The|Intangibles » Messaging http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil Selected posts from Boyd Neil's blog at http://www.boydneil.com Tue, 23 Nov 2010 20:22:30 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 en hourly 1 ‘Managing’ Negative Perception http://www.boydneil.com/blog/2010/1/27/managing-negative-perception.html http://www.boydneil.com/blog/2010/1/27/managing-negative-perception.html#comments Wed, 27 Jan 2010 23:53:03 +0000 Boyd Neil 417677:4590288:6447675 The slides below are from a presentation I gave today at a conference on renewable energy infrastructure. I am not sure how useful the presentation will be without my narrative, but if you have any questions post a comment and I promise to answer.

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The slides below are from a presentation I gave today at a conference on renewable energy infrastructure. I am not sure how useful the presentation will be without my narrative, but if you have any questions post a comment and I promise to answer.

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A Year in Five Social Media Movements http://www.boydneil.com/blog/2010/1/4/a-year-in-five-social-media-movements.html http://www.boydneil.com/blog/2010/1/4/a-year-in-five-social-media-movements.html#comments Mon, 04 Jan 2010 21:13:31 +0000 Boyd Neil 417677:4590288:6132697 Reports on social media trends in 2009 are ubiquitous -- here's one of the most useful lists from Adam Vincenzini in The Comms Corner -- as are cogitative posts about what to expect in 2010 like that by David Armano blogging at the Harvard Business Review.

My assessment of what mattered last year is shorter and more personal, and I am too deferential to the forecasting abilities of others to speculate on 2010:

  1. Many words, occasional invective and a lot of social media blood were spilled over the demise of newspapers and its effect on journalism and those who practice it within the historical news delivery infrastructure. I weighed in often enough because I believe there is a radical shift in the sources of reporting, the formation of public opinion through communication, and the opportunity for individuals and groups, when motivated, to work around the traditional news infrastructure to exchange information, ideas and opinion for social change and political purposes.  The critical words on this issue in Canada may have been spoken by The Supreme Court of Canada. In late December its ruling on responsible communication made it clear that such communication is not just the province of journalists, but of anyone engaged in public communication including bloggers  As David Eaves so eloquently summed it up in his post "The ruling acknowledges that we are all now journalists and that we need a legal regime that recognizes this reality."
  2. During the Iran elections in June 2009, Twitter became the means for getting images and news out about the repression of democratic protest. Recognizing that Twitter was a tool by which people in Iran were communicating with each other, and the world outside, even the U.S. State Department asked Twitter to delay its scheduled maintenance outage in order not to impede the flow of information. In my view, this was the single event that brought Twitter naysayers to heel, especially cynical journalists. News was being reported by citizens through a social network that some silly luddite columnists (still) see as "little more than the glorification of self indulgent trivia". (Martin Vander Weyer in The Spectator, January 2, 2010). 
  3. Speaking of reality, it is now being augmented in ways that are mind boggling. Augmented reality refers to the overlay of the virtual on the real. As explained by Ben Parr last August "These applications combine virtual data into the physical real world by utilizing the iPhone 3GS or an Android phone’s compass, camera, and GPS system. The result is that you can see things like the location of Twitter users and local restaurants in the physical world, even if they are miles away." While excitement has been focused on fun apps like being able to wave your iPhone or Android in the air and find the nearest pubs, there are obviously hundreds of other uses, especially for product seeding . . . about which I know nothing. As for reputation management, corporate communications or issue identification and control, well, I'm not sure.
  4. I am a little surprised that Google's Sidewiki has become a non-story. At first blush, it seemed to have the potential to be a game shifter in how people interact with web content about which they have strong opinions, pro or con. It may be that social networks are already platforms for interaction about web content and Sidwiki in the context of opinionated and criticism-friendly social networks is simply redundant.
  5. As a consultant over the past couple of years, I have been recommending social media strategies as pivotal in the success of reputation management programs largely because they are community (or affinity) rather than media focused. Clients are buying into it. But the conversations I've been having with companies over the last few months lead me to think we are at a social media tipping point (no, I have not read Mr. Gladwell's epnymous book). According to the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts, "Social media is mainstream. Forty-three percent of Inc. 500 companies consider social media important to their business, with 91 percent of Inc. 500 companies employing at least one tool in 2009." Employing one tool, however, is not a strategy and many companies and organizations are recognizing that the one-off Facebook page or Twitter handle isn't giving them traction, nor will it. They'll want -- or should be wanting -- the full game plan.

So, I lied: Number five is a 2010 forecast.

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Reports on social media trends in 2009 are ubiquitous — here’s one of the most useful lists from Adam Vincenzini in The Comms Corner — as are cogitative posts about what to expect in 2010 like that by David Armano blogging at the Harvard Business Review.

My assessment of what mattered last year is shorter and more personal, and I am too deferential to the forecasting abilities of others to speculate on 2010:

  1. Many words, occasional invective and a lot of social media blood were spilled over the demise of newspapers and its effect on journalism and those who practice it within the historical news delivery infrastructure. I weighed in often enough because I believe there is a radical shift in the sources of reporting, the formation of public opinion through communication, and the opportunity for individuals and groups, when motivated, to work around the traditional news infrastructure to exchange information, ideas and opinion for social change and political purposes.  The critical words on this issue in Canada may have been spoken by The Supreme Court of Canada. In late December its ruling on responsible communication made it clear that such communication is not just the province of journalists, but of anyone engaged in public communication including bloggers  As David Eaves so eloquently summed it up in his post “The ruling acknowledges that we are all now journalists and that we need a legal regime that recognizes this reality.”
  2. During the Iran elections in June 2009, Twitter became the means for getting images and news out about the repression of democratic protest. Recognizing that Twitter was a tool by which people in Iran were communicating with each other, and the world outside, even the U.S. State Department asked Twitter to delay its scheduled maintenance outage in order not to impede the flow of information. In my view, this was the single event that brought Twitter naysayers to heel, especially cynical journalists. News was being reported by citizens through a social network that some silly luddite columnists (still) see as “little more than the glorification of self indulgent trivia”. (Martin Vander Weyer in The Spectator, January 2, 2010).
  3. Speaking of reality, it is now being augmented in ways that are mind boggling. Augmented reality refers to the overlay of the virtual on the real. As explained by Ben Parr last August “These applications combine virtual data into the physical real world by utilizing the iPhone 3GS or an Android phone’s compass, camera, and GPS system. The result is that you can see things like the location of Twitter users and local restaurants in the physical world, even if they are miles away.” While excitement has been focused on fun apps like being able to wave your iPhone or Android in the air and find the nearest pubs, there are obviously hundreds of other uses, especially for product seeding . . . about which I know nothing. As for reputation management, corporate communications or issue identification and control, well, I’m not sure.
  4. I am a little surprised that Google’s Sidewiki has become a non-story. At first blush, it seemed to have the potential to be a game shifter in how people interact with web content about which they have strong opinions, pro or con. It may be that social networks are already platforms for interaction about web content and Sidwiki in the context of opinionated and criticism-friendly social networks is simply redundant.
  5. As a consultant over the past couple of years, I have been recommending social media strategies as pivotal in the success of reputation management programs largely because they are community (or affinity) rather than media focused. Clients are buying into it. But the conversations I’ve been having with companies over the last few months lead me to think we are at a social media tipping point (no, I have not read Mr. Gladwell’s epnymous book). According to the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts, “Social media is mainstream. Forty-three percent of Inc. 500 companies consider social media important to their business, with 91 percent of Inc. 500 companies employing at least one tool in 2009.” Employing one tool, however, is not a strategy and many companies and organizations are recognizing that the one-off Facebook page or Twitter handle isn’t giving them traction, nor will it. They’ll want — or should be wanting — the full game plan.

So, I lied: Number five is a 2010 forecast.

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The Power of Apologies http://www.boydneil.com/blog/2009/10/22/the-power-of-apologies.html http://www.boydneil.com/blog/2009/10/22/the-power-of-apologies.html#comments Thu, 22 Oct 2009 18:50:26 +0000 Boyd Neil 417677:4590288:5582295 Anyone who has followed my posts on apologies will know how important I feel they are as a way to manage reputation in a crisis. (Forgive the self-reference, but two of the most recent posts can be found here and here.)

A colleague in my firm's Seattle office, Drew Arnold, sent me an article from the Oregon Business Journal referencing a June 2009 discussion paper called 'The Power of Apology' from the University of Nottingham's Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics.

Here is the paper's abstract:

After an unsatisfactory purchase, many firms are quick to apologize to customers. It is, however, not clear why they should do that. As the apology is costless, it should be regarded as cheap talk and thus ignored by the customer. In this paper, we test in a controlled field experiment whether apologizing influences customers' subsequent behaviour. We find that apologizing yields much better outcomes for the firm than offering monetary compensation."

Based on a study of customers using eBay in Germany, the study found among other results:

  1. "Customers who receive an apology instead of a monetary compensation are more than twice as likely to withdraw a (negative) evaluation."
  2. "When money is offered, a higher purchase price makes it less likely that a customer withdraws his (negative) evaluation. An apology works independent of the level of the purchase price."

Why then can't we assume that the propensity to consider legal action when harm has been caused by an accidental event, even if negligence is involved, just might be mitigated by a genuine (and the key here is the word 'genuine') apology?

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Anyone who has followed my posts on apologies will know how important I feel they are as a way to manage reputation in a crisis. (Forgive the self-reference, but two of the most recent posts can be found here and here.)

A colleague in my firm’s Seattle office, Drew Arnold, sent me an article from the Oregon Business Journal referencing a June 2009 discussion paper called ‘The Power of Apology‘ from the University of Nottingham’s Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics.

Here is the paper’s abstract:

After an unsatisfactory purchase, many firms are quick to apologize to customers. It is, however, not clear why they should do that. As the apology is costless, it should be regarded as cheap talk and thus ignored by the customer. In this paper, we test in a controlled field experiment whether apologizing influences customers’ subsequent behaviour. We find that apologizing yields much better outcomes for the firm than offering monetary compensation.”

Based on a study of customers using eBay in Germany, the study found among other results:

  1. “Customers who receive an apology instead of a monetary compensation are more than twice as likely to withdraw a (negative) evaluation.”
  2. “When money is offered, a higher purchase price makes it less likely that a customer withdraws his (negative) evaluation. An apology works independent of the level of the purchase price.”

Why then can’t we assume that the propensity to consider legal action when harm has been caused by an accidental event, even if negligence is involved, just might be mitigated by a genuine (and the key here is the word ‘genuine’) apology?

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Newcastle United – How NOT to Manage Reputation http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/07/16/newcastle-united-how-not-to-manage-reputation/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/07/16/newcastle-united-how-not-to-manage-reputation/#comments Thu, 16 Jul 2009 21:41:51 +0000 Boyd Neil tag:typepad.com,2003:post-6a00d83451d94369e20115720f534d970b Newcastle United FC is a storied franchise in English football and ‘my club’ in the sense that I was born a Geordie (the name used to describe people from the northeast of England) and therefore am genetically predisposed to being a member of The Toon Army, as frustrating as that can be. My father (long deceased) was a friend of one of the team’s legends, Jackie Milburn (‘Wor Jackie’ as he is known), from when they both lived in Ashington in the 1940s.

This past season was a disaster for the club, with managers changing three times during a 38-game season and poor performances on the field by highly paid "stars’. The result is an ignominious demotion to the Coca-Cola Championship from the Barclays Premier League (where such other well-known franchises as Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool play).

The owner — Mike Ashley, who has been problematic, if not a disaster, from the beginning according to most reports — has been trying to sell the club since at least the last day of the Premiership season. It is now being coached by an interim manager.The players are furious and many of the first string players are asking for transfers. Even Ashley admits he has made a mess of things: “It has been catastrophic for everybody. I’ve lost my money and I’ve made terrible decisions. Now I want to sell it as soon as I can."

I have watched the public relations calamity unfold online on an almost daily basis through news reports from British newspapers and the NUFC’s website (which tends to report absolutely zilch about what is going on). The extraordinary thing is that management appears to be saying naught. News reports are based almost exclusively on comments by players or "sources’ close to the club.

From what I can tell, management has said nothing to reassure the city of Newcastle nor the club’s extraordinarily devoted fans that the coming season in the lower division will be nothing short of a debacle. No reassurances are being given; no sympathy expressed; no plans outlined; no time frames given; no deadlines offered . . . in other words, completely counter to basic crisis communications principles.

Okay, maybe management doesn’t see the situation as a crisis. Maybe management’s solicitors or investment bankers have said it must say nothing. Maybe it is sending out news updates that no news outlet is picking up. Maybe it has a social network, YouTube channel, blog or Twitter presence which I just haven’t been able to find. Or maybe management simply doesn’t recognize the damage that is being done to its reputation.

The supporters will be there for the players on the pitch when the dust settles: but when Geordies are called on to support an NUFC management business initiative, when the city is asked for a concession or a tax, or when the club’s history is written, who will be there to defend management’s interest and its "license to operate" the Geordies’ club?

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Reasons to Feel Uneasy or Exhilarated http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/05/31/reasons-to-feel-uneasy-or-exhilarated/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/05/31/reasons-to-feel-uneasy-or-exhilarated/#comments Sun, 31 May 2009 21:45:29 +0000 Boyd Neil tag:typepad.com,2003:post-67483033 Philip Sheppard, a past president of the International Public Relations Association, brought to my attention this exhilarating and numbing video called Did You KNow? posted on the Pilot Theatre (from Wakefield West Yorkshire) website . . . Lots to make you think about business, communications, knowledge management and North American education (strengths and failures).

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Restoring Reputation http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/05/27/restoring-reputation/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/05/27/restoring-reputation/#comments Wed, 27 May 2009 21:32:11 +0000 Boyd Neil tag:typepad.com,2003:post-67340393 The stock of CSX Corp., a Jacksonville Florida-based railway company has been discounted as a result of lingering criticism of “poor management”, according to UBS analyst Rick Paterson as reported today in the Financial Post. (I can’t find a link: The Financial Post’s website doesn’t make it easy.) It should be trading at a premium to its competitors according to Paterson.

He goes on to say “Four or five years ago that (“poor management”) was probably true, but we think these days are long gone and (mis)perception is lagging reality.”

If that’s the case (and I have no idea if the company has been actively trying to restore its reputation), then why is it that investment bankers and equity analysts stubbornly resist the idea that a good reputation, consciously developed, nurtured and communicated, can have a measurable impact on valuation? And why is it that some companies have such a hard time understanding that reputations don’t recover solely through solid financial performance?

There are strategies for reputation recovery. But they require commitment, humility and honesty . . . and the support of financial advisers, lenders and legal counsel.

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WSJ Takes it on the Chin http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/04/15/wsj-takes-it-on-the-chin/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/04/15/wsj-takes-it-on-the-chin/#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2009 21:07:24 +0000 Boyd Neil tag:typepad.com,2003:post-65453759

I have no idea if this post from Molly Wood truly reflects Apple’s approach to public relations (“hammer and hammer and hammer and hammer”), or if it is just the usual journalistic hectoring of public relations people doing their job.

But the pull-out quotation from the Wall Street Journal that prompted the piece demonstrates why many business people (and the demos at large) occasionally — okay, often — question the devotion of journalists to seeking truth from facts. Since the WSJ article uses as its source “people familiar with the matter”, “these people say” and “they say” it is also fair game to conjecture, as The Molly does, whether the publication has been spun by a zealous public relations “machine”.

The blame, though isn’t with the public relations people, as Wood accedes, but with lame and now inadequately supported journalism:

 

“It’s not a crime for a company to have a good PR machine. It’s working for
Apple and it has for a long time. But this is a nation that is, at the moment,
finding itself in quite a pickle because we blindly believed everything that
companies were telling us. So, if we’re trying to be skeptical about, say, large
financial institutions and their outlandish and/or reassuring claims, shouldn’t
we also cast the same critical eye on a convenient flood of information that
does little other than improve Apple’s stock price a week before they have to
answer to angry and worried shareholders? Or, hey, maybe the Wall Street Journal
just trying to boost the Nasdaq on purpose. You know, to help the
economy.”

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Maple Leaf Foods’ Launches “Crisis” Blog http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/03/25/maple-leaf-foods-launches-crisis-blog/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/03/25/maple-leaf-foods-launches-crisis-blog/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2009 17:43:11 +0000 Boyd Neil tag:typepad.com,2003:post-64623319 Maple Leaf Foods (not a client) today launched a blog in response to the 2008 Listeria deaths caused by eating its deli meats and, as with much of how the company handled the crisis, it is a very good model for the language and tone of effective messaging . . . frank, honest and contrite. (Although its design is quite lackluster.)

The first post is by CEO Michael McCain and here is how it begins: “Since August 2008 twenty-one Canadians have died after eating Maple Leaf deli meats contaminated with Listeria.  We all watched in horror as the worst food safety crisis in modern Canadian history rolled across the country.” Now that’s frank and the antithesis of how many companies begin apologies after serious events.

Later in the post Mr. McCain writes “This was by far the most awful event in the one hundred year history of our company.  I can’t properly describe the overwhelming sense of grief and responsibility we all felt … I felt, personally (emphasis added).  You may remember seeing me on television back then, apologizing for the tragedy and vowing to develop the most comprehensive anti-Listeria program of any food company in Canada.” He then goes on to outline in details the changes Maple Leaf has made to reduce Listeria findings in its plants.

Even more significant he actually raises three subsequent issues related to Maple Leaf Foods’ safety performance that most people had likely forgotten.

Textbook . . .

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Some Corporate Directors Like Conversation http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/03/20/some-corporate-directors-like-conversation/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/03/20/some-corporate-directors-like-conversation/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2009 21:19:31 +0000 Boyd Neil tag:typepad.com,2003:post-64423335 Buried in a recent survey of corporate directors conducted by McKinsey is a finding that 29% of respondents report that one of the procedural changes corporate boards are making to deal with economic turmoil is “Promoting conversations that are more frank than usual”; further, 24% believe this is an additional change boards should make “to become more effective in managing the global economic crisis”.

No mention is made of whether Twitter is a preferred tool for intermediating this new focus on conversation.

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Ontario Apology Act Passed http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/03/12/ontario-apology-act-passed/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/03/12/ontario-apology-act-passed/#comments Thu, 12 Mar 2009 21:49:41 +0000 Boyd Neil tag:typepad.com,2003:post-64017659 Ontario quietly passed Bill 108, the Apology Act, yesterday . . . although for some reason media coverage has been very limited and more detailed information doesn’t seem to be available on the website of the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney-General.

According to soonews.ca, “The legislation would allow an individual or organization to offer an
apology as part of the dispute resolution process without concern over
legal liability. The Apology Act provides that an apology made in
relation to a civil matter does not constitute an admission of fault or
liability and would not be admissible in a civil proceeding.”

What coverage there is focuses on the impact of the Act in particular on medical and other professionals and how it may assist in dispute resolution.

The important question is whether the Act will encourage legal counsel in Ontario to be more flexible in their advice to companies on what they can and can’t say when their products or services cause harm. Is it too much to hope that this may open the door for companies to consider more active reputation defense strategies — starting with expressions of regret and compassion — rather than relying only on legal-driven refusals to comment for fear of legal liability?

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