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UPC and CME team up in Romania

By Chris Dziadul

UPC Romania has entered into a partnership with the CME-owned national commercial broadcaster Pro TV.

As a result, subscribers to the cable operator’s next generation Horizon platform will have access Pro TV’s channels Pro TV, Acasa, sport.ro, Pro Cinema and Acasa Gold for seven days after its initial transmission through Replay TV.

In addition, they will be able to view Pro TV’s content anytime, anywhere and on any device through the Horizon Go app.

UPC Romania launched the Horizon platform nationally in October 2016.

Vodafone and Cisco launch 4K platform

By JΓΆrn Krieger

WATCH VIDEO. Vodafone Deutschland has launched Ultra HD/4K platform GigaTV on its cable network today bundling the entertainment services in the customer’s household.

The successful roll-out of GigaTV which is based on Cisco’s Infinite video platform was confirmed by a Vodafone spokesman to Broadband TV News. Through a central user interface, viewers gain access to around 120 TV channels, 55 catch-up portals, a video-on-demand service (VOD) with over 3,000 movies as well as apps.

The integrated recommendation system suggests content from the platform’s own stock and third parties such as pay-TV platform Sky Deutschland or ProSiebensat.1’s VOD service maxdome based on the user’s personal taste.

The core element of GigaTV is a set-top-box with 1TB storage capacity suitable for Ultra HD/4K. With the box, users can watch selected titles from Vodafone’s VOD library in the new video format. The instant restart function will enable viewers to set the currently running TV programme back to the beginning and watch it from the start.

The multiscreen service can be used on smartphones and tablets through apps: The app for Android devices is available on the Google Play store. The iOS version for Apple devices will follow shortly, according to the Vodafone spokesman. Through the apps, users can watch live TV, access catch-up portals, watch movies they ordered and continue watching them at home on the TV set and initiate TV recordings on the set-top-box.

Vodafone cable customers can obtain GigaTV including the box and apps from €14.99 per month. For an additional €5 per month, they can access GigaTV HD Premium with further 20 channels. The GigaTV app is available for €9.99 per month. No Vodafone cable TV subscription is required, making the app available nationwide.

Vodafone Deutschland wants to introduce GigaTV on its IPTV platform Vodafone TV at a later stage.

Telekom Austria expands Belarus TV service

By Chris Dziadul

Telekom Austria’s wholly owned Belarusian subsidiary velcom has made its interactive TV service voka available to subscribers of any mobile operator in the country, as well as through Wi-Fi technology.

According to Naviny, voka offers around 60 channels, split in thematic blocks, along with an extensive library of movies.

The latter includes content from Megogo, along with titles in full HD. Voka also has a variety of features such as pause, rewind and a TV archive and can be received on PCs, smartphones and tablets (iOS, Android and Windows 10 Mobile) and TVs (Chromecast, Apple TV).

It is being made available free of charge for one month to all new subscribers of mobile networks.

FC Bayern Munich to launch pay-TV channel

By JΓΆrn Krieger

German football club FC Bayern Munich will launch its own linear TV channel in collaboration with Deutsche Telekom.

FC Bayern.tv live will go on air on February 27, 2017 at 11.00 CET and report about the football club 24 hours per day in HD quality.

The pay-TV channel will be available on Telekom’s IPTV platform Entertain TV, as a live-stream on the internet at www.fcbayern.tv/live as well as on smartphones and tablets within the FC Bayern app for €5.95 per month.

Telekom customers with a post-paid contract and internet flat-rate will receive FC Bayern.tv live free of charge in the first 12 months. In its debut week from February 27 to March 5, the channel will be freely available to anyone.

“With FC Bayern.tv live, we are the first German club with its own linear TV channel,” said Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, chairman of FC Bayern Munich. “We are proud to be able to launch this channel in collaboration with our main sponsor Telekom. It’s a new way of reaching our many fans.”

Deutsche Telekom to offer unlimited mobile streaming

By JΓΆrn Krieger

German telco Deutsche Telekom will offer its mobile customers the possibility to use music and video streaming services from selected partners without reducing the high-speed data volume included in their tariffs from April 19, 2017.

With the “radical step”, Telekom wants to “revolutionise the German mobile market”, Michael Hagspihl, managing director of the consumer business department, said at the presentation of the zero-rating thrust.

With StreamOn, customers can stream movies, series, sports or music without having to be afraid of data throttling kicking in and don’t have to look for the next Wi-Fi hotspot to prevent their data contingent from being used up, explained Hagspihl.

The preferred treatment only applies to StreamOn partners. “StreamOn is open for all content providers,” stressed Hagspihl, “no one will be discriminated.” Telekom would be happy about every partner extending the StreamOn community.

In the video area, the current partners include Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Sky Go, ARD/ZDF’s youth service “funk”, ZDF, 7TV (ProSiebenSat.1), Spiegel TV, Entertain TV, Telekom Basketball and Telekom Eishockey.

The current audio partners are Apple Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, Napster, Juke! Music and Radioplayer.de.

The customers of Telekom’s Magenta mobile tariffs can sign up for the StreamOn option at no additional charge. Depending on the tariff, music, music and video or music and HD video streaming are covered.

Concerns that the preferred treatment of individual players could harm net neutrality and competition law are circumvented by Telekom by making participation in StreamOn free of charge. “The partner doesn’t pay anything,” a Telekom spokesman confirmed to Broadband TV News.

Customers can use StreamOn on any mobile device and via multi-SIM on up to four devices, explained the spokesman. However, users creating a Wi-Fi hotspot with their smartphone or tablet won’t benefit from it, according to the spokesman. “Tethering is not possible.”

The German regulators will examine the telco’s move. “The Federal Network Agency will thoroughly investigate Telekom Deutschland’s new tariff option StreamOn based on the legal requirements of net neutrality and decide after the examination whether or to what extend adjustments are necessary,” a spokesman of the Federal Network Agency told Broadband TV News.

ProSiebenSat.1 and Discovery team up for OTT

By JΓΆrn Krieger

ProSiebenSat.1 and Discovery want to set up a joint platform for OTT and mobile TV in Germany.

The media companies have founded a joint venture in which both sides hold a 50% stake each.

At launch, the streaming service will bring together the seven channels included in ProSiebenSat.1’s mobile app 7TV: Sat.1, ProSieben, kabel eins, sixx, ProSieben Maxx, Sat.1 Gold and kabel eins Doku, along with Discovery’s German free-to-air channels DMAX and TLC.

The enhanced streaming service will initially be delivered to consumers under the 7TV brand using its app and underlying technology platform; further technology enhancements are planned by the partners. The launch is expected to take place later this year, depending on anti-trust approval.

According to ProSiebenSat.1 and Discovery, the streaming service is a first step in this partnership that will also see the creation of a broader OTT platform which will include other channels and content from Discovery and eventually further content partners. ProSiebenSat.1 and Discovery welcome discussions with other media companies to include their content on the platform and to join the venture.

The partners are also pursuing strategies regarding sports content through the joint venture including packaging the 7TV service with Discovery’s direct-to-consumer Eurosport Player app. Recently, Discovery’s sports channel Eurosport secured several key sports rights for the German market including Bundesliga football matches, beginning this August, and the Olympic Winter Games 2018.

A search process for a chief executive to lead the joint venture is currently underway.

Canada academic's Sean Spicer cutouts sprout in bushes across North America

(Reuters) - Cardboard cutouts of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer hiding in bushes are popping up all over North America, inspired by a British Columbia academic who kicked off the craze in her home town of Victoria.

Vodafone D offers RTL HD channels mobile

By JΓΆrn Krieger

Vodafone Deutschland has commenced offering the free-to-air channels of Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland in HD quality on smartphones and tablets through the app of its TV platform GigaTV.

The telco and the TV broadcaster extended their carriage contract accordingly. The agreement covers the live-streams of RTL, VOX, RTL II, Super RTL, n-tv, RTL Nitro, RTLplus and Toggo plus.

The HD distribution is taking place both on mobile networks and within the customer’s Wi-Fi home network, a Vodafone spokeswoman confirmed to Broadband TV News. The channels have previously only been streamed in SD resolution.

The catch-up TV services offered by the RTL channels will also be made available in HD quality on smartphones and tablets at a later stage.

The GigaTV app contains up to 78 channels and around 44 catch-up services.

Vodafone and Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland also agreed to add the two pay-TV channels GEO Television HD and RTL Living HD to Vodafone’s cable network.

GEO Television HD is part of subscription package HD Premium containing up to 21 HD channels for €9.99 per month. RTL Living HD can be received together with further 17 channels in the HD Premium Plus bouquet for €6.99 per month.

For subscribers, both channels are also available through the GigaTV app.

Now is the time for real time PR

It's almost an understatement to say that PR professionals have seen tremendous changes in their field in recent years. Disruptive technologies, new trends and tools have redefined the business, while the number of online (social) media channels continue to increase. The effectiveness of the old-fashioned press release is far behind us. In many instances, a press release is still justifiable, but with a decreasing corps of journalists, they often have little effect. Hence the fact that wire and press release distribution services are feeling the painful consequences; organizations are less willing to spend their PR budget on non-effective distribution services. They rather invest an increasing share of their money on the production of quality content and more potent and effective online environments such as newsrooms and curation hubs to ensure distribution.

Engage your audience

Online environments and social media -- in contrast to traditional wire distribution-- offer many opportunities to reach a better and potentially larger audience. However, the speed and interactivity of these channels require a vastly different approach and attitude from the PR professional. In order to arouse and hold the interest of your audience, your content should be stimulating and offer a variety in angles. In other words, not be too monotonous. The trend of extended copy being alternated with, or replaced by visual content and other rich media in a way proves this concept.

The ultimate goal is the use of visual content that is not only very powerful for storytelling, but also involves the audience in the activities of the organization. As an example, live streams and even the use of virtual reality, allow PR professionals to make their audience a part of the message instead of just informing them.

Understanding the NOW with real time PR

The available arsenal of tools that can be used for Real time PR purposes is more diverse than ever. PR departments, therefore, also use a vast array of these (often disconnected) tools in order to make sense of the constant flow of online messages. The practice of real time PR --in essence an (inter) active live performance of trend watching and reputation management-- is unthinkable without these types monitoring and curation tools. However, most organizations have not yet embraced the extensive possibilities they offer and often also have an unclear vision of what to do with the possibilities they offer.

There are enough examples of newsjacking and funny Twitter fights by brands. Companies like Heineken, Verizon and KLM are known for their successful campaigns and comments on social media. Although these expressions provide the organization with a sympathetic boost, it is not providing any benefits for their leadership. According to the latest edition of the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer the confidence in has CEOs plummeted to a record low (see below, sheet 17).

Everyone has a role to play, from trainee to CEO

There is a tremendous gap between the reputation potential that real time PR can provide and the general level of distrust in leadership. Executives would do well to actively engage more openly with the world around them and establish themselves as one of the faces of the organization. And by using the plural, they are not alone. Employees and interns also represent a brand, and for someone who follows a hashtag on Twitter, the tweets of a trainee are as visible as the tweets of the CEO. Everyone has a stake in shaping the timeline.

All this is further enlarged and strengthened in a time of crisis, to which no organization is immune. The benefits of real-time PR can be of major importance during a crisis. Well trained employees and a detailed plan for real-time crisis management can make the difference between a controlled setback and an image disaster.

5 reasons why everyone should engage in real time PR

Overall, there are five reasons why every organization, and the humans that represent it, should engage in real time PR:

  1. The field of the PR professional has spread across many digital platforms that all move at an incredible pace. Maybe the PR department cannot cope with all of it alone?

  2. To only inform is just not good enough. An audience should be quickly and actively involved in your public relations, not only by means of text, but also in a visually compelling manner with images and/or video.

  3. It is hard to miss an opportunity to engage in real time PR. New tools for real-time monitoring and trend watching are quickly becoming more available and affordable.

  4. Not only the posts of the CEO, but also those of employees lower down the hierarchy appear in a public timeline. When everyone is well trained, they can all contribute positively to the reputation of the organization.

  5. Real time PR is essential in times of crisis and should therefore be given a permanent place in the communication.

California State University San Marcos: a textbook case of crisis preparation

The 2014 Wildfire

Most communicators expect to have to deal with a crisis situation at some point in their career. Yet predicting how a crisis will rear its ugly head is incredibly difficult. While it is impossible to address every potential scenario, implementing a strong team and the right protocols can help effectively steer organizations out of crises.

In 2014, when nine infernos blazing in the San Diego region threatened California State University San Marcos (CSUSM), a school of 11,300 students, the rapid response skills of the Public Relations team were held to the fire.

As they dealt with a deluge of information coming in through one end, and questions from concerned parties from the other, the role of the PR team is a textbook case on how to handle crisis communications:

  • The team was immediately brought into a ‘Situation Room’, from where they accessed information and disseminated updates every three to five minutes during the first 18 hours of the crisis

  • The team positioned itself as the source of information; positioning the PressPage news center as the only official university source for accurate and updated news

  • Katie Chappell, the social media specialist, monitored and posted on Twitter almost 24/7 for the first two days, proactively providing updates, dispelling false information, and answering panicked questions from concerned students and families

Yet more impressive than the team’s quick response to the crisis, was the textbook crisis management preparation CSUSM undertook following the wildfire incident.

Crisis preparations following the Wildfire

Prior to the wildfire, only one member of the CSUSM staff, the Public Information Officer, had undergone crisis training.

Following the crisis, CSUSM put every member of the crisis team, including the four key members of the PR department through crisis management training workshops. Together with other members of the crisis response team, including college facilities and university police, CSUSM staff ran simulations of potential crisis scenarios.

“It was really fascinating because we were divided into teams and given an emergency. And we had to both act out and write down what we would do in our role. I had to write a press release in three minutes, and also a series of tweets and website updates. In the last session we came together and discussed the issues that came up that needed to be solved, so we could address those in advance of an actual campus emergency”.

In addition to simulation exercises across the crisis response team, the PR team also formalized their own internal processes in preparation for crises. “Now we have pre-written messages and press releases in the event of most campus emergencies. The statements have been vetted and approved by the university leadership and would only need slight updates if they were ever needed.”

Download a 5-Step-Guide to do a dry run for your crisis communications. 

All members of the PR team were also given extensive training, including press interviews, social media, and PressPage.

“We definitely all feel like we are as prepared as we could be now”, said Katie, explaining that they now feel well versed in “how and what we’re doing during crises, where we keep the assets related to emergencies, like a big yellow triangle with a red background that we use in any news release that is related to an emergency situation.”

Finally, Katie adds that the PR team were all given extensive cross-training of each other's roles, “so that in the case of emergencies any one of us could do the others job, and that includes using PressPage. We have all our individual roles in the event we’re all here, but also have the ability to take over for each other if we are not”.

The impact of preparation

Since the wildfires, the CSUSM team has had two instances where it used its new crisis management strategies.

Exactly one year after the wildfires shut down CSUSM for a week during commencement, mother nature struck again, and the university was again forced to close down on the day of commencement due to a severe thunderstorm.

“Postponing the commencement ceremony again – two years in a row – is a pretty huge deal,” explains Katie. “So while we didn’t have the same immediate emergency communications, we were able to immediately implement our plan that we had created in the event we have to postpone commencement, especially related to weather.”

With over 10,000 people traveling to attend the commencement ceremony, the CSUSM public relations team had just three days notice to alert people that proceedings would be postponed. But with the learning experience from the year before, as well as its formalized crisis communications collateral including press releases, tweets, and b-roll, CSUSM was able to swiftly and decisively address the issue. In communicating to its internal audience of students, faculty, and families, as well as to the media, the team was prepared for what to say, and what the feedback was going to be. “We were able to answer some questions before they were even asked,” Katie adds.

The result of this preparation was a smooth overall process, with both the school’s internal audience and the media knowing what to expect. “Once we sent out the initial notification, pretty much every major media company in San Diego easily picked up the story from our news center that our commencement ceremony was rescheduled. We had set the expectation for where people could find information, and where we would be updating it. It was a much much smoother process from our perspective.”

Summing up the result of their preparation, Katie concludes, “fewer phone calls, fewer panicked people, and the media knew where to go”.

Increased trust

Apart from the calming effects of deep preparedness, a clear crisis communications strategy has led to longer term reputational benefits for CSUSM.

“We have established ourselves, not only during emergencies, but just in general, as the source of information, and that we also provide accurate information as quickly as possible.”

Are you curious to see how an online newsroom could support your PR strategy? Request a free 14-day trial to try it out.

Every crisis is an opportunity: fact or fiction?

A crisis can do irreparable damage to an organization, but at the same time it also presents an ideal time to review and renew current processes. It puts an organization into conflict: on one hand there is an urge to return to the status-quo as soon as possible, while also creating a situation in which relevant aspects are being evaluated, revealing options to improve. For a crisis to have a silver lining, certain things need to occur.

Neutralise the negative impact

When a crisis hits, your first action should be to blunt its negative edge, by listening and responding to any affected parties in an emotionally intelligent manner.

Jonathan Bernstein, president of the consulting firm Bernstein Crisis Management, suggests “what [an organization] should do when there’s [an injury] associated with one of his company’s products is respond, first and foremost, with compassion, and then with words that express competence and confidence".

Alton Towers, a British theme park, provided a commendable example of this through its handling of a crisis in July 2015. After two women were injured on one of their rollercoasters, the organization proactively communicated to the press, offering any kind of assistance the women or their families needed. By being delicate and considerate towards the victims, they minimized the negative backlash in the media about Alton Towers.

While Alton Towers’ strategy limited the negative effect on the organization, it is also possible for organizations to emerge in better shape after a crisis, than before it began. In 2014, after the sportswear company Under Armour had publicly exhibited its high-performance speedskating suits, the company fell into a global PR crisis when the US team wearing the suits at Sochi Winter Olympics started losing races. Fingers were pointed towards Under Armour’s suits, and the Wall Street Journal headlined a story titled “Under Armour Suits May Be a Factor in U.S. Speedskating's Struggles." The company’s response, which included “responding quickly, frequently reiterating the company's mission statement, putting top executives in the media and making sure not to blame the athletes”, not only alleviated the crisis, it actually boosted the brand’s confidence. The company’s stock which initially dipped 2.4%, quickly rebounded and rose, and Under Armour resigned the US speedskating team to its brand for another 8 years.

The importance of timing and taking the lead

A strong crisis communication strategy is not enough to ensure your organization can escape a crisis unscathed.

Other factors including company culture, stakeholder interest, and the attitude of the board are important. Are all of the organization’s representatives on the same page? When solving the crisis, are we taking the victims and stakeholders into account? Is the CEO seen as the cause of the problem and is there pressure for them to step down? Communicating about solutions and changes will only help if these actually take place.

While not every crisis may lead to a positive outcome, stopping the bleeding can certainly feel like a success. Some other tips to ensure this include:

  • Intervene as quickly as possible to prevent an incident developing into a crisis. An incident is easier to control and steer towards a positive outcome than a full blown crisis. The longer you wait before addressing the issue, the larger the sacrifices and concessions will be that you need to undertake to solve the crisis

  • Take a step back, broaden your view, and answer the following questions: how will you look back at this crisis in twelve months time? What went well, what went wrong? By taking a few moments to think about these questions, you can still influence the answers before it is too late

  • Communicate in clear and precise terms, both internally and externally, that you take this crisis seriously. Then set out the steps you will undertake to solve the situation. The message that should be prominent, is ‘We are addressing the problem’

 

Well prepared for a crisis

While these tips will help to increase the chances of steering a crisis towards a positive outcome, it is far more important to be prepared for a crisis. Though preparation won’t make you bulletproof, there are things you can arrange in advance to ensure you won’t be blown away when the crisis does happen. The most important tasks and best practices can be found in our checklist, which will help you manage your internal and external communication in these circumstances. 

Visual crosses all borders

Language is continuously changing, not only in its meaning but also in its content and distribution. The rise of social media did not only increase the speed of communication, but also altered the way we interact. Language is being activated and words like ‘exit’, that used to be nouns, are now used as verbs. Furthermore computers, smartphones, and tablets make sure that we can connect anytime and anywhere we want. As a result, a large part of our conversations nowadays are facilitated by technology, initiating a shift from formal written communication to more informal personal communication.

Technology has enriched our vocabulary, introducing us to new words such as binge-watching, selfie and abandonware. However, visual communication is by far the most important trend in PR. This reach can be extended to speech – in 2015 the Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year was “face with tears of joy”, which is not even one word, and it isn’t even text: it’s an emoji.

Overall, pictographs should not be underestimated. According to Rob Brown ‘Emoji represents actual feelings, emotions and answers. They can be used instead of text and are here to stay. Emoji is indeed globally understood no matter which language you speak. People are sending messages that consist of nothing more than emoji, so they’re actually forming a language of itself.’ Even though speaking of the ‘former era of text-based communication’ as Mashable founder Pete Cashmore argues is extreme, adapting to language is necessary to keep your communication up to speed.

Data-driven communication

So what makes for good visual communication? Video usage is already soaring and continues to grow, but to piggyback on this evolution you need to surprise people and grab their attention. Brown reluctantly mentions Donald Trump as an example of someone who excels at this, knowing the power of a limited amount of words on the right channel to grab and hold attention. Important to recognize is that merely adding a picture or other visual to your message is not sufficient and therefore does not guarantee success in any way. For example, when you want to inform your followers that you are present at an event, do not post a picture of the venue but an ‘action picture’ instead. Be honest, would you rather like a formal picture in front of a stage or an unexpected picture that caught you off guard? In short, visual content has the ability to surprise and trigger a reaction, and it is up to you to make use of that.

Data is another factor that helps to determine whether visual communication is strong. Brown: ‘The concept of what is newsworthy, is becoming very data driven: predictions about the number of views a video will get are now important factors in deciding whether or not to produce the video in the first place.’ What makes this decision increasingly easy, is the fact that producing video content has become extremely cheap and easy. Everyone with a modern smartphone can shoot high quality videos now. ‘With the combination of ubiquitous internet, apps for broadcast and devices to view and consume, we are now able to communicate using visual content in real time.’

Events that particularly lend themselves well for the purpose of live coverage, rather than watching on-demand, are sport events. New technologies and WiFi-connected cameras allow for real-time editing and publishing, and can enable you to dominate social and conventional media. For example, a team of six, worked shifts over five days posting content on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube for the live, visually driven coverage of the 2016 Track Cycling World Championships, and delivered an astonishing 450 million impacts in social channels.

The future, for now

Whether the increase in popularity of video and visual content is a clear-cut change that will last, remains unclear. Yet the foundations of PR seem to be stable over time. The traditional value hierarchy of Television > Radio > Newspapers has not really changed and just reframed into Video > Audio > Text. It is all about embracing the opportunities that technology has to offer and use them to improve and strengthen your communication strategy. The expectation to consume media and access real-time information wherever we are, using our smartphones, requires new channels. Nevertheless, new media usually doesn’t mean the end of older ones, and text will not die out. At least, as long as you adapt to the modern languages.

Sources:
https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/new-words-in-the-dictionary-feb-2017http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2014/06/social-media-changing-language/

 

5 tips to get you through a crisis using social media

When a crisis hits, it is important for an organization to have a protocol in place. The protocol should not only focus on how to handle and cope with a crisis, but should also contain a clear communication flow. Who will be your key spokespeople and have you set out a clear strategy? Among the many communication tools that can be used during a crisis, social media is one of the most important ones because it offers the opportunity for an immediate, concise, and far-reaching response. But if misused, things on social media can take a turn for the worse. The question remains – will using social media in crisis communication deliver you an advantage?

The thin line between positive and negative

The introduction of social media enabled people to respond easily to almost anything online. A viral meme, video, or a tweet can appear instantly on the Internet. When a crisis occurs emotions can run high, which can make it difficult to manage online sentiment. All eyes are on you and with every step you take, you carry the risk of your message being misinterpreted and subsequently upsetting your customers or the public. There are options though to make sure discussions don’t escalate and you can escape the crisis without too much damage.

Social media offers real time insight into the mood of your audience, which enables you to interact with people. When a negative claim is made about an organization, it becomes important to respond quickly. When you are the subject of a joke, you can steer public opinion in your favor by participating in the humor through self-mockery, while simultaneously diffusing any inaccurate statements about your organization. Wendy’s, who have become notorious for their sassy social media presence, were quick to use some tongue-in-cheek humor to reinforce that their beef patties are never frozen earlier this year.

However, when words from your organization or its representatives are negatively received, use social media to limit the damage. Following USA’s victory over Ghana during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Delta Airlines tweeted a photo of the Statue of Liberty (representing the US) next to an image of a giraffe (representing Ghana). The only problem was that there are no giraffes in Ghana. After Twitter users were quick to point this fact out, Delta promptly deleted the tweet, and tweeted an apology.

 

 

5 Tips

There are many examples of companies that either managed to save face during a crisis, or conversely succumbed to the criticism of the masses. From executive level, down to individuals who work directly with clients, there is still a lot of ignorance regarding the importance and power of social media. Here are five necessary tips on using social media during a crisis, for all members of your organization:

  1. By reacting quickly, you can be involved in an online discussion from the beginning, and ensure things stay in hand. When the discussion is at its most intense moment, the reach of our message is the highest.

  2. Use the social media channels where discussions are taking place, to provide clarity through engagement, and the actions you as a company will take in response to the crisis. This enables you to use the problem to create a strategy that will turn the crisis into a positive PR opportunity.

  3. Maintain good relations with relevant contacts on social media and approach them as soon as possible to make sure your side of the story is being heard as well. Building and and maintaining a relationship does take quite some time and effort, so make sure that you have enough resources to do this.

  4. Create a manual with ‘rules of engagement’ that describe how to react via the different communication channels in a crisis. Take some time to investigate internally how your colleagues or employees would react in specific situations. Create scenarios and practice your responses to accurately simulate your team’s crisis management.

  5. Think about the role social media has in your communication department. Keep the advantages (speed and reach) and disadvantages (not full story and oversimplified) in mind. For example, in a tweet, refer to an article on your website which offers you more space to communicate a full message.

 

Checklist

A full set of tools can be used for communicating during and following a crisis. Adequate preparation is one, but there are many other aspects that can influence how the crisis influenced the organization. Do you want to make sure your organization is ‘ready for a crisis’? Download our checklist which will help you prepare all of the things you can prepare in advance.

SEO for PR pros: start with these three basics

For the PR professional who is jumping from deadline to deadline, the best path forward is to keep it simple and focus on a few big SEO related tasks at a time. In the case of SEO, as it is with most things, doing a few things well is better than doing many things half-heartedly.

But one thing we stress to clients is to not completely ignore SEO. You can have the best article in the world, but if it isn’t optimized for SEO, you will lose out on big traffic numbers.

So, what are the things that if done well can put you ahead of most of your competitors?

Mobile Optimization

For many years now mobile has risen in importance relative to desktop, and in 2016 Google changed its algorithm to reflect the significance of mobile.

For PR professionals, this means ensuring your work website is mobile responsive. Journalists aren’t necessarily looking at your website behind a computer. They are often in the field or at press conferences and like regular people, looking for information on their mobile phones.

So how do you optimize for mobile?

  1. If you haven’t already, ensure the next refresh of your website includes a responsive mobile website. Google has indicated it prefers responsive design over having a separate “m.” version of your website.

  2. Think about how your content renders on mobile while creating it. Google Chrome allows you to simulate how your content will appear on various mobile devices.

 

Backlinks still rule

Backlinks are the incoming links to your web pages, and despite claims suggesting otherwise, they are still the most critical element to a well ranking page in search.

It makes sense that Google would see the pages people are linking to (and thus talking about) as high quality content, and thus promote it in its search results.

There are a few key things to remember about backlinks:

  • Quality is just as important as quantity. Google will attribute greater SEO value if your web page is linked from a high quality source (e.g. a respected news organization) than it will for a low quality source (e.g. a spammy site)

  • Diversify your sources: Google looks favorable if your links are coming from a diverse range of domains (websites), as opposed to fewer ones

But good things don’t come easy. Backlinks carry a lot of value because they are difficult to implement. How do you get another website to link to your webpages?

  1. The backbone of cultivating outside links to your web page is to have awesome content. Think about your content calendar for 2017. Are you writing content that people in your industry or in the news would be willing to share?

  2. Guest posts: writing a guest post for another blog or website is a great way to send traffic back to your domain. If you have experts in your organization, encouraging them to write elsewhere can boost the presence of your website or newsroom.

 

Reduce your bounce rates

If your bounce rates are high, it means that visitors to your website are not finding the content they are looking for.

Suppose someone searches for ‘Green Australian Snakes’ and they click into your webpage. But instead of information about Green Australian Snakes, your page is about socks you are selling called ‘Green Australian Snakes’. This results in people immediately ‘bouncing off’ your page in search of the content they are actually looking for.

Google’s algorithm perceives this to as your web page does not meet the expectations of the search result. Higher bounce rates usually equal a lower ranking in search result.

To improve the bounce rate, try these methods:

  1. If the right traffic is coming to your website, but your bounce rate is high, think about what your audience is looking for and improve your content. Are they looking for easy to access ‘how to’ information? Are they looking for a list of useful resources? Adapting your content to the user’s expectations will be a big step in keeping them on your page.

  2. Make your ‘Call to Action’ prominent. You’ve improved your content. Your audience even likes it as it matches their expectations from their search. But what now? Are you leading them to other pages they might useful through powerful call to actions? Or are they clicking off your page immediately leading to a ‘bounce’?

  3. Include interesting and engaging text ‘above the fold’. If your best content requires scrolling, many of your visitors may never get to see it.

  4. Reduce your loading speeds and creating a good user experience, especially on mobile.

 

Ready to get started?

It’s time to put these basics into practice. These three SEO areas, if implemented correctly and consistently, will lead to big traffic wins for your newsroom. But what else do you need? Check out three of the most useful tools for PR professionals to learn how to best optimize your content.

 

The added value of online data for PR

Data in itself is not very important or valuable. We all gather data in one way or another, but if you only glance at it and go about your usual business, the data is not going to provide any useful information. Most organizations create and publish content based on their own needs and predictions, and turn to data afterwards to check if they performed like they thought they would. But what if you turn that order around?

Thinking before speaking

Practicing PR with the use of data means manoeuvring through a never-ending cycle of publishing content, monitoring results and market trends, analyzing gathered data, and engaging with your audience. If you start a campaign with monitoring instead of publishing, you can use market insights and data to help decide what you need to create, and predict what the outcomes will be. This greatly improves the chance your efforts will turn out to be worthwhile.

Currently, upper management often instructs PR professionals to create a content strategy based on preconceived notions about company and customer needs. Data generally doesn’t factor in, even though every organization has access to it. Even if you don’t actively collect data yourself, there’s enough of it available in the public space, for instance on social media and review sites. The focus for determining what content to create should shift from self-proclaimed certainties to data-backed arguments.

From raw data to personal contact

When it comes to engaging with your audience to positively influence your reputation, it’s important to dismiss the misconception that your organization has an online and an offline reputation. Newspaper stories end up on social media and vice versa. You have only one reputation, and data can help you manage it. For example, OBI4wan’s own data showed that using the company’s corporate social media accounts led to much less engagement (20%) than using personal employee accounts (up to 70-80%).

So though you may be tempted to push your brand by sending everything through your corporate account, you should never forget social media are still about individual people communicating with each other. This is also relevant when analyzing why a specific piece of content was particularly successful or unsuccessful. Who are the influencers who are framing your story in a positive or negative way? What are they picking up on? Are they journalists or public figures? Would you benefit from reaching their audiences by engaging with them? Knowing why you’re performing the way you are is crucial for the engagement part of your PR cycle.

Of course, there are countless ways you can gather, analyze and use data for your PR practices. Historical data can help you decide what to create, when to publish it and how to distribute it. Real-time monitoring data can then assist in engaging with influencers and stakeholders. It can reveal all kinds of traffic and feedback, and you shouldn’t restrict yourself to only responding to negative comments. If you ignore the positive messages, people will eventually stop posting them, wiping out your opportunities for sharing free endorsements. It’s not bragging if someone else is saying it!

 

Taking control of your corporate branding

The decline in the number of journalists and the rise of PR professionals are well documented. In the US, PR workers now outnumber journalists by about five to one. As Pew Research has pointed out, organizations are increasingly able to reach out to the public directly, in any number of ways, while journalists encounter greater difficulty in checking and confirming information from outside sources. This increase in PR power comes with corresponding changes in media relations and (therefore) PR responsibility. Media, stakeholders and target audiences increasingly look at PR departments for consistent, reliable and recognizable narratives.

Consistent branding

Protocols and standards enhance consistent branding. Consequently, from a sender's perspective, a natural first step is to set up and incorporate PR guidelines to be used by all global branches within the organization. They include general and specific instructions for press releases (format, layout, tone of voice, boilerplate), rich media (formats, sizes, resolutions, styles) and templates for documents like brochures and white papers.

Being in control of all this means making sure your PR output always looks like it came from one person, even though you may have dozens of teams around the world working on it. A lot of this has to do with your organization's visual branding. Consistent use of logos, icons, colors and fonts goes a long way in generating a brand that is instantly recognized by readers, viewers and visitors. For global brands with many different national websites, this means ensuring all newsrooms look the same at any given moment. Visitors who are familiar with a newsroom’s layout, instantly know where to look for the content you want to share with them. A good example of a company who is ensuring a consistent branding, is Velux. Not only their corporate office, but also local offices such as The Netherlands and Russia have the same look & feel to support the global brand. With minor differences in these newsrooms (such as a different social media channel), they all look and feel the same but are though personalised per office.

Workflow wins

This brings us to the why and how of workflow consistency. A major step in securing a unified brand look and feel is using the same tools and platforms throughout the whole organization. Working with the same system guarantees a level of consistency in PR processes, and facilitates easy and uniform coordination and training for departments worldwide. A corporate identity change is particularly straightforward when templates, logos and boilerplates can be simultaneously adjusted in all newsrooms and press releases. A SaaS solution that functions independently from the rest of the website can even be instantly migrated in the event of a complete website redesign.

The same goes for measuring the results of your PR efforts. Using the same monitoring system for all global outlets creates a comprehensive overview with easy comparisons of metrics from different locations. This in turn helps with choosing the standards for measuring and reporting on the return on investment (ROI) of your PR practices.

Win-win

An organizational workflow as described above derives consistency from its global PR guidelines and efficiency from its uniform use of tools and platforms. Internally, this makes for easier cooperation, training and managing of potential changes in corporate branding and identity. Externally, it ensures a consistent conveyance of your brand to all media, customer bases and stakeholders. A win-win situation for everyone involved!

 

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Putting the personal into PR

Relationship are not built between institutions, but between individuals. The world that we know is being challenged. The Edelman Trust Barometer shows that trust in the four key institutions - business, government, NGOs, and media - is in crisis. The good news is that individual employees are being perceived as trustworthy. Now more than ever, organizations must break with their long-established traditions of corporate communication, and work towards a new, more integrated operating model that puts people at the center of activity. Your ability to build personal relationships with your stakeholders can create a distinctive and competitive advantage. So, the question shouldn’t be why your PR strategy has to be personal, but rather how you can achieve this.

Select and train your content heroes

Employees who engage on social media and blogs in a personal and professional way, are actively building relationships with their target audiences. It is key to support these enthusiastic employees by educating them on how they can use online tools in a meaningful way to contribute to their (personal) business goals. It’s better to forget about an “army of content soldiers”, but instead focus on the 1% of passionate workers who are really willing to act as ambassadors for your brand. Show them how to do that in a way that personally benefits them and won’t take up too much of their time.

There are three main ways in which employees can act as ambassador and engage with their target audience.

  1. Simply listen and learn about the (potential) client’s challenges, needs and considerations.

  2. Showcase their knowledge and expertise in their online profiles. Let your reader know it’s more about their needs, not about your services, by using more ‘you’s’ than ‘I’s’.

  3. Publish and distribute your brand's content, but also expose their personal expertise by writing blogs or articles.

Motivating employees

Even enthusiastic employees need support and motivation from their PR department to put themselves ‘out there’. People often feel that they don’t have the time to contribute to your online reputation and do not prioritize this. Therefore it is important that you help them, facilitate their efforts and make them realize that putting in a bit of extra work can go a long way. For example, when they visit an event, a tweet or an update on LinkedIn can already contribute to positive brand awareness. Furthermore, you could use employee advocacy tools by scheduling tweets and posts for colleagues to distribute on their personal networks. Unfortunately, the reach of content being posted on company pages and through these scheduling tools is declining. Having your employees sharing brand content on their personal social media pages will increase your reach and will pose an opportunity to get your message across to interesting and new audiences. There are at least seven points of contact between varying actors before sales are being finalized, online presence of employees can be one of them.

Convincing the brass

To put the personal in PR you might have to change some of your ways and to do so you probably need your management team’s support, as you need a combination of time and money to turn this strategy into practice. The important factor in convincing upper management to allocate extra time, manpower and budget is to gain some success first, and take it from there. Show your bosses how there’s money to be made by making PR more personal. Send out monthly reports on your results, listing not only to “soft” KPI’s like reach and sentiment, but also “hard” ones like leads and deals that can be attributed to your PR efforts. The more success you gain, the more involved your bosses will get.

From colleagues to ambassadors

In summary, there are five best practices when it comes to putting the personal into PR:

  1. Allow and encourage your colleagues to use online technologies to establish direct professional relationships.

  2. Show your colleagues why they should invest their time in brand ambassadorship and teach them how to do it.

  3. Forget the army of content soldiers and focus on the 1% that is willing and able to invest time.

  4. Don’t use too much PR and marketing speak when talking to your boss: talking money helps.

  5. Celebrate your successes, no matter how little they are. Sharing results helps enthuse the rest of the organization.

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