Archive for the ‘case studies’ Category

Dialing the noise up to Eleven… US Airways Flight 1549 and citizen media

posted by Brendan Hodgson

Yesterday, my colleague David Jones pointed to an animation created by Niall Cook, H&Ker and fellow blogger, showing the rapid transformation of Wikipedia’s entry on the crash of US Airways Flight 1549 on Jan 15. By itself, it highlighted the extraordinary speed by which citizens are increasingly able to match and, very often, surpass the speed of media in accessing and distributing new information around the incident.

As a companion to that animation, H&K Canada’s digital team also captured (as the event unfolded) screen caps of key sites – search engines, blogs, social networks, corporate sites, aggregators etc. – that I believe further demonstrates and reinforces the sheer dynamism of the communications environment in which we now exist; as it relates to the speed by which information on an incident is communicated and shared (e.g. via Twitter), the competitiveness as well as the synergy shaping the relationship between traditional and citizen media, and the actions taken by corporations to respond within this new environment.

Not all the timestamps on this slide deck are accurate or absolute, although they are certainly captured within minutes (if not seconds) of the event occuring – particularly during the first hours. Nor is the deck intended to be an exhaustive summary of all activity simply those that we felt captured this landscape, and these new issues, most effectively. Most importantly, these slides are not intended to comment either positively or negatively on the actions of authors, witnesses, posters or organizations involved.

Are "Tweets" News? In times of crisis, the debate is meaningless

posted by Brendan Hodgson

Much is being written about Twitter’s coming of age, particularly as it relates to information sharing during times of crisis; the horrific terrorist attacks in Mumbai being the most recent example (see trend chart here). It is, without question, a powerful and highly immediate vehicle for broadcasting and sharing news as it breaks. Although, as CNN so succinctly states: “as is the case with such widespread dissemination of information, a vast number of the posts on Twitter amounted to unsubstantiated rumors and wild inaccuracies.”

From my perspective, and as one who works closely with clients in adapting their crisis plans to this new world order of twitter, blogs and citizen journalism, the ensuing argument around what is ’news’ or not, is moot. It is simply the new reality in which organizations must be prepared to communicate.

It is indeed fascinating to watch as these thousands of new voices sweep across the media landscape, amplifying, contradicting, and enhancing traditional media reports with their own eyewitness accounts and points of view. At the same time, it is also frustrating to witness the ease by which rumours and speculation spread during the acute stage of any emergency or crisis.

It has simply made our job, and that of any communicator in a time of crisis, that much harder. It means we must start now to adapt our processes to reflect this new reality, and focus even more aggressively on the principles that guide effective crisis and emergency communications. Quite simply, it speaks to what I and others in the crisis space are already espousing:

  • the need to accelerate the processes by which an organization creates, approves and distributes content, yet avoiding adding to the speculation and rumour-mongering, to ensure that it remains a credible source of information
  • the importance of an organization’s own web property to communicate information and messages beyond traditional (1.0) mechanisms – but to consider integrating their own Twitter feeds, RSS, video and audio, real-time information updates, and efficient cross-platform sharing of content.
  • the importance of direct stakeholder communication (via all channels – not just web) to ensure your message is received and understood, not simply delivered.
  • the importance of robust internal communications supported by meaningful guidelines around what employees can or should communicate via their own networks – digital or otherwise.
  • the importance of clear rules of engagement when it comes to engaging with external voices and influencers – understanding when it is right and appropriate, and under what circumstances, and when it may result in only further damaging an organization’s reputation and ability to communicate through an emergency.

More so now than ever, no organization can attempt to “control’ the information environment around any significant crisis. They can and must, however, ensure that their communication acknowledges this new environment, without compromising privacy, confidentiality, ethical principles or simply attempting to fill an information void with soundbites and messages that lack substance, credibility, context and concern for those affected.

Are “tweets” news? Who cares? It’s a meaningless debate. What it means and what impact it may have(if any) are the questions we should all be asking as we watch it, and all forms of social media, transform crisis communications forever.

H&K Election Predictor 2008 Nails It! … (well, almost)

posted by Brendan Hodgson

Thirty-six days, 72,000 visits, nearly 700,000 page views, and 100+ mentions across various political and media blogs and discussion forums later, and the moment of judgement for the 2008 version of Hill & Knowlton Canada’s Federal Election Predictor is upon us…

As always, there is considerable trepidation when the final voting percentages are added into the system. And as always, it’s for naught. When broken down by party, our calculation (baked in proprietary mathematical goodness) was remarkably close to the end result… In fact, it was off by - wait for it - six seats (6).

Official Results:    CPC – 143 / LIB – 76 / NDP – 37 / BQ – 50 / GREEN – 0 / IND – 2

Predictor Results: CPC – 143 / LIB – 74 / NDP – 38 / BQ – 52 / GREEN – 0 / IND – 1 

Granted, a few discrepancies appear when the data is analyzed at the specific riding level (meaning that a few of the ridings we predicted didn’t match up with the official outcome). Overall, however, the digital team at H&K is pretty chuffed that we were able to play along with the big boys – pollsters, pundits and academics alike – in the seat projection game.

Of course, we’ll let others figure out what this all means, if anything, to the art and/or science of seat projection. From the standpoint of what it means for H&K, however, it’s clearly become a powerful franchise for ensuring the H&K brand remains top-of-mind with target audiences during an election campaign.

As an exercise in social media activation, our respective French and English Facebook pages generated a respectable 700 referrals collectively, while the site itself received positive saturation across the Canadian political blogosphere. Traditional media sites also played an important role with MacLean’s alone driving 1500+ visits (and further amplifying our footprint). And not surprisingly, Wikipedia was a key vehicle for awareness-raising, driving 3500+ visits to the site.

Ultimately, it was interesting to see such a high level of engagement on the site itself – with an average of 5 minutes spent per visit – as well as by bloggers and digital pundits via their own sites. Likewise, it was great to see (where the stats allowed) strong representation by those audiences who matter most to H&K’s public affairs teams – government bureaucrats at all levels, elected officials, academic institutions, competitors, and corporations both large and small.

Oh yeah, and the Conservatives secured another minority government.

"Labatt Life" blog and stakeholder expectations

posted by Brendan Hodgson

In an earlier post, I mentioned briefly that we were working with Labatt to help build and launch their “Labatt Life” group corporate blog. I also mentioned that I wanted to focus on this project a bit more – for a few reasons.

Today’s corporations face issues that require highly targeted forms of communications – be it to investors , governments, communities, prospective and current employees, and around issues such as corporate social responsibility, corporate reputation, and so forth. Increasingly, this targeted outreach requires an organization to become significantly more strategic in the messages they wish to communicate to a particular audience, and the channels through which those messages are delivered to that audience. All pretty straightforward stuff.

Add to this, however, the evolving notion of ‘expectation’ and this scenario becomes even more challenging. Quite simply, stakeholders are increasingly setting the parameters for how they elect to receive information. And that has implications not only for what I chose to communicate but also how I chose communicate it. Previously, expectations were constrained largely by the channels themselves – specifically, the lack thereof and the high cost of utilizing those channels (that did exist) in order to reach niche audiences. 

Today, however, audiences increasingly expect:

  1. communications that are more frequent (yet more targeted and relevant)
  2. communications that are more direct (and unfiltered by third-parties)
  3. communications that are more “substantive” and “authentic” (vs soundbites)
  4. communications that are delivered via the media of their choosing (traditional or new)
  5. communications that allow for both reaction and interaction

For Labatt, talent acquisition and retention is a key priority, and their management trainee program is a critical part of their recruitment strategy. At the same time, they also realized that traditional forms of communications were no longer sufficient to meet the changing expectations of this increasingly “wired” target group. Which is why the Labatt Life blog was created: to provide additional opportunities for Labatt to communicate to potential recruits in a way that allows for direct, frequent and “authentic” interaction (given that this blog is authored in part by current trainees, and provides a real, behind-the-scenes perspective), via a channel that these audiences increasingly look to for information.

That Labatt understood this changing environment made the experience of working with them even better. How they support and sustain this platform over the long term will be the real test. However, keep your eye on the site as they look to integrate cool content from across Labatt, and as they tour campuses across Canada.

Congrats to the Labatt team for making this happen.  

In a Station of the Metro… a case study in marketing?

posted by Brendan Hodgson

Ryan at the New PR points to a fascinating Washington Post article that, although not specifically about PR and marketing, speaks volumes – albeit implicitly - about the challenges and realities facing, well, PR and marketing.

First, some context (from the WP): No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made. His performance was arranged by The Washington Post as an experiment in context, perception and priorities — as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?

Why should marketers take note?

  1. It speaks to challenge marketers face to capture the attention of audiences already struggling with the realities of their day-to-day lives; to rise above the noise.
  2. It speaks to the notion that although content is king (even more so now in this user-generated world) we cannot ignore the importance of the context in which that content is delivered, and the appropriateness of the channel used to deliver it. Without such context, the ability to interrupt specific behaviours and perceptions is virtually impossible.
  3. It speaks to the notion that technology is as much a filter as it is an enabler.
  4. And, it shows the impact when a meaningful connection is actually made when Bell is finally recognized by a solitary individual: the difference between $17.17 for a 43 minute solo performance and $37.17.

You can listen to the full metro-station performance here.

Radio-Canada guides viewers through the Election Predictor

posted by Brendan Hodgson

I find this interesting, given that we had considered doing something similar. But it’s kind of cool to have someone do it for us.

Here’s Philippe Schnobb of Radio-Canada, the French language arm of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) providing a detailed video description (in French) of the functionality of the Hill & Knowlton Ducharme Perron (HKDP) prediction tool.


Election Predictor 2.0 – 2007 Quebec Edition goes live

posted by Brendan Hodgson


Following on the success of H&K Canada’s 2006 Federal Election Predictor, itself born from the UK’s 2005 version, Hill & Knowlton Ducharme Perron (HKDP), H&K Canada’s wholly-owned Quebec subsidiary, has unveiled the latest, Quebec-based version.

You can try it out here… (click the image or “commencer” to launch the predictor itself). 

Now we know that no predictor is 100% accurate. However, we think we’ve got a pretty good formula, one that will add an element of fun and debate to the Quebec election race now underway. Use the split predictor (Repartir) to show how percentages for the main parties are transformed into a predicted election result. OR test the swing tool (Transferer) to see what happens when a percentage of the vote shifts from one party to another. You can view your results in a table (tableau) and as an interactive map (carte).

We’ve also included a number of tools that give it a social media flavour, including:

  • the ability to view saved predictions via Google Maps (click “Toutes les predictions” to launch the map and you can see mine – Cazoo),
  • the ability to blog your saved predictions (once you save a prediction, click on “Mon compte” then “Ma prediction” then “Envoyer et Partager” and add the code to your blog),
  • The folks at HKDP will also be blogging through the election, pointing to interesting items from across the parties, and
  • We’ve included (off the home page) the RSS feeds from all the political parties in Quebec that provide RSS feeds, and if you click the tab “Sondages” you can view the predicted outcomes of the leading pollsters.

Update: due to some problems with the RSS feeds coming from the various parties, we’ve unfortunately had to disable that feed – but we’ve got something in mind to replace it…

So start predicting! And don’t be shy with your feedback.

As an aside, the main parties’ acronyms are used on the site, but they are:

Putting words into action – JetBlue’s Customer Bill of Rights faces its first test

posted by Brendan Hodgson

After storms resulted in the cancellation of 68 flights over the weekend, JetBlue now faces the first major test of its recently-launched, and much-touted Customer Bill of Rights.

YouTube videos by the CEO and ’enshrined’ commitments aside, and despite all the widespread backslapping across the industry – as much for the company’s use of 2.0 technology to communicate its apology as for its approach to managing the crisis – the proof will now be in the pudding as the company seeks to respond to the hundreds of passengers affected by this latest dose of Mother Nature’s wrath.

One hopes that JetBlue, in setting out its commitments, considered the potential of a repeat scenario happening within such close proximity to the first. Because unless you can respond adequately to those who challenge you to “prove” yourself able and willing to match your messages with substance, the damage to your reputation will likely be worse than having said nothing at all.