicators of all stripes:

1. A swift response and quick action

Though it’s awfully strange the brand didn’t already have a Twitter account, they quickly created one to respond to the concerns of crazed fans. Using the hashtag #crockpotisinnocent, it was able to respond to people who were throwing out their Crock-Pots—and to those who had real concerns about the product’s safety.

It also posted this message to Facebook, complete with broken heart emojis and a photo of a Pittsburgh Steelers-branded Crock-Pot:

THIS IS US SPOILER ALERT. We’re still trying to mend our heart after watching This Is Us on Tuesday night. America’s favorite dad and husband deserved a better exit and Crock-Pot shares in your devastation. Don’t further add to this tragedy by throwing your Crock-Pot Slow Cooker away. It’s hard to pass something down from generation to generation if you throw it away (grandma won’t be too happy). Spending time with his family while enjoying comfort food from his Crock-Pot was one of his favorite things to do. Let’s all do our part and honor his legacy in the kitchen with Crock-Pot.
[RELATED: Prepare, protect and promote your organization in a climate of crisis.]
2. A key display of empathy

The person in charge of responding to the masses both knows what he or she is doing and watches the show.

It’s what created the empathy used in these responses:

Sympathy is great in a crisis; empathy is better.

In the Crock-Pot crisis, empathy is winning.

3. A follow-up with facts

In the above responses, you can see Crock-Pot empathize and then follow-up with the facts:

Since the ’70s we’ve been providing families with quality & safe products.

We’re committed to safety & you can continue to use our products with confidence.

It also distributed a news release—combining both traditional and digital methods to make sure everyone knows the facts.

For nearly 50 years, with over 100 million Crock-Pots sold, we have never received any consumer complaints similar to the fictional events portrayed in last night’s episode. In fact, the safety and design of our product renders this type of event nearly impossible.

In addition, and most relevant to the concerns consumers are having after watching the recent This Is Us episode, our Crock-Pot slow cookers are low current, low wattage (typically no more than 200 or 300 watts) appliances with self-regulating, heating elements.

4. A plan that preempts your vulnerabilities

Though Crock-Pot did nothing wrong, it’s a great case study on what can happen when you’re caught in the middle of something you didn’t know was coming. The Crock-Pot crisis was no fault of its own—it’s not like its executives were caught with high-school girls or were falsifying accounting reports. A fictional character on one of the best shows on television died, and the company took the brunt of the blame. It just goes to show that you must have a plan.

This might provide you with a great reason to speak with your leadership team or your clients about having a crisis planning meeting.

You must imagine the worst-case scenarios (and now you can add this as one of your examples) and devise a plan for how you’ll respond. Are you already on social media and monitoring the conversations daily, or, like Crock-Pot, will you have to play catch-up when something unexpected happens?

Don’t play catch-up. Have a plan.

5. A perfect time for advocates

During the Crock-Pot crisis, brand managers were not shy in talking with celebrities and asking for help from “This Is Us.” Some of their biggest advocates have been Stephen Colbert, Milo Ventimiglia himself, and Dan Fogleman, the show’s creator. They used Twitter to reach those people very quickly, and the results speak for themselves: mentions on “The Late Show” and a Super Bowl Sunday Crock-Pot promo, free of charge.

It was all PR—and it was priceless.

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks. A version of this article originally appeared on the Spin Sucks blog.

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Ragan.com: 5 essential roles every content marketing team needs

When company leaders decide to invest in content marketing, they often redefine the roles of their marketing team.

Too often, the people working in traditional marketing departments lack the skills needed to carry out a successful content marketing initiative.

This does not mean you have to fire everyone and start over. However, you should create a team with the agility and ability to think differently. The group must be willing to abandon the old muscle memory of selling first, and instead reorient the organization to be relentless advocates for the audience.

Based upon where content marketing is today—and where things are headed—here are the five professionals you must have to build your dream team:

1. A journalist

Content marketing is fueled by storytelling, and journalists typically are tremendous storytellers. For starters, they’re curious. Experienced journalists also tend to write with readers in mind. Journalists have a natural inclination to put the audience first—even ahead of their own organization.

The best content marketing is relentlessly devoted to the needs, preferences and interests of the audience. Journalists create the “audience-first lens” that content marketing teams must have.

Additionally, journalists are comfortable interviewing sources. They have strong writing skills and are always seeking the more interesting and compelling “story behind the story.” Trained reporters can help your team brainstorm ideas, find the right people to talk to and do the heavy lifting of content creation.

2. A community manager

This jack-of-all-trades position entails promoting and distributing your content. This job might include public relations and SEO, but the primary focus should be on social media management.

Community managers don’t simply promote and distribute your content—they engage with customers and build a thriving community that keeps the audience coming back for more.

[EVENT: Join us at Walt Disney World Resort for the Social Media Conference for PR, Marketing and Corporate Communications.]

Your community manager can also assist the team by monitoring hot topics and tracking industry trends.

3. A graphic designer

Skilled designers can turn mundane content into irresistible masterpieces.

Striking, unique artwork is one of the best ways to stand out from your competitors, and design plays a crucial role in shaping the perception of your business.

Don’t skimp on visuals; pony up for a professional designer.

4. A video producer

YouTube is now the world’s second-largest search engine. Social media titans such as Facebook and Instagram continue to favor video in their algorithms, which makes video production a hotter skill than ever before.

A professional who knows how to manage the video creation process—from concept to execution to editing and packaging—is an invaluable asset for any content marketing team.

5. A data analyst

Data-driven storytelling is a megatrend that’s here to stay.

The surest way to create original, compelling content is to use data. Persuasive prose no longer cuts the content mustard. Also, marketers must be able to prove their work is worthwhile, so it helps to have someone handy with metrics.

Hire someone who can turn your proprietary data into compelling stories. Focus on primary and secondary research to tell stories that no one else is telling.

Having a data analyst on the team—not necessarily a data scientist, but someone who can turn numbers into narratives—vaults you to the top strata of marketing teams. A stats-obsessed person is also invaluable for internal measurement purposes, as they can advise what’s working (or not) for your team.

Of course, data is useless unless you have people who can turn it into an alluring, audience-focused narrative—and then strategically promote the piece. It takes well-rounded teamwork to make the content dream work.

John Miller is the founder of Scribewise. A version of this post first appeared on the Scribewise blog.



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torstai 15. helmikuuta 2018

Ragan.com: Infographic: 25 elements of employee engagement

Every workplace is a Petri dish of sorts.

Internal communicators, much like scientists, introduce different elements—and workplace life forms—that determine and, sometimes, alter the dish’s environment. In either setting, elemental concoctions can be harmonious and complementary—or potentially explosive.

[FREE GUIDE: 10 ways to engage employees through smarter communication]

Communicators might not wield Bunsen burners, beakers and pipettes, but they should apply science in their favor. To help those searching for an employee engagement elixir, TINYpulse posted a Kronos infographic that lists a “periodic table” featuring 25 elements of engaging work cultures. The graphic breaks the crucial elements into five broader buckets:

People and relationships. The graphic lists “CtP,” which stands for “culture trumps performance,” citing: “Nearly 60 percent of HR leaders say they would fire a strong performer who did not fit into the company culture.”

There’s also “F” for “friendships” and “Ap” for appreciation.

Leadership. The infographic lists “M” for “mentoring,” stating: “Twenty percent of millennial employees claim having a mentor or sponsor was a useful aspect of their employer’s onboarding strategy.”

Benefits and perks. Pay and benefits (“Pb”) are crucial, of course, but don’t neglect wellness (“FiT,” in this case).

Work-life balance. Flexibility (“Fx”) is essential for recruiting, retention and morale.

Learning and development. Who doesn’t want to climb, grow and advance? Consider experimenting with work exchanges (“Ex”), younger professional training (“Yp”) and internal promotions (“Ip”).

Workplace chemistry is serious business. Don’t let it blow up in your face.

To take a more science-based approach to employee engagement and retention, look at the piece below.

A Periodic Table of the Essential Elements of a Highly Engaged Workplace Culture Infographic



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Ragan.com: 15 marketing certifications available online

To keep up to date with digital marketing trends, it is important to keep learning new skills.

There are many digital courses and certifications available online today; some are even free for digital marketers looking to get ahead with their personal brand in the evolving digital realm.

To become a top candidate for your next digital marketing job, certifications give you an edge for recruiters looking for talent.

Here are 15 of the best marketing certification programs you should explore to improve your credibility and reputation in digital marketing:

1. Google AdWords

The Google AdWords certification is a professional certificate for people able to demonstrate knowledge of Google AdWords. The certificate is valid for one year.

Where to learn more: To become Google AdWords certified, you need to pass two of the AdWords certification exams including the AdWords Fundamentals exam and one other.

 

Image source: Google

Google recommends you have hands-on experience using Google AdWords but it is not required. If you do not pass the exam on the first try, you can re-take the exam seven days later.

How to get started: Learn more about Google AdWords certification and sign up as a Google Partner.

Cost: Free

2. Google Analytics

Google Analytics has become an essential free tool for marketers to use in their digital marketing toolkit, but becoming an expert can be overwhelming given how comprehensive the tool is for users.

Where to learn more: To become Google Analytics certified, you must take the Google Analytics exam.

Google recommends that you have hands-on experience using Google Analytics but it is not required. You can review the study materials and take the exam for free. If you do not pass the exam, you can re-take it again in seven days.

How to get started: Learn more about Google Analytics certification and sign up as a Google Partner.

Cost: Free

3. HubSpot’s Content Marketing Certification

HubSpot’s Content Marketing certification is a 3 ½-hour course that covers the different aspects of content marketing strategy, including storytelling, content ideation, content creation framework, content repurposing, content promotion and analyzation.

How to get started: Learn more about it on HubSpot’s content marketing certification course page .

Cost: Free

[RELATED: Learn how to boost buzz, build brand recognition and engage employees on the hottest social media platforms.]

4. HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Certification

This course will help you better understand inbound marketing practices, independent of HubSpot’s platform.

This certification is great for digital marketers because inbound marketing discusses how to attract visitors, convert leads, gain customers and convince them to promote your organization.

This 4 ½-hour course contains 11 classes that cover the fundamentals of inbound marketing or “pull marketing” to attract potential customers to your website.

How to get started: Learn more about it on HubSpot’s inbound certification course page.

Cost: Free

5. Hootsuite’s Social Media Marketing Certification

Hootsuite is a popular social media management platform, and offers a variety of social media marketing training, ranging from intro courses to an advanced social media.

Hootsuite, through their Hootsuite Academy, provides social media training courses are a great way to set yourself up as the leading candidate for your dream job, or help you excel at your current job.

The course is comprised of 15 lessons and assessments. Once you pass the 60-question online exam, your certification never expires. You will receive a badge and a listing in the HootSuite Social Media Consultants directory.

For more advanced social media users, HootSuite has partnered with the Newhouse School at Syracuse University to offer an Advanced Social Media Strategy Certification.

How to get started: Learn more about this certification by going to the Hootsuite Social Media Certification course page.

Cost: There are three different types of social media certifications:

  • Social Marketing Certification: $199
  • Advanced Social Advertising Courseware and Certification: $249
  • Advanced Social Media Strategy Certification: $999

6. Copyblogger Certified Content Marketer

The Copyblogger Certified Content Marketer Program is a part of the Copyblogger Authority membership.

To apply for the certification program, you must be a Copyblogger Authority member and pay for the certification training course. The program is offered only a couple times per year, so you should sign up for the email notifications.

Once you have completed the training course, you become certified by submitting your content samples to be reviewed by Copyblogger. If approved, you will receive your certification that does not expire (as long as you maintain your Authority membership).

You also get the chance to be listed in the Certified Content Marketer directory on the Copyblogger website and become eligible for master-level training (invitation-only).

How to get started: To apply for the certification program, you must be a Copyblogger Authority member and pay for the certification training course.

Cost: There are two costs for this certification:

  • Annual Authority Membership: $399
  • Certification Program: $495

7. Content Marketing Institute Online Certification

The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has become one of the most-respected resources for content marketers, offering online training through its CMI University.

Their continually updated curriculum covers a wide spectrum of content marketing topics, covering planning, audience, story, channels, process, conversation, and measurement. While there is a suggested “route” through the courses, you can take the seven courses in any order.

Once you have studied the training materials and pass the exam, you will be certified, and the certification never expires.

How to get started: Sign up for notifications on the CMI University website so you are aware of the next enrollment period.

Cost: The curriculum is available through a yearly CMI University subscription of $995.

8. Facebook Ad certification

Facebook’s Blueprint Certification recognizes advanced-level proficiency with Facebook’s products and services.

This program offers two certifications: Facebook Certified Planning Professional and Facebook Certified Buying Professional. According to Facebook, there are more certifications in the works.

These two certifications are for digital marketers who work and manage Facebook Pages and Facebook advertising.

  • Facebook Certified Planning Professional is awarded to professionals who are proficient in planning successful Facebook advertising campaigns.
  • Facebook Certified Buying Professional is awarded to professionals who are proficient in creating and buying Facebook advertising for maximum campaign impact.

Each certification is valid for one year and has two exams. You can take the exams in any order; however, Facebook recommends taking the exams in the order listed on their website.

How to get started: Learn more about Facebook’s Certifications.

Cost: $150 for each exam

9. Market Motive Digital Marketing Certification Program

The Digital Marketing Certified Associate (DMCA) course helps you master core marketing tenets like Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Social Media Marketing, Pay-Per-Click (PPC), Web Analytics, and Content Marketing. In addition to the 8 core modules in this Digital Marketing course, they offer tool-based training on Google Adwords, Google Analytics, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Through Market Motive you can also take approved courses for the Online Marketing Certified Professional (OMCP) Certification, one of the premier certifications for online marketing professionals.

How to get started: Enroll online at Market Motive for the certificate you want to earn.

Cost: An individual membership starts at $299 per month or $2,999 per year. For the DMCA course, you can enroll for self-paced learning at $499 for 180 days of access or the online classroom flexipass for $999 for 90 days of access.

10. The Digital Marketing Institute’s Certified Digital Marketing Professional

Courses include Digital Marketing, Digital & Social Selling, Strategy and Planning, Social Media, Mobile Marketing and Search Marketing.

How to get started: You can start by taking a free digital diagnostic and then sign up for a course.

Cost: The price for the Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing is $1,995

11. Cornell University Digital Marketing Certificate Program

As a part of Cornell University’s online learning subsidiary, eCornell offers one of the top online professional and executive development programs in the world.

The program begins with an overview of the digital marketing landscape, preparing you to implement proven frameworks, before going into opportunities and strategies associated with leading digital marketing channels. By the end of this program, you will be able to create an integrated digital marketing plan based on your company’s priorities and resources.

How to get started: Learn more about Cornell’s Digital Marketing Certification program.

Cost: Tuition for the certificate program is $3,600.

12. Duke University Digital Media and Marketing Certificate Program

The online, self-paced Digital Media and Marketing Certificate is designed for professionals looking to enhance their existing digital marketing skills or pursue a new career in digital marketing. This program is accessible anytime from any computer with an internet connection, and students can determine the course schedule and set their own pace.

During the 12-month program, you will learn from industry-known authors, speakers and consultants. Students can study the real-time curriculum online, watch streaming video lessons, and learn the skills necessary to be competitive online.

The program is comprised of 350 hours of online instruction and study time that covers modules such as SEO, content marketing, social media, mobile marketing, PPC, conversion optimization, web analytics, email marketing and display advertising. Most of these modules will qualify students for an Online Marketing Certified Professional (OMCP) designation when other requirements are also met.

How to get started: Learn more about Duke’s Digital Media and Marketing Certificate program.

Cost: Tuition for this certificate program is $3,195.

13. YouTube certification

As video becomes a preferred content medium, it is important to have a well-defined video content strategy. YouTube Certification will help you learn how to create a YouTube channel, how to grow it, how to optimize it, and how to monetize it. The certification is valid for one and half years or 18 months from the date you pass your certification.

YouTube also offers company certifications so your organization can be a YouTube-certified company. To be company certified on YouTube, your organization must be a managed partner in good standing. This means that 75% of YouTube-focused employees (employees who advise creators, manage content or content rights on a creator’s behalf, or do other work on YouTube as part of their job activities) pass any one of the four certifications.

How to get started: Learn more about how to become YouTube certified here.

Cost: Free

14. GetResponse Digital Marketing Certification Program

GetResponse, an email marketing software company, offers 4 certificate courses to expand your digital marketing expertise and showcase your skills to other professionals.

How to get started: Learn more about GetResponse Digital marketing Certificate Program here.

Cost: $199 per course

15. American Marketing Association (AMA) Digital Marketing Certification

The AMA digital marketing certification program covers in-demand topics such as analytics, social media marketing, user experience (UX), search engine optimization (SEO), digital advertising, email marketing and content marketing.

The exam is made up of 120 multiple-choice questions and takes two hours to complete.

Like most other programs, you need to answer 80 percent of the questions right to obtain your certificate. You can take the exam up to three times within one year of purchase.

How to get started: Review the skills you need to know to pass the AMA PCM® Digital Marketing Certification exam and then take the free practice exam (ama.org login required).

Cost: $249 for AMA members; $349 for non-AMA members

What digital marketing certifications should be included on this list, PR Daily readers?

A version of this article originally appeared on Knowledge Enthusiast.

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Ragan.com: 6 key reasons for PR pros to become problem solvers

What’s your first move when rough waters start rocking your organization’s boat?

Typically, when the proverbial boat starts taking on water, organizations either go the no-comment route or take the perceived high road and issue a carefully crafted statement with hopes the problem fades away.

Option 1 is almost always a bad call. “No comment” screams cover-up or cluelessness—never an impression you want to give the public. Beyond that, it rarely solves your problem; often it exacerbates it.

Option 2 can have its place, particularly when it comes to issues that have legal implications or are still unfolding. Still, this approach is overused and often becomes a crutch, creating a false sense that the problem has been adequately addressed.

A third, better path to deal with many PR issues, is to take the problem-solver approach. Specifically, you position your leaders as problem solvers; through that lens you craft your messaging and lay out your plan for dealing with the issue at hand.

Here are six reasons this approach offers a better path:

1. It unfreezes thinking. Leaders who feel cornered are likely to hunker down in no-comment mode. By framing the challenge in the problem-solver approach, you have a better chance to shift the conversation to brainstorming and assessing viable options for tackling the problem—and how those options could be positioned in messaging. The added benefit is that beyond lip service, you can help develop a legitimate action plan.

2. It helps you acknowledge and address the problem head-on. You can’t highlight how you will solve a problem if you haven’t clearly defined it. Turning the focus toward how the problem can be addressed prods your leaders toward all-important transparency. Maybe not all the details can be revealed, but there is more wiggle room to acknowledge the challenge when you know it will be framed within an action-oriented solution.

[EVENT: Join us in NYC for the PR & Media Relations Conference.]

3. It helps you quickly pivot to solutions. Which headline would you prefer: “Acme hammered by customer complaints,” or, “Acme rolls out three-point plan to tackle customer complaints”? The problem-solver approach naturally drives the story forward, putting the focus on the solution. If you act fast enough, you can even head off that initial bad headline and avoid damage-control mode.

4. It buys you goodwill. People tend to be forgiving, particularly when they believe an individual or organization is trying to be forthright, transparent and focused on fixing problems. If nothing else, you’re likely to get props for taking the high road and not hiding behind “no comment.” Any attempt at transparency also endears you to journalists and helps strengthen key media relationships.

5. It positions your leaders as can-do problem solvers. The most valuable and lasting benefit of this approach is that it positions your leaders as clear-eyed people of action. It’s likely that long after the buzz of the latest PR issue has died down, what will be remembered is the sense that your organization deals with issues in a transparent and action-oriented way. What more could you ask for?

6. It boosts your credibility as a strategic advisor. Sure, this approach can carry some level of risk and might not fit every situation. Yet for instances where it makes sense, there’s a good chance your leaders will start seeing you in a whole new light. You become less the PR spinmeister who puts together a prepared statement, and more of a trusted advisor who helps navigate rough waters.

Here’s the thing to remember: You’re always going to have problems. It’s how you deal with those problems that makes all the difference.

Scott Westcott is the corporate practice leader for Turn Two Communications. A version of this post first appeared on the Turn Two Communications blog.



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Ragan.com: A focus on respect and care after the fatal Florida shootings

A mass shooting has many victims—some with physical injuries, others with psychological wounds—and health care communicators and practitioners are doing their utmost to help.

Wednesday’s shooting spree at a high school in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 people and has left many in that community reeling with grief.

The New York Times reported:

A heavily armed young man barged into his former high school about an hour northwest of Miami on Wednesday, opening fire on terrified students and teachers and leaving a death toll of 17 that could rise even higher, the authorities said.
… By the end of the rampage, Mr. Cruz had killed 12 people inside the school and three outside it, including someone standing on a street corner, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said. Two more victims died of their injuries in local hospitals. The aftermath at the school was an eerie shrine, with chairs upended, a computer screen shattered with bullet holes and floors stained with blood.
On Thursday, the authorities charged Mr. Cruz with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

CBS News reported:

It was the nation's deadliest school shooting since a gunman attacked an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, more than five years ago. The overall death toll differs by how such shootings are defined, but Everytown For Gun Safety has tallied 290 school shootings in America since 2013, and this attack makes 18 so far this year.

Authorities and communicators who must respond during crises of these magnitude have the tough job of relaying pertinent information but being mindful and sensitive to the unfolding crisis. That task becomes harder when sensitive and graphic details surface on social media, making it into news stories and headlines.

For health care professionals responding to these tragedies, the difficulty is even greater. They must balance information and reporters’ questions with patients’ privacy. The doctors that spoke for Broward Health Services—the group of hospitals which received the victims and the suspect after the shooting—exemplified this balance.

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Doctors’ highlighted ‘respect’ during press conference

On Wednesday night, Dr. Evan Boyar, chair and medical director for the department of emergency medicine for Broward Health North, and Dr. Igor Nichiporenko, trauma surgeon and medical director of trauma services, answered journalists’ questions.

During the press conference, both doctors remained firm on their refusal to give specific details about the patients in their care, but continued to bring their responses back to the organization’s mission: respecting patients.

Boyar opened the conference by expressing sympathy for those affected by the shooting:

First and foremost, we want to extend our condolences and sympathy for all those people, family members involved in the tragedy today.

When asked about the status of the victims at the hospital, Boyar responded with a short medial summary:

Of the eight patients that we had, not including the suspect, two mortalities, three in critical condition, three stable.

Boyar kept details to a minimum while discussing the 17 victims and the suspect that the hospitals within Broward Health Systems received:

When pressed for more details, Boyar respectfully declined.

Out of respect for the family members, out of respect for our patients, we’re not going to disclose this information.

He continued to decline answering additional questions about victim information, coming back to his main message of respecting patients:

We prefer not to comment on our patients in respect for our patients.

When asked how he and other doctors can keep their Hippocratic Oath “knowing what [the suspect] is potentially accused of,” Boyar answered:

Every patient that comes in gets treated as a patient, and we take care of them medically, and that’s what we do.

Here’s Boyar’s response when asked to describe patients’ reactions and behavior upon being treated:

I’d prefer not to comment on a specific patient’s demeanor, but, you know, as a human being, you can imagine that they would be in shock, or, you know, be emotional about the whole situation.

On Thursday, Boyar maintained the same language when discussing patients at Broward Health North—commenting more specifically on patients’ injuries, but keeping details to a minimum:

The doctor’s language was echoed in Broward Health’s statement about the patients, which it posted on its newsroom:

Broward Health Medical Center received seven patients directly related to the incident at Stoneman Douglas. Of the seven patients, five patients are in non-life threatening condition and two patients are in life-threatening condition. Broward Health North received nine patients related to the incident at Stoneman Douglas, of which includes eight victims and one suspect. Of the nine patients, four patients are in non-life threatening condition, three patients are in life-threatening condition and two patients have expired. Broward Health Coral Springs received one patient in non-life threatening condition related to the incident at Stoneman Douglas.
Kena Lewis, director of public affairs and media relations for Orlando Health, knows how difficult it can be for health care communicators to respond in a crisis such as Wednesday’s mass shooting. She ran crisis communications for Orlando Health after 50 people were killed and 53 wounded in a shooting at Pulse nightclub.

Lewis offers communicators the following advice:

First, we have to remember and the press needs to understand, that patient care always takes precedence. From a communications perspective, our initial responsibility is to get accurate facts (which can be a challenge during mass casualty incidents) and provide what we can to the press. We must be HIPAA compliant. We can never provide information to the press that identifies a patient without that patient’s consent. During a mass casualty incident, we can provide unidentifiable information such as number of patients received, discharged or deceased, or the number of surgeries performed or scheduled.

The sheer volume of press can be overwhelming, making it impossible to respond to everyone. But getting the information out is important. We used all communication channels that were available – both traditional media and digital media – to distribute important information to the press, the public and our own employees.

Counseling and support for victims

While health care professionals were focused on protecting patients’ rights to privacy, other authorities responding to the shooting shared messages meant to help the victims and their families cope with the crisis.

Broward County’s official Twitter profile tweeted information on where to get grief counseling:

Curtailing scammers

To stop the spread of fake GoFundMe accounts in relation to the shooting, the Broward Sheriff’s Office also tweeted a link to the official GoFundMe account to donate to victims and their families.



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