It’s not a revelation to observe that public relations people often have an adversarial relationship with the legal department of any large organization. By nature, the two fields are set in opposition: public relations pushing to disclose, and legal pushing to conceal.
Too often, unfortunately, the legal department wins out when disputes arise as the legal profession tends to be respected as far more credible than PR. That doesn’t mean legal is right all (or even most) of the time.
Recently a local paper featured a live chat with an employment law professional and a staffer of a state legislator who proposed barring employers from accessing employee social networking profile data. As is the case with most ham-fisted attempts by lawyers/legislators to insert themselves into the social media landscape, both the law (House Bill 5523: Social Network Account Privacy Act) and the legal advice for employers are wrong.
While part of House Bill 5523 is reasonable (protecting userid/password information from employers) – it’s superfluous political posturing because the act of an employer demanding access to an employee’s Facebook account is already illegal: it’s identity theft (and it’s also prohibited by Facebook’s policies).
What I disagreed with most was the legal advice for employers, which was essentially to avoid using the Internet and social media to search for information on prospective employees. The rationale given for this was the possibility that one could uncover information about a prospect (such as a pending pregnancy, age or disability) that one would have to prove they didn’t use this information in a decision not to hire.
There are two problems with that advice:
1) Not hiring someone due to pregnancy, age, or a medical condition happens regardless of the use of social media to find that information out. When you interview someone in person, those things become readily-apparent whether or not you used social media to weed people out.
Abstaining from social media searches wouldn’t insulate anyone from allegations of bias.
2) There’s actually a very good case to be made that investigating employees via social media actually PROTECTS employers from allegations of discriminatory hiring. For starters, it allows an employer to get a sense of someone’s fluency with technology (essential in the workplace today).
Depending how active people are online, it can also provide insight into their critical thinking process, how active they are in the community, and what their communication skills are … all things that are perfectly reasonable to use in not hiring someone.
If you need an excuse not to interview or hire someone, odds are the Internet can provide ample legal justification.
Sometimes considering an alternate perspective to the legal one provides valuable insight. I wish more corporate leadership would try it.
I was fortunate to work with a great team of people who helped Family Promise of Grand Rapids win Toyota’s “100 Cars for Good” competition this year (a full case study is available here). Yesterday, the organization took receipt of the car which was another great public relations opportunity from the competition (which has given the organization a great platform to reach more members of the community).
West Michigan charity takes delivery of Toyota truck it won through Facebook contest
By Jim Harger | Grand Rapids Press | on October 26, 2012 at 11:49 AM
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Family Promise of Grand Rapids took delivery of its new Toyota Tundra pickup this week thanks to its success in Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good competition earlier this year. (More)
As ArtPrize opens in Grand Rapids, an actual controversy has finally broken out.
It’s not the usual controversy (ie art snobs being upset that “commoners” are allowed to express opinions on what constitutes “good art). It’s actually controversy over work considered to be obscene. Read more…
Demand for Social Media Marketing has exploded in the past decade as brands struggle to reach audiences beyond the increasingly-fractured traditional media consuming public. Right now Social Media Marketers are able to take advantage of the public’s overwhelming ignorance about communicating via social media and get paid to navigate those spheres for their clients.
It won’t last forever. It may not even last another decade.
Think of the travel industry. Before ‘teh interwebz’ information used to be scarce, so it made sense to pay someone else with expertise to navigate the complicated pricing schemes and array of accommodations providers to do it for you. Flash-forward to the year 2000 when the web came into its own in terms of providing easier ways to book airline tickets, hotel rooms and car rentals (as well as recommendation sites chock full of free expertise and reviews). This great graphic from the Cleveland Plain Dealer says it all: Read more…
I’m not one enamored of the Harvard Business Review. The ivory tower often isn’t the best vantage point.
That’s why I’m unimpressed with the recent piece by Bill Lee, “Marketing is Dead,” published in the HBR. The article does little to live up to the provocative title, rehashing conclusions most savvy marketers and advertisers came to nearly a decade ago (even the slowest among us arrived at them at least five years ago).
Why is marketing dead? CEOs are frustrated and customers are ignoring traditional media – just look!:
“In a devastating 2011 study of 600 CEOs and decision makers by the London-based Fournaise Marketing Group, 73% of them said that CMOs lack business credibility and the ability to generate sufficient business growth, 72% are tired of being asked for money without explaining how it will generate increased business, and 77% have had it with all the talk about brand equity that can’t be linked to actual firm equity or any other recognized financial metric.”
So what? The percentage of Americans that say CEOs lack credibility is at 79 percent. Moreover, the turnover rate for CEOs is at a six-year high. Audiences have been tuning out from the traditional mass media for over a decade. Read more…
Thanks to the generosity and tech-savvy of West Michigan as well as the hard work of volunteers, Family Promise of Grand Rapids won a Toyota truck by pulling in the most support in the 2012 Toyota 100 Cars for Good contest. This is the second win for a GR-based nonprofit in as many years. Clearly this city has something going for it (take that Newsweek).
Thanks to everyone who helped!
Big kudos go to the core group of volunteers that helped make this win possible:
Rick Jensen, Terri Howe, Christine Hoek, Allison Root, Adrienne Wallace, Abby Taylor, Pete Brand, Amanda Brand, Kaitlin Brand, Angie Phillips, 834 Design and Marketing, Wondergem Consulting, Clark Communications and the WMPRSA Board.
It’s also worth noting that everyone was led by Cheryl Schuch – the Executive Director of FPGR who is a model for all leaders to learn from. She’s truly invested in her organization and was closely-involved every step of the way.
Rick and Terri worked on the campaign on behalf of the West Michigan Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (of which all three of us are board members – FPGR is WMPRSA’s current nonprofit client that we provide with two years of pro bono counsel as part of our PRforGOOD project).
Having helped Kids’ Food Basket come up with a winning strategy last year, Adrienne Wallace and I shared what we learned with the FPGR team (the case study for KFB is available here). Here’s what we came up with: Read more…
For some reason, people seem very comfortable assuming they know as much as anyone trained in marketing, advertising or public relations. Whereas few people would feel comfortable second-guessing a
physician’s assistant physician assistant, or telling an engineer how to do their job – they are more than willing to micro-manage communications professionals.
To them, I say “thanks but no thanks.” If you’ve not in the field, and you’ve ever offered up any of the following advice to a colleague in the field, please check yourself.
1. You think we should advertise somewhere because you consume that media.
In all liklihood *you* are not the demographic being targeted. *I* am not the demographic being targeted either.
This happens all the time – I guess it has to do with some desire we have to feel as though we understand the average person’s mindset and that we represent the common opinion on the street. The problem is – it’s increasingly hard to identify “the average person” anymore.
Not only that, but whomever he/she is, none of us is likely representative of them (particularly where I work where most of the employees have advanced degrees – relegating them to a tiny ten percent of the US population, not at all representative of the median).
Instead of going with your gut – trust the data instead. Save your gut for the creative portions of the campaign where it will be needed.
2. You think we should advertise somewhere because it’s a “special” promotion targeted right at our industry.
I hate to break it to you, but every two-bit media entity worth its salt has created bogus “special interest” offerings as a marketing ploy to appeal to advertisers. There are “special editions” for everything now – and they even come out more than once a year.
To make matters worse, there are even entire organizations created solely for the purpose of selling worthless advertising to rubes who think they’re reaching someone.
A great example of this is the “Who’s Who” listings or “Internet Directories” for special topics. When was the last time you looked anyone up in a “Who’s Who” book? Carter was probably president. The same goes for special “directories” online; as the power and accuracy of search has improved, it has rendered the need for curated directories obsolete. You’re far better off taking all of that time and money and putting it into writing a blog to push up your rank in Google.
On Payola: By the way – if the “special promotion” includes freebies to the people buying the advertising (say, event tickets) – if you take those, it’s unethical and potentially grounds for firing at many institutions. It constitutes a conflict of interest for you to spend money that isn’t yours in order to get something free. You may even want to check with your Purchasing department because you may be legally-obligated to notify them or turn over that item.
3. You think we should advertise somewhere because they have special pricing available only for a limited time.
The amount of exclamation points that usually accompany the emails for these sorts of requests could fuel a mid-sized city. Understand that these offers are invariably overvalued. The reason they’re discounting the air time/ad space is because NO ONE ELSE WANTS IT (and there’s a reason no one else wants it).
The reason these “opportunities” are “special” is because no one else will advertise on them because they don’t reach enough people (or they’re not effective at converting eyeballs into sales). They’re the advertising equivalent of the bargain DVD bin at Wal-mart – no one wants to own Battlefield Earth which is why it languishes even with a $2.99 price tag. You’re literally throwing your money away – money that could be better spent with 30 seconds and a credit card on Facebook.
4. You think we should advertise somewhere because our competitors are doing it.
To be sure, there is absolutely value in benchmarking what one’s competitors are doing. However, following the herd can be problematic for a variety of reasons.
- First, if the herd is already there – it’s a diluted marketplace for ideas. You’ll be trying to make noise while everyone else is trying to make noise – no one is going to hear it. The Law of Diminishing Returns absolutely applies to advertising.
- Second, the herd doesn’t know anything you don’t already know. They’re not privy to some mystical insight – particularly the more members of the herd are engaging in this communal behavior the more likely it is to be outmoded because the soft middle has arrived.
5. You think we should advertise somewhere whether or not we can track the response.
Measurement is just as critical as Communication in a marketing/pr plan. If you’re not worried about how we’re going to gauge the response to our efforts – I’M worried about your fitness for your job.
If you can’t find a way to verify whether or not something worked – why would you do it? Would you have a surgery if you had no way of telling whether or not it was successful? Would you enter a competition that didn’t track how you placed?
It’s not fun and it’s not sexy, but it is an imperative that we develop some way of measuring how many people are converted by our efforts. Given how wildly media consumption habits are shifting right now – it’s even MORE important than any time in the past half-decade.
Moreover, ENTIRELY NEW forms of advertising are emerging all the time. What worked this year may not work at all next year – and it’s important to track that progress.
So “Backseat Marketers,” please – we need your input but keep it constructive and focused on the content that you are experts on. Recycle the faxes you get with radio discounts on them instead of forwarding them to us. Defer questions from ad sales reps to us and let us handle them (instead of allowing them to create confusion, conflict and division within our organization just because they work on commission).
As you’re likely aware, recently Facebook changed the email settings of all users so that the email they signed up with is no longer visible – replaced by their @facebook.com email address. The company rolled out an email service back in 2010. My guess is that adoption was lagging so given the new pressure they’re under as a result of their IPO to monetize the service, they made the switch.
They’re perfectly entitled to do this; after all they’re a private company providing a free service to users.
HOWEVER, what you’re ENTITLED to do and what you SHOULD do are two completely different things.
MOREOVER, WE do not control the language – THE PEOPLE DO (in this case, the users). Read more…
Why is a bad pitch worse when it comes from a Public Relations Pro than when it comes from an Ad Sales Representative?
I ask that question after reading another article (Social Media Makes Bad Pitches Go Viral–And Can Save PR From Itself | by Amber Mac | FastCompany) blasting the entirety of the public relations world for irrelevant and careless pitches they’ve received via email. The strident calls for PR to reform itself are ever-present; Gawker even has a separate category for showcasing shoddy PR (PR Dummies).
I wonder how many journalists are aware of the fact that at the same time they’re bemoaning poorly-targeted spam PR pitches, many PR Pros are bemoaning poorly-targeted spam Ad Sales/Sponsorship spam pitches from ad sales reps who work for the organizations that underwrite those journalists’ activities. Read more…
"...and you shall have no pie."As my parents tell it, when I was an infant my first word wasn't a word - it was an entire sentence. Very little has changed.
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