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Avoid Using Memes Unless you can Contribute Meaningfully to the Culture: Marissa Mayer and the Yahoo-Tumblr Announcement

May 20, 2013 Leave a comment

Yahoo Borg Assimilates Tumblr

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer just announced that the search relic will be buying Tumblr, an announcement made on a Tumblr created by Mayer using an animated gif of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” meme.  This is a great example of why most organizations should avoid trying to use memes, and the framing of the announcement undermines Yahoo’s intended message. Read more…

UPDATE: Are Classes at GVSU Canceled Due to a Bus Accident and Weather? – HELLS NO

March 19, 2013 1 comment

UPDATE 2 – 3/25/13: See Below

Mark Twain once said “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

Let’s test that hypothesis in the era of social media.

GVSU Email Confirmed Fake

Right now, students at Grand Valley State University are circulating the image above which appears to be a screen capture from a mobile phone showing an email from a GVSU faculty member describing in elaborate detail why classes will be canceled tomorrow (3/20/13).

Some of my students forwarded it to me and inquired if I’d heard anything.  To date (7:50 pm on 3/19/13) I’ve received no emails from the administration, and there are no announcements on the college’s website, nor any messages pertaining to a cancellation on the college’s Facebook or Twitter pages.  Moreover, there are no cancellations for GVSU in the news media.

So it’s probably false.

What also makes me think the image is a fake is that there’s no date in the email (and I’m not aware of any version of the Gmail client that doesn’t at least show the date or time in the header information of an email).  I’m betting it was probably photoshopped.  To test my suspicions I ran the photo through Photoshop Killer, an online tool that detects when changes have been made to images.  The report seems to indicate photoshopping; in addition to the lack of EXIF data about the image, it appears to have possibly been sharpened (possibly to hide traces after blurring out some portions to edit them).

Photoshop Killer Analysis of the Image

It’s true, the weather hasn’t been optimal today – but it’s hardly bad enough for GVSU to cancel all of its classes at all of its campuses.  It’s also true that there was a bus accident on campus today A student was struck by a bus at GVSU a month ago – however the female student who was struck by a Rapid bus only suffered minor injuries.  Also definitely not reason enough to cancel all classes.

I sent an email to Dr. Kevin Cole, the professor from whom the email purportedly originates.

Updates to follow.  It would be great if we could debunk this in real time.

UPDATE: 9:40pm 3/19/13

Dr. Cole returned my email in record time confirming that, indeed, the email is a hoax.  Here’s his response:

GVSU Email is Confirmed as HoaxIt’s going to be interesting to see what GVSU’s Computing and Technology Support department finds when they go through the digital trail that this email likely left behind.  Unless this person was seriously savvy, it’s likely they will have left multiple bits of identifying information behind as a result of sending this message.

UPDATE: 12:45pm 3/52/13

A couple of days after this blog post, GVSU responded to the situation; apparently there were several instances of these fraudulent emails being sent.  Today they announced that they were able to track down the student who was responsible (who may now be charged criminally and possibly disciplined by GVSU).

Three Ways the Mitch McConnell Campaign Shows how not to use Social Media

March 6, 2013 Leave a comment

Team Mitch McConnell Harlem Shake Comments Ratings Disabled

Talking Points Memo noted this morning that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign today released a Harlem Shake meme video featuring college students re-enacting the format of a lone dancer dancing until the beat drops in the song and all hell breaks loose. As I’m fairly certain they’ll pull the video as soon as they notice how badly it’s faring in the public space, here’s a cached version:

Ignoring the fact that the voc-over that starts the song is from a reggaeton artist named Héctor Delgado and declares “Con Los Terroristas” which is Columbian/Spanish for “With the Terrorists,” there are a number of problems with the effort.

  1. Know Your Publics: The video is ostensibly to appeal to a younger audience, and campaign spokesperson told CNN that college students actually contacted the campaign and offered up the idea.  I don’t have the data in front of me, but I’m betting McConnell’s base doesn’t have much to do with Harlem, Youtube or college given that the legislator led the effort to cut Pell Grant funding recently and stands at odds with younger voters on a wide range of issues.  Moreover, Kentucky lags behind the rest of the country in broadband Internet access penetration (coming in at 45th in the US) which doesn’t bode well for HD streaming video content as a delivery method.
  2. Social Media Means Participation: As of right now, both comments and ratings are disabled for the video on YouTube.  Not only that, but comments are disabled for four of the six videos Team McConnell has uploaded in the last year.  When you disable the participatory elements of social platforms – you run the risk of driving people to other spaces where they can participate beyond your ability to join the conversation.
  3. Timing is Everything: The video was published today, but I remember seeing pitches to corporate clients about jumping on the Harlem Shake bandwagon weeks ago, and the phenomenon peaked on February 10 when as many as 4,000 videos were being uploaded to Youtube per day.  The speed at which social media moves means most organizations are completely incapable of responding in time to actually appear in-tune and actually risk appearing clueless and out-of-sync with the times.

On that third point, I leave you with a video the Minnesota Timberwolves shot that encapsulates the sentiment toward the Harlem Shake by an increasingly larger portion of the public (which includes a font-based jab at their rivals the Miami Heat in the close):

Budweiser Fights Back Against Watering Down Accusations With Social Ads

March 3, 2013 Leave a comment

Today I noticed in my social stream on Facebook that Budweiser was using ads to fight back against the accusations that they are watering down their beer.

This little advertisement popped up humorously takes a jab at the plaintiffs in a lawsuit by offering the possibility that they mistakenly tested one of the cans of water Anheuser-Busch has produced to meet the emergency needs during one of the recent crises like Hurricane Sandy (a practice that dates back to the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906):

Budweiser Rebuttal Facebook Ad

 

Other than the ads BP blanketed the socialsphere with following the Deep Water Horizon disaster, I don’t think I’ve seen much of this practice by major corporations.  I actually think it’s a smart and effective strategy (particularly in the budget department).  It simultaneously addresses the lawsuit while reminding the public of its social good campaigns.

The only criticism I have of the ad as a public relations move is that it doesn’t send those who click on it to a page addressing the accusations, rather it goes to Budweiser’s main fan page (which likely won’t help address the crisis among people who aren’t familiar with it).  There’s print on the ad that likely explains this, but it’s far too small to read in the tiny dimensions of a Facebook ad.

Budweiser Facebook Fan Page

Update – Burger King’s Twitter Account Hacked; Finally Suspended 1 1/2 Hours Later

February 18, 2013 Leave a comment

[Update: the @BurgerKing account was finally suspended about an hour and a half in.]

As I write this, Burger King’s Twitter Account (@burgerking) has been hacked by Anonymous and turned into a McDonald’s account with the parody storyline that BK has been acquired by McDonald’s.  It’s still posting updates (including photos of drug use and links to rap videos on YouTube) unabated.

What’s particularly amazing about this situation is that it’s now almost an hour into the hack and no one has taken action (neither Twitter, nor Burger King), though that may attest to the resourcefulness of LulzSec – the security wing of the unofficial hacker collaborative Anonymous.

Image

@BurgerKing Account Suspended

Unexpected Reveals in the Age of Radical Transparency

December 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Linkedin Company Insights

Government reform activists are constantly working to shed light on the dark dealings in politics, particularly on government employees and officials moving to the private sector to lobby the agencies and offices they used to occupy.  In the past, this information was difficult to obtain.

Enter Linkedin.

Like all social networking platforms, the strength of Linkedin is in its ability to mine profile data with algorithms to create connections and paint a picture unseen from other vantage points.  Also like other social networking platforms, they’ve been steadily adding features and doing more with the growing body of data they hold.

Even with a free Linkedin account and a few minutes of research, one can look up the top ten lobbying firms in the US for 2012 and get a glimpse of insight about the comings and goings of employees from and to the public sector by looking at these organizations “Company Insight” pages on Linkedin:

  1. Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber & Schreck (4 employees from the US House of Representatives)
  2. Hogan & Hartson (4 employees from the US Securities and Exchange Commission, 3 from the US House of Representatives)
  3. Quinn Gillespie & Associates (one employee recently departed for a job as a Press Associate for the Senate Finance Committee)
  4. Holland & Knight (9 employees from the US House of Representatives)
  5. Ernst & Young
  6. Williams & Jensen (one employee recently departed for a job with the US Department of Energy)
  7. Van Scoyoc Associates (3 employees from the US Senate)
  8. Cassidy & Associates (4 employees from the US Air Force)
  9. Akin, Gump, Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP (10 employees from the US Senate, 9 from the US House of Representatives)
  10. Patton Boggs LLP (9 employees from the US Department of Justice, 6 from the US House of Representatives)

 

Someone with more programming expertise than I could easily create an automated program to mine and archive this publicly-available data (and mash it up with other bodies of data).

Something important to consider about all of this information is that it came from the users themselves; not from the companies.  As always with data security, even the most robust program is only as strong as its weakest link.

There is very little that is certain about our rapidly-evolving world, but one certainty is that more data will become public and we’ll have more and better ways to understand and sift through it.

Any institutions that rely on a lack of transparency are going to be in for unexpected surprises if they don’t fundamentally change their practices, or invest in some heavy-duty online reputation management.

Fair warning.

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