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Quinnipiac Social Media Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 08 – ICM 527 – Communication Tactics

Quinnipiac Assignment 08 – ICM 527 – Communication Tactics

Key Concepts

As Smith says on page 227, “A communication tactic is the visible element of a strategic plan.”

Smith mainly talks about more traditional means of communicating with publics, dividing the methodologies and strategic communication tactics into working with organizational media, the news media, or utilizing advertising and promotional media. Some of this applies pretty seamlessly to social media, whereas other aspects do not.

With organizational media, the questions are of the type of organizational control and ties, e. g. is the media internal like a company newsletter, and is it controlled? Is it for a targeted media (targeted buyer personae) or the mass media? Is the communication via popular media (e. g. The New York Times) or trade media (Variety)? Do the communications go only one way, or are they interactive (the hallmark of social media)? Is the media publicly or privately owned, and what type is it, e. g. print, electronic, or digital?

The question of popular versus trade media applies well to social media. Is a message intended for Google or a mainstream blog, or is it being disseminated in a closed forum or a specialty Facebook group?

Smith goes on to bring up planning and various events for communications, such as special events (an art exhibition’s opening, for example) or contests. Planning involves putting together print publications such as press kits, electronic communications like podcasts, digital media like websites, and social media, like blogs or wikis.

One tactic deserving of special mention is creating a ready to broadcast bit of media for a news outlet, such as a news fact sheet or a video B-roll. Smith explains, on page 276,“One of the most frequently used categories of news media tactics is direct information subsidy – information that is presented to the media more or less ready for use.” For news producers facing deadline pressure and needing to fill a ravenous 24 hour news cycle, ready-made media is most welcome.

Applying These Tactics to the ILSC

Putting together ready-made press information would be a great way for the Institute for Life Sciences Collaboration to get more positive press. A reporter looking to prepare a piece on the HIV crisis in Ghana is not necessarily going to have the time to gather the best images and most articulate patients for a story focusing on the ILSC. Even if the ILSC just provides names and contact information, that can make the difference between a story not being written at all, versus one that is not only written, but shows the ILSC in the best possible light.

The same is true for the Small World Initiative. Rather than making a reporter dig to find the contact information for educators, why not provide it for them? It’s up to the reporter, of course, to decide whether to pursue the story at all. But why not lower one of the hurdles?

Case Study Tactics

We looked at three case studies this week, “Giving Tuesday”, “Cans Get You Cooking”, and “Search for Amazing Women”. 

Giving Tuesday was all about a campaign to take advantage of the spending momentum that annually swirls around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It dovetailed well with increased giving impulses that tend to coincide with the holiday season and the end of the calendar year. The 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation found the following from their research: (Page 2) “Our initial secondary research showed us that in 2011, Americans gave almost $300 billion to favorite causes, but total dollars donated had yet to rebound to pre-recession levels. People were spending, though: Holiday retail sales were increasing at a rate of 3.3 percent a year. And we know that people are willing to give if asked.”

The campaign, which was communications on social media which spread the word, was a success. According to the case study, “on #GivingTuesday, nonprofits raised amounts up 63 percent over 2013 on five major donation-processing platforms. Based on initial results from Blackbaud, U.S. online giving was up 36 percent among its clients, compared with #GivingTuesday 2013 (to $26.1 million), and it saw a 15 percent increase in the number of nonprofits that processed online donations.”

Communication tactics
Canned goods in the subsidiary company store. The supplies in this store were ample and prices were competative with… – NARA – 540841 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For Cans Get You Cooking, the idea was to increase awareness of cans’ use in cooking via cooking shows and blogs. It was a well-coordinated online marketing campaign in particular, which   (Page 3) “implemented campaign’s Search Engine Marketing initiative, targeting consumers on Google already searching for ‘what to make for dinner’ or ‘easy recipes,’ among hundreds of other key word/phrase triggers, driving them to CansGetYouCooking.com, where they were exposed to campaign messages, the 30-minute special with Kelsey Nixon, canned foods recipes and much more.”

After reading the case study a few times, the thing I could not find was anything about sales. There was more interest in buying canned goods, but there’s nothing in the study about any actual increase in purchases. I was able to find a survey online (A Look Inside America’s Cantry) but still nothing about dollar figures.

I was also able to find a survey about the sales of canned fruit from 2011 through 2014 inclusive, and the numbers did not fluctuate significantly. And according to Companies and Markets, the purchase of canned goods declines because of improvements in the economy. When consumers have more discretionary income to spend on foodstuffs, they steer away from canned goods – no matter how well-crafted a campaign is used. It seems that Cans Get You Cooking was least effective where it really counted. 

The Search for Amazing Women was an effort to draw a defunct competitor’s customers to Christopher & Banks; a clothing store catering to women aged 40 – 60. The campaign included using Facebook to target key demographics (age and gender) such as military wives and professions traditionally dominated by women, including nursing, teaching, and dental hygienists. Competitors were also targeted, as were mentions of breast cancer (men can get breast cancer, too, but women make up a good 99% of all diagnoses). A look at the Christopher & Banks website reveals that the campaign is ongoing, which fits in well with page 3 of last week’s Vocus article, which mentions creating and maintaining a steady and consistent presence and not just dabbling.

Did it increase sales? According to the campaign, not only did sales go up, but the number of qualified leads increased. On page 3, the campaign notes its results were, “Created new brand-loyal customers through the contest: 2 grand prize winners and 6 runners up were non-customers. Since being named Amazing Women, the winners have posted pictures of themselves and friends at CB stores and shared CB promotions on Facebook. • Added 4,656 qualified prospective customers to the CRM database for future marketing efforts, with the goal of converting them to active customers. With this group added prior to the critical 2014 holiday season, the company achieved their holiday sales goals.”

Unlike the Cans Get You Cooking campaign, the Search for Amazing Women showed demonstrable and actionable results.

Applications to Other Coursework

In most of our other ICM coursework, we talk about reaching buyer personae and even about identifying them, but the nuts and bolts often seem to be left out. This week’s readings detailed not only plans, but how they were executed. The Search for Amazing Women targeted its key demographics with real out of the box thinking. After all, women posting on Facebook about breast cancer might not be seen as a viable market, but of course they need clothing. The Cans Get You Cooking campaign went in a different direction by working with Kelsey Nixon and adding some celebrity appeal and the kind of authority behind messaging mentioned in last week’s Vocus reading. The less than successful nature of that campaign seems more to do with the improving economy than any fault on the part of the strategic planners responsible (sometimes a great campaign just falls flat or has unexpected results). And the Giving Tuesday campaign piggybacked on its public’s natural generosity impulses to create a successful campaign.

My other courses have outlined theory. This week’s readings, in particular, demonstrated practice. The road map has arrived.

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Community Management Quinnipiac Social Media Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 07 – ICM 527 – Message Strategies

Message Strategies

Social Media Message Strategies
The Medium is the message – Marshall McLuhan

With all due respect to the late Marshall McLuhan, the medium is still the message, but the message is now also the medium and the two are now joined at the hip, at least when it comes to social media.

As Smith notes on page 172, the communication process can be divided into three types –

  • Information – press agentry and public information
  • Persuasion – asymmetric advocacy and attempts to influence
  • Dialogue – symmetric, rooted in relationships

Information is a one-way street. E.g. I tell you that the world is round. You hear my message and either agree or disagree with it, or perhaps you request further information or even a second opinion. However, the relationship is not a symmetrical one, as I am feeding you data but you aren’t responding in kind and I am not getting information back from you.

In the persuasion model, things are even more asymmetrical. I’m not just informing you of the roundness of our planet; I’m making a case for it, whether it’s with photographs taken from space or images of the shadow from eclipses over the moon, or even the results of a public opinion poll.

For the dialogic model, however, the information and persuasion both flow, and in both directions. I might put forth the premise of the earth’s roundness; you might counter with personal observations or even your own survey. The entities in communication can trade opinions or information or both. On page 173, Smith refers to dialogue as a “deeply conscious interaction of two parties in communication.” This is give and take.

Our messages are not just verbal or written ones; they include our tone, our word choice, and our body language, according to Smith, pages 212 – 214. There is a measurable difference between referring to the same medical condition as shell shock, battle fatigue, or post-traumatic stress disorder, as George Carlin famously said.

This is the kind of doublespeak mentioned by Smith on page 211 that seems to embody the worst parts of public relations.

Messengers carry different degrees of weight as well. Astronaut testimony of the roundness of the earth should carry more credibility than a raving madman on a street corner somewhere. As the Vocus  article puts forth on page 3, “Not all online conversations carry the same weight. Many will have no impact on your company and not every mention of your company or brand will require the same amount of attention. The trick is to understand what does and does not matter. While a discussion on the latest product release or customer feedback may be worth engaging in, other discussions may be trivial and will not require your participation.”

Social Media Message Strategic Approaches

The Vocus idea to pay selective attention is good advice. It offers a model for cutting through the noise. As social media professionals, strategic planners need to listen to their publics but also discriminate intelligently among the many messages being promulgated.

Vocus also mentions creating and maintaining a steady and consistent presence and not just dabbling (Page 3). This dovetails well with the Smith idea (Page 182) of familiarity adding charisma to a speaker, where personal charm enhances a message and gives a public a feeling that it is more likely to be correct or helpful. The message and the messenger can only be familiar if they are consistent and not dilettantish.

This is perhaps the most important tip from Vocus, to not give up when social media becomes dull or burdensome or the ideas have run out. There has to be a commitment there.

As Mundy 2013 adds, on page 387, “Social movement and public relations research share similar goals: to investigate communication practices that develop collective understanding between organizations and publics, and to examine how organizations position issues as legitimate in the eyes of diverse stakeholders.” This development of collective understanding – dialogue – brings an organization closer together to its publics. Once the publics see why supporting the organization’s positions is worthwhile, they will need far less persuading. The equal, bilateral dialogue will do all the work.

Applications of this reading to our client

The most obvious application to the Institute for Life Sciences Collaboration (ILSC) is that adding a social media presence means preparing for the long haul. It means budgeting for at least a part-time Community Manager to research strategies, keep up with industry trends, listen to the public’s concerns and questions and weed through the noise, and help the ILSC to demonstrate thought leadership. As I had mentioned last week, Rick Flath has got to be a master networker (which was confirmed by Professor Place), as a tiny company doesn’t get the ILSC’s opportunities unless an individual is very charismatic. Now the ILSC needs to translate some of that networking, and charisma, and thought leader power to social media.

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Content Strategy Quinnipiac Social Media Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 06 – ICM 527 – Tying Strategic Planning to Nonprofits

Tying Strategic Planning to Nonprofits

This week’s readings were all about pulling strategy out of the theoretical realm and into the practical, real-life one.

Strategy

Going back to Smith (Pages 93 – 94) “Strategy is the organization’s overall plan.”

Smith further divides strategies into proactive and reactive. A proactive strategy allows an organization to start and offer its communications on its own timetable. It’s everything from generating publicity to spreading germane news, to being transparent about goings on in the organization, to addressing crises even before they hit the press.

A reactive strategy responds directly to external pressures and influences. While it can be preemptive action (e. g. addressing crises in their nascent, pre-press stage), it also includes press responses, diversions, corrective behaviors, commiserating, and even strategic inaction. Sometimes, it’s best for an organization to wait and see, and maybe even do nothing at all.

Nonprofits, such as our client, the Institute for Life Science Collaboration, strategize just like for-profit corporations do. This even involves funding, as the ILSC needs external fund sources in order to fulfill its missions, both domestically (the Small World Initiative) and abroad (pediatric HIV testing, tracking, and treating in Ghana).

This includes social media strategies as well.

Social media strategies that not-for-profits incorporate and how they apply to our client

According to Nah & Saxton (Page 297) “In nonprofit organizations the ultimate strategic goal is fulfillment of a social mission − the creation of public value (e.g., Lewis, 2005).” To tie it to Smith, the ILSC and other nonprofits can achieve their social missions by engaging social media both proactively and reactively.

Per Nah & Saxton (Page 297) “a focus on donors, as indicated by fundraising expenses, can be a defining strategic decision (Graddy and Morgan, 2006). Charities following a donor-focused strategy traditionally use mail and telephone solicitations, professional fundraising firms, and special events in order to raise funds. Social media have also recently become a popular fundraising vehicle (Nonprofit Technology Network, 2012). We argue that organizations more focused on acquiring funds through external sources are more likely to adopt and utilize technologies, such as Facebook and Twitter, that enable them to reach and interact with a broader set of potential donors.”

Tying Strategic Planning to Nonprofits
While Apple has not listened to my complaints about its iPhone in app donation policy, Google and Microsoft are all ears. I received a Windows 7 phone from Microsoft and Nexus S Android phone from Google. Now I have a Smartphone for each hand and will be exploring best practices in nonprofits, social media, and mobile during the next year. www.bethkanter.org/mobile-nonprofit/ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This proactive strategy gets a nonprofit organization into potential donors’ computer rooms and smartphones, by providing information or soliciting funds or drawing donors’ attention to applicable political and social conditions. For the ILSC, a Facebook page with regular updates, tied to a blog, could be a meaningful and feasible means of reaching out to the donating public. President Rick Flath has said that the organization needs donors; this could be the ideal vehicle to attain them.

Further per Nah & Saxton (Page 297 – 298) “Another way nonprofits seek to fulfill their social mission is through lobbying. … Organizations following a lobbying strategy may have different communicative needs; we expect politically active nonprofits to be more motivated to use social media, given their interest in mobilizing − often rapidly − a broad external public to take action. To a large extent, the emphasis on a particular strategy is embodied in the amount of resources allocated to that strategy.”

While the ILSC is less lobby-focused, they might have to do that anyway, particularly if political conditions change in Ghana or the government of the United States changes parties in the next election. For an organization like the ILSC, lobbying efforts could come about if the Ghanaian government collapses and workers become endangered, or the American government cuts off diplomatic relations. On the domestic front, lobbying could become necessary if the Small World Initiative is questioned as a vehicle for teaching evolution. If the United States government turns sharply conservative, this could prevent the SWI from getting into more high school classrooms. If that were to occur, however, the ILSC’s best strategy is probably a reactive one, whereby detractors would be directed to information on the good work that the initiative has been doing, in both the scholastic and medical fields.

One other nonprofit social media strategy, according to Nah & Saxton (Page 298) is, “A third approach to effecting social change is to concentrate on market-based program delivery. Instead of generating revenues through grants or donations, organizations that concentrate on programs generate revenues through market-like fee-for-service transactions, and are thus what Hansmann (1980) calls ‘commercial nonprofits’. With a strategy that centers on market-like transactions with clients, we hypothesize that such organizations have a greater incentive to reach out to both current and existing customers through social media.”

These fee-for-service nonprofits are organizations like the YMCA, which is a not-for-profit organization, yet they sell services such as gym memberships. The ILSC does not appear to have embraced a fee-for-service model at this time. If they were to do so, it might be in the areas of either small charges for Ghanaian medical care, or for textbooks and other study materials via the Small World Initiative. Particularly in the domestic realm, the ILSC could utilize social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook in order to inform school districts, parents, and educators about the costs of lab equipment and the like and maybe even use social media as a conduit to sales pages where interested customers could conduct transactions online.

Conclusion

For the ILSC, keeping off social media has been a strategy of inaction, and it has not been an effective or seemingly well thought out one. To better reach their publics and execute their fundraising and lobbying, and maybe even future fee-for-service strategies, the ILSC has got to proactively and deliberately enter the social media fray.

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Content Strategy Quinnipiac Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 05 – ICM 527 – Goals, Objectives, and Position Statements

Key Concepts – Goals, Objectives, and Position Statements

For all three readings, the main thrust of what we learned this week is that you have to be specific when defining what you want, and where you want your organization to go.

Goals, Objectives, and Position Statements
English: Vladimir Kush looking through a crystal ball. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Instead of having a vague, crystal ball-style idea that things will somehow improve, the jello has to be nailed to the wall.

Smith says it rather concisely: (Page 95) “… goals are general and global while objectives are specific.”

Goals are a kind of global idea of how a problem should be solved. E. g. if the problem is world hunger, then the goal is to either feed more people or have fewer people to feed. There aren’t a lot of other ways you can go with that. But an objective is far more specific, so an objective is more like educating 20% of all women of childbearing age in ten countries about birth control and marrying later, and doing so by the end of calendar year 2019.

For the Institute for Life Sciences Collaboration (ILSC), the organization’s mission and goals are twofold, to spread the Small World Initiative (SWI is a learning program whereby students gather soil samples in order to help discover new sources for antibiotics) to more schools, and to test, track, and treat cases of pediatric HIV in Ghana. These are more like task or relationship management goals (Smith, page 96), as opposed to relationship management, with the task goal being to treat pediatric HIV and the relationship goal being to spread the reach of the SWI.

With reference to the Small World Initiative, an awareness objective could be to foster and maintain contacts with fifty decision makers in key high schools by the end of 2016. Whereas an action objective could be to spread the Small World Initiative to high schools in ten states by the end of 2016. Both types of objectives are explicit, time-definite, and challenging yet attainable (Smith, Pages 101 – 103).

For Ghana, the awareness objective could be to foster and maintain contacts with fifty decision makers in key hospitals or towns by the end of 2016. An action objective could be to gain access to test newborns in ten towns by the end of calendar year 2016. As with the SWI objectives, these are goal-rooted and measurable activities.

The ILSC either meets these objectives, or it doesn’t. There is no in-between. This is why objectives must be meaningful, reasonable and quantifiable – this way, you know when you’ve succeeded. Or if you still have a ways to go.

Positioning statements are different. Per Smith (Page 95), “A positioning statement is a general expression of how an organization wants its publics to distinguish it vis a vis its competition.” For the SWI, the positioning statement can be loftier, and look a lot more like, “With the Small World Initiative, your students can be the change you wish to see in the world of discovering new antibiotics.” For the project in Ghana, it could be, “Stopping the spread of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa begins at birth. The ILSC aims to test, track, and treat every child at risk, until all children are well.”

Social Media-based recommendations

The Barbaric reading, in contrast, was strictly about social media goals and objectives. As Barbaric says, “Here are some examples of marketing objectives to get you started:

  • Increase Reach
  • Increase Conversions
  • Increase Retention
  • Increase Credibility
  • Maintain Visibility
  • Develop Stronger Relationships With Stakeholders”

The strength of this article is that it looks at social media for what it is. Organizations usually need to sell a product or service. Social media can be directly tied to that, but Barbaric is right to focus more on what social media specifically does. Likes, shares, comments, and followers do not necessarily directly lead to sales, but they do lead to increased reach and credibility, all of the earlier parts of the top of a sales funnel. Social media may also help with conversions. One of social media’s biggest strengths is that it is mainly objective and measurable. If a goal is increased awareness, then an objective can be to increase reach by 15% by the end of the next calendar quarter. This is a yes or no question when the time is up – did the organization make it, or not?

Putting it all together

Anderson, Hadley, Rockland & Weiner (Page 5) all offer six reasons for setting clear, concise and measurable objectives in public relations.

  1. “Objectives create a structure for prioritization.”
  2. “Objectives reduce the potential for disputes before, during, and after the program.”
  3. “Objectives focus resources to drive performance and efficiency.”
  4. “Objectives help create successful programs by identifying areas for prescriptive change and continual improvement.”
  5. “Objectives set the stage for evaluation by making it easier for sponsors and team-members to determine if the PR program met or exceeded expectations.”
  6. “Objectives link the PR objective to the business objective.”

Anderson, et al seem to be more focused on specifics than Barbaric. Even with social media’s objectivity, there are still some nebulous concepts being put forth by Barbaric. After all what does it mean to “develop stronger relationships with stakeholders”? That is not a measurable statement at all. Stronger relationships are a matter of some interpretation. Does it mean that funding comes more quickly, or there’s more of it? Are jobs secure?

At the same time, the Anderson, et al reading was about any sort of objectives, not just those tied to social media. The readings all work well together – Anderson, et al and Smith give the reasons for setting clear objectives, and then Barbaric defines them in the context of social media and public relations.

Goals are where the organization wants to go; objectives are the roadmap.

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Quinnipiac Social Media Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 04 – ICM 527 – Defining Publics

Quinnipiac Assignment 04 – ICM 527 – Defining Publics

Super Bass-o-Matic ’76 – you’ll never have to scale, cut or gut again!” – Dan Aykroyd

Defining Publics
Dan Aykroyd being interviewed at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I confess that’s the first thing I thought of when I finished this week’s readings, because it’s all about the slicing and dicing.

Key Concepts

For the typical strategic planner, the universe of possible listeners, publics, customers, etc. does have its limits. Unless you’re talking about oxygen or water, most products and services don’t apply to everyone. And even if they do, there are geographic limits. Selling snow tires to Eskimos, or discussing John Stuart Mill with folks in Venezuela, is hardly practical if you’re in Kansas City. Hence there must be divisions. This is how publics are defined.

According to Smith, (Page 57) “A public is a group of people that shares a common interest vis a vis an organization, recognizes its significance and sets out to do something about it.”

He further adds, “A public is like your family. You don’t pick them; they just are.”

While a public might simply exist, defining its parameters is well within the strategic planner’s purview.

Tuten & Solomon mention that there are several ways to segment markets and publics, and they are often based on psychology or characteristics (e. g. demographics or benefits). Geography, demographics, psychographics, benefits, behaviors, and technographics are all ways to divvying up people.

A public isn’t meant to be a random sampling of individuals. Rather it is a consciously measured slice of the populace. To go back to the bass mentioned in the Aykroyd quotation, a public isn’t the puréed fish, an undifferentiated mass whose sole characteristic is that it was fish at one time. Instead, a public is the intact tail or the fins. It’s a defined piece of the whole.

Applicable current events or timely organizational challenges; theorizing “publics”

One well-segmented website is Wattpad. Wattpad is a large self-publishing platform whereby anyone can post an original book. Rather than simply dumping all submissions into one big pile, Wattpad instead divides them by genre and by some sub-genres. For example, Fantasy, Horror, and Paranormal are more generalized genres, but Wattpad also offers sections on vampires and werewolves. Works can and do cross genres, but the site will only allow one genre to a work. The author must choose or, if he is she makes an error, the moderating team will correct matters. Furthermore, there is another slicing of the submissions with respect to a ratings system. The author selects an age range for the piece. Again, if the age range is incorrect (e. g. a book with explicit sex scenes is in the bucket for all ages), then the moderating staff will correct the oversight.

Because individuals can be members of several different publics, Wattpad doesn’t make anyone choose where they go on the site. Within the confines of the Canadian (the site is based in Toronto), American, Filipino, and other legal systems, members who are over eighteen years of age are free to investigate whatever they choose. However, within each genre, there are specific moderators who handle those works and make some choices to promote certain works over others, based on quality and not just read counts and other quantitative measurements.

A twenty-one-year-old French woman searching for books that she likes can potentially be a member of the Chick Lit-reading public, the French public, the female public, and the eighteen-to-thirty-year-old public, all at the same time. If Wattpad is looking to get her to join the site, e. g. she’s at the stakeholder stage as is defined by Kim, Ni, and Sha (Page 753), then their mission is decide which problem she needs help in solving. Is it a lack of good French novels? Is it a desire to read books written by people like her? Is it an appetite for Young Adult or Chick Lit publications? As Kim, Ni, and Sha add (Page 753), “In most cases, publics approach organizations hoping to gain organizational acknowledgement of their concerns and proactive corrections to the problem.” If other sources of literature are ignoring our hypothetical user’s problems, then Wattpad can be well-positioned to provide a solution. And if this woman’s public turns out to be large, e. g. there are thousands of similar young French women searching for new reads, then Wattpad can do well by positioning itself as the solution for these problems.

How do the different approaches compare and contrast?

In comparing Smith to Kim, Ni, and Sha, and Tuten & Solomon, the approaches are pretty similar. The idea is, at essence, to whittle the population down to manageable, homogeneous chunks. Kim, Ni, and Sha (Page 758) talk about segmenting across problems and issues. For our young French woman, if her problem of finding her favorite kinds of books is shared by other people then, under this approach, those people could be Japanese, or male, or middle-aged. All they have to share is their desire to read a particular type of novel.

For Tuten and Solomon, the problem is more of classic and semi-classic demographics. They look at the social technographics research as shown by Forrester Research as one way of understanding a particular kind of public. Our young French woman might be defined as a Joiner (a person who maintains a profile on social sites) or a Spectator (a reader of the content on social sites).

Smith, instead, looks at (Pages 61 – 63) Categories of publics, dividing them as follows:

  • Customer
    • Secondary customers (e. g. customers of customers)
    • Shadow constituencies (no direct link to the organization but can still affect perception of it)
  • Producer – providing input to the organization
  • Enabler – groups serving as regulators by setting norms or standards for an organization (e. g. professional organizations of governmental agencies)
  • Limiter – competitors, opponents and hostile forces.

In Smith’s view, the French reader is a customer and perhaps not much else. Smith further subdivides publics into their relationship with issues (Pages 74 – 76). A nonpublic public is “a group that does not share any issues with the organization and no real consequences exist to or from the organization.” A latent public (also called an inactive public) “shares an issue with the organization but does not yet recognize this situation or its potential.” An apathetic public “faces an issue, knows it and simply doesn’t care.” An aware public “recognizes that it shares an issue and perceives the consequences as being relevant, but is it not organized to discuss and act on the issue.” And finally an active public “is discussing and acting on the shared issue.”

Our French reader is probably somewhere between aware and active, depending on how diligently she tries to solve her problem of not having books to read.

The key takeaways from this week’s readings

Possibly the most applicable takeaway is that a public has got to be clearly defined. As Smith says (Page 60), publics are –

  • Distinguishable
  • Homogeneous
  • Important
  • Large enough
  • Accessible

This is not jello that we are trying to nail to the wall. Instead, publics are well-defined, no matter how the strategic planner slices them. They are readily recognizable, which makes them far easier to reach, whether the public is composed of French bibliophiles or high school science students or donors looking to make a difference in the instances of pediatric HIV in Ghana.

Publics are the fin, the scales, the tail, or maybe just the top half of the fish, and not the purée.

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Quinnipiac Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 03 – ICM 527 – SWOT and PEST Analyses

SWOT and PEST Analyses

SWOT Analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats/PEST Analysis – Politics, Economics, Socio-Culture, and Technology

In both Smith and Williams, we learned about SWOT analysis. In our other readings, we also looked at PEST Analysis.

Key Concepts

SWOT and PEST Analyses
Swot analysis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Smith, on Pages 47 – 49, refers to the following players who are external to an organization:

  • Supporters
  • Competitors
  • Opponents
    • Advocates – you stand in the way of their goal
    • Dissident – opposition to positions you hold or actions you have taken
    • Anti – a dissident on a global scale
    • Activist – similar to anti (is also seeking change) but tactics go beyond discussion
    • Missionary – self-righteous activist
    • Zealot – single-issue activist with a missionary fervor
    • Fanatic – a zealot without any social stabilizers.

Williams, however, was more concerned with how SWOT can be applied internally, particularly with reference to communications. For Williams, it’s more about looking at company goals and objectives, or at specific internal and external issues. Then the question is about the second step of SWOT analysis, which is to apply it to how that would be communicated. E. g. if a company is applying an analysis to its overhead, its strength might be in owning a building, its weakness might be that the building is in an area that is in transition and losing its cachet, that could potentially also be an opportunity, but the threat could be that customers would not visit the building in person if they felt the neighborhood was unsafe. Communicating those findings presents the strength of being able to quickly pinpoint the issue, the weakness of perhaps not being able to act decisively until external factors play out some more, the opportunity could present itself in the form of investing in an area where rents are suddenly taking a nosedive, whereas the threat could be that too much investment in a possibly dying area might hurt the company’s reputation.

Applicability to Current Events

The more I read about SWOT and PEST analyses, the more I realized they can apply to pretty much anything. I decided to take a look at Quinnipiac in the context of the White House’s College Scorecard, which was released on September 12th, and is thereby current although not really an ‘event’, per se.

The scorecard puts together basic data on various collegiate characteristics, including size, location, and the programs offered. Then the program pulls out colleges and compares them. I looked up Connecticut four-year-programs and found Quinnipiac is third-best listed for salary after graduation. The program could potentially be the subject of a SWOT analysis, that Quinnipiac shows strength in how its graduates earn after they leave, but a weakness in terms of price, as QU is listed as third-most expensive. Opportunities include showcasing the school as coming up better than U Conn for salary after graduation. Threats are from schools like Yale, which comes out as less expensive but with a far better graduation rate and a better salary after graduation. The point of the exercise is that the data are mixed, as they are for a lot of organizations. If you dig deeply enough, most organizations will have something that can be placed into each of the four buckets. No organization is perfect and without threats or weaknesses.

As for a PEST analysis (politics, economics, social-cultural, and technology), the scorecard remains applicable. Politics applies because of not only how the scorecard itself was put together (deciding what to emphasize could very well have been at least partially a political decision), but also because of how public institutions are funded. Quinnipiac is a private institution, but it can still be affected if public universities are funded (or not) due to political dealings. This can determine whether public institutions can compete effectively with Quinnipiac. Economics certainly applies in terms of budgeting but also due to financial decisions such as how much to charge for tuition and what to pay professors – and whether to offer more expensive full professorships or instead pay adjuncts. The social-cultural part applies as Quinnipiac is a part of Hamden itself. How the school conducts itself makes a difference in the fuller community. Is the campus safe? Does it recycle? Are the students loud? Finally, the technological aspect applies as the school cannot adequately function without working, up to date technology. Even for students who go to the campus and attend classes in person, there is a dependence on technology for everything from interlibrary loans to how tuition is calculated and collected.

Internal versus External Environments

I see the two as being equally important to analyze and research as an organization can be affected in either manner. For the ILSC, for example, because part of their work is done in Ghana, external threats include the possibility that the government of Ghana might not be as stable as believed. Internal weaknesses include the fact that the organization’s website doesn’t seem to have been set up for regular updating. Both can affect the very existence of the organization. A strategic planner should be researching both kinds of problems (and positives as well) as they can decide the fate of an organization.

Organizations looking to thrive – or at least to stay in business – need to look at both. No one can afford to ignore external in favor of internal, or vice versa. And no organization can afford to ignore PEST and SWOT analyses.

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Quinnipiac Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 02 – ICM 527 – Strategic Planning, Formative Research, and Issues Management

Strategic Planning, Formative Research, and Issues Management

Key Concepts in Strategic Planning

During the course of this week’s readings, a lot of concepts were thrown out, with several definitions. These were words that we use in common, everyday parlance, but they have special meanings in the world of public relations/strategic planning.

Smith covers increasingly difficult positions for a strategic planner to be in. First there is the fairly neutral situation, which is basically just a set of circumstances facing an organization. It neatly divides into opportunities and obstacles. After all, when the lights went out during the 2013 Super Bowl, Oreo could have sat tight like everyone else. Instead, ‘you can still dunk in the dark’ was born. Oreo didn’t just tread water – they scored a major victory. And it all happened during a situation that could have gone either way.

A step more difficult than a situation is an issue. Now, concern to the organization is baked right into the definition. There is more potential for problems when it’s an issue. And finally the definitions move to risks and then to crises.

The job of the strategic planner is to minimize and address the risks while, at times, dealing with out of control crises.

In the Reitz reading, a ‘dialogic model’ is mentioned (Page 43), where there is “a ‘communicative give and take’, where the process is open and negotiated between an organization and its publics.” This, in a way, is the essence of social media. It’s less of organizations dictating terms and paradigms to various publics. Instead, the publics are talking back, and it’s up to the strategic planner to carefully listen.

Formative Research’s Role

On Page 15, Smith mentions formative research, denoting three pieces of it, to analyze the situation, the organization, and the publics.

Strategic Planning, Formative Research, and Issues Management
The first U.S. patent, issued to Samuel Hopkins on July 31, 1790, for an innovative way of making “pot ash and pearl ash” (Photo credit: Wikipedia) (image is presented for educational purposes about issues management and formative research)

In order to evaluate matters intelligently, the strategic planner must take a look at what’s happening. For a financial services company, it could be anything from a worldwide sell-off to crop failures in Argentina to an employee engaging in what might be insider trading. For a car manufacturer, it could be recalls or new safety regulations or the applicable news from the United States Patent Office.

The organization must be assessed. Is there an opportunity? Is the organization vulnerable? Could this even be fatal to the organization? When Tylenol was laced with cyanide in 1982, there was a very real possibility that the fatal dose could be to Johnson & Johnson as well as the victims of the poisonings.

As for the publics, it behooves the strategic planner to consider how receptive they will be to any actions taken (sometimes the action to take is inaction, e. g. do nothing).  For Johnson & Johnson, they were dealing with publics who were used to trusting drug manufacturers, and who felt that trust had been betrayed. If the organization had opted to do nothing, the publics might not necessarily have blamed the organization for the poisonings, but they might have saddled the organization with a reputation for not caring. Seeing the connections between caring, purity, and trustworthiness, the organization built its response around addressing safety concerns immediately. Probably a lot more product was removed from shelves than was necessary. It’s possible that some of the safety precautions added were redundant and/or unnecessary. But the organization spent the time and the money and the brainpower and it paid off with dividends. Johnson & Johnson is still roundly praised for its response to the crisis. It’s hard to see how they could have handled it better.

Issues Management

On Pages 49 and 50, Reitz talks about issues management. On Page 49, Reitz defines issues management as quoting, “Cutlip, Center, and Broom define issues management as ‘the proactive process of anticipating, identifying, evaluating, and responding to public policy issues that affect organizations’ relationships with their publics’ (2000: 17).”

A crisis is, by definition, unpredictable, but certain crises can be anticipated. If an organization prepares for inevitable crises, over half of the battle is already won. Here are some instances wherein an organization should prepare, as it is not a question of if, but rather one of when any of these will occur:

  • Automobile manufacturers and recalls
  • Product manufacturers and product liability claims
  • Maintenance companies and snow removal or trip and fall claims
  • Transportation carriers and lateness and accidents

If any of these organizations is unaware that such crises could happen, and that they could escalate, then those organizations might want to rethink their business plans.

Life does not come without risk. It’s a foolish organization that doesn’t at least make an effort to plan for it.

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Quinnipiac Social Media Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 01 – ICM 507

Quinnipiac Assignment 01 – ICM 507

Key takeaways and the role of social media

Plan the work, and work the plan – somebody, probably in sports (the Internet says Vince Lombardi but that seems incorrect).

“Effective and creative planning is at the heart of all public relations and related activity.”  (Page 1, Smith)

Social media has a reputation for being a ton of ‘just in time’ communicating. But the reality of public relations is that it is all about the planning. Which days do you post? What times? What does your ideal audience look like? What are the demographics for your buyer personae? What kinds of things do you post?

One thing I have learned in my internship work already is that there is an abundance of riches when it comes to ‘wow’ images from wedding, engagement, and wedding modeling photo shoots. After all, these are professional stylists working with superior equipment and artistic talent. It is a far cry from the cosplayers I see for the podcast I work for, with their homemade costumes, where most of the images are taken by amateurs with cell phone cameras.

Hence for the wedding blog, it’s not about finding ‘good’ images like it is for the podcast’s blog and Pinterest boards. Instead, it’s a matter of jettisoning anything at all ‘off’ or that does not stand out. For example, the owner of the wedding blog made it clear that she doesn’t want to see images of dresses on plastic hangers. Wooden hangers or padded ones? Sure, if the image is otherwise good. But plastic? Nope. It’s a small detail, but it means something to her and to the blog’s clientele (wedding merchants and service providers) and its future clientele and to the brides and grooms looking to the blog for inspiration and ideas.

quinnipiac-assignment-01-icm-507-janet-gershen-siegel-adventures-in-career-changing
English: blueprint (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These are details, and this is planning.

MacNamara and Zerfass, on the other hand, have found that there is a decided lack of planning in the public relations sphere when it comes to the social media arena.

“Examination of the types and forms of policies and guidelines informing social media use in organizations revealed that only 31% of European organizations and slightly more than a third (35%) of Australasian organizations have specific social media policies and/or guidelines—and even fewer appear to have social media strategies. This means that around two-thirds of organizations do not have specific policies or guidelines in relation to social media.” (Page 298)

For organizations that pay attention to every last detail, e. g. fast food franchises that require similarity between Boston and Berlin and all parts in between; or automobile manufacturers that sweat out the angle of the roof of next year’s model; and fashion designers who agonize over perfect shades and the correct hem length down to the millimeter, why is social media so often such a domain of whatevz? 

Strategy and Perspectives

For Smith (Page 5), transforming obstacles into opportunities is at the heart of strategic communication, which is – 

“… planned communication campaigns. … [I]t is the intentional communication undertaken by a business or nonprofit organization, sometimes by a less-structured group. It has a purpose and a plan, in which alternatives are considered and decisions are justified.”

This perspective, to me, makes a great deal of sense. For company (and nonprofit) communications, it can’t just be ‘letting it all hang out’. Instead, there are any numbers of limitations, whether it’s FINRA for financial services organizations; or the FCC for media companies; or Sarbanes-Oxley, where companies have to justify their actions to shareholders. Or maybe it’s just all too rare common sense, or good taste, or ethical considerations, or the legal department’s requirements or, at the barest minimum, a pledge to not offend others?

Gone are the days off handing over passwords and telling a high school junior to go and have fun with things. Organizations without strategic planning and communications are like hikers without maps. They are essentially just asking to get lost. Who will bring in sniffer dogs to find an organization that has lost its way?

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Quinnipiac Social Media Class

Wireframing and Paper Prototyping

Wireframing and Paper Prototyping

What is Wireframing?

As Daniel M. Brown says in Communicating Design: Developing Web Site Documentation for Design and Planning (2nd edition) (Page 166),

Wireframes describe the contents of a web page and their relative priorities. They help the project team envision the functionality and behavior of different screens, or more commonly, different screen templates.  Most renditions of wireframes are laid out to look like webpages. 

But it’s more than that. It’s also about understanding user behaviors. What are the use cases? What does it mean when something is colored red, or is made larger?

The Importance of Wireframing in Creating Websites

For web designers and for the eventual users of websites, a mockup is necessary in order to get an initial feel for the development to come.

Wireframing puts together designers’ and coders’ ideas of what users might want. By asking users to review and show how they would use the proposed site, designers can determine whether there are use cases they are missing. Further, they can see if the design is too difficult for the average user to understand and navigate, or if creates, rather than diminishes, user frustrations.

As Jen Gordon says in The Mobile Design Process,

Much like any design or illustration process, having iterations of your design allows you to explore a wider variety of design options to a deeper degree. 

These iterations can be made with wireframing and paper prototyping, used together. Paper prototyping is generally used for the initial idea of where certain elements go (e. g. where is the logo placed?), and for iterating several versions of the design. Wireframing then comes in, when more of the design is set and the changes are less in terms of what goes where, and are more along the lines of color, shape, size, and verbiage.

How wireframes differ from and relate to website page design

Wireframing is something of a subset of webpage design. The overall idea of design is not just the look and feel of a site, but also what’s going to be in it, and the basic idea behind it. Wireframing takes those background pieces of information and puts them into a logical order and adds or subtracts emphasis. But wireframing can’t happen until the designer knows what is supposed to go into the actual website.

The relationship between wireframes and paper prototyping

As Dr. David Travis says in 7 Myths about Paper Prototyping,

Wireframes show a skeleton view of a user interface. They identify the areas of the screen where content will appear, such as images, text and navigation. Wireframes often include call-outs and notes explaining certain elements of the design in more detail. They are a useful communication tool for design agencies who want their clients to sign off on a design without getting hung up on the colours and images displayed in the user interface.

With paper prototyping, elements can be easily moved around. Users can often relate better to paper, and the effort and skill needed to put a basic rough sketch on paper (even when the lines aren’t straight) are less than those needed for wireframing. Paper prototyping, in general, is a quick and dirty solution; it’s a thumbnail sketch, quite literally, of what the site is supposed be like. Furthermore, paper prototyping is a way to get all of the members of a team to be able to contribute equally. You don’t need to understand or have even heard of visual design software in order to sketch a few rectangles, circles, and arrows; cut out shapes; and add verbiage as needed.

What is paper prototyping?

One company that understands the virtues of paper prototyping is The Mathworks. They used paper prototyping when creating GUIDE for MATLAB 6.

Wireframing and Paper Prototyping
(early paper prototype for GUIDE for MATLAB 6. Image is provided for educational purposes only)

Mary Beth Rettger, in Task-Based Utility for Software Upgrades said,

The concept of prototyping a solution is well understood. The problem is that code is expensive to write, and all too often a “prototype” takes so long to develop that there is no time to get feedback on the idea. As a result, the prototype simply becomes the product. Paper prototyping provides an alternative that is cheaper, faster, and more effective for the purposes of ensuring the final product meets user needs. 

Ms. Rettger’s explanation is simple and practical. Why spend months on making a working prototype, when paper prototypes can be banged out in perhaps a week? That same paper can be altered, added to, or subtracted from, with ease. When following iterative website development methodologies, paper prototyping is the only way that makes any sense. As ideas are added or discarded, or morph into new ideas, the paper prototypes change. More sheets of paper are used and the design readily evolves. As a result, when it’s time to make a true working prototype, a lot more information is available to the designer.

When is each method used?

In A List Apart, Shawn Medero wrote,

“Where does paper prototyping fit into the design process? 

There are two dominant uses: 

  1. The design team uses paper for their presentation to a larger group of people who have a vested interest in the product.

  2. Users run through a set of existing paper mock-ups or are given blank paper and asked to represent a concept by sketching it.” 

Potentially, the presentation of a paper prototype is a means for the design team to initially communicate with project stakeholders, including persons at the vice presidential level or even the board. For smaller companies, the audience might even be the owners and/or founders of the company, or even the investors. With a paper prototype, a meeting can be put together quickly, as the design and mockup can be put together quickly, too.

The place for wireframing is in a subsequent meeting. The stakeholders are closer to being convinced, and have a good idea of what the site is going to look like. They have a good idea because the designer does, and a paper prototype has been used to give the designer and the stakeholders that very idea.

Paper prototyping is built for speed; wireframing is for providing users with more sophisticated visuals. Both are integral to successful user-centered design.

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Community Management Facebook Quinnipiac Social Media Social Media Class Twitter

Quinnipiac Assignment 06 – ICM 526 – Best Practices in Using Social Media for Customer Service

Best Practices in Using Social Media for Customer Service

When it comes to best practices for using using social media in customer service, it all seems to boil down to three things –

  1. Be fast
  2. Be empathetic
  3. Be useful

Be Fast

In our hurry-up culture, two minutes to microwave a meal sometimes seems too long. Social media is the perfect medium for customers and businesses to have a two-way conversation. This dialogue inevitably contains complaints. Plus online commerce is often global in nature, so it’s a recipe for people demanding very fast service, or at least service during what, to your company, feel like off hours.

According to BrandWatch’s Prepare to Respond, which cites Nielsen,

According to recent research findings from Nielsen, 42 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds acknowledged that they expect customer support within 12 hours of a complaint.

Adelisa Gutierrez’s Slideshare on Reinvigorate Your Customer Service with Social Care breaks it down even further (slide #17 in the deck) –

Over half of all Twitter users of social care (essentially, customer service over social media channels) expect a response within two hours. Just under one-half on Facebook also expect a response after two hours. On both channels, a same-day response is expected over 80% of the time.

BrandWatch offers as a best practice a simple idea – decide on a response time frame, and stick with it.

I would add to that, post your hours and your expected response times. If there’s only one social media employee, then that person is expected to be offline at times. They need off-hours coverage, plus vacation and sick time coverage.

Be Empathetic

Best Practices in Using Social Media for Customer Service (image is used here for educational purposes only)
English: This is a picture of the Zappos 2010 Culture Book. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At eConsultancy, in the article, How Zappos Uses Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, Zappos as a company makes it a point of engaging with customers and providing superior service. That article cites an ideal customer service response. When customer @ktmink asked “@Zappos_Service I just ordered a birthday gift for my brother – 5 day shipping but wondering if you can get it there in 3? #195917709 “, @Zappos_Service responded with, “@ktmink This order is going to ship out today and your brother will have his birthday present tomorrow!”

Not only was the customer called by name, the company went beyond @ktmink’s question, which was really just whether a rush could be put on the order. The order’s shipping was upgraded to overnight, which is more than the customer asked for.

On Gutierrez’s Slideshare (slide #28 in the deck), she gives an example from Citi. @AskCiti was contacted by a customer walking to a branch who could not find it. The company representative expressed empathy and asked the customer to report back if they were still having trouble. The customer was still lost, and so @AskCiti responded with a landmark-filled explanation of precisely where the branch is, in 140 characters or less.

In both instances, Zappos and Citi exceeded customer expectations by putting themselves in the shoes of their frustrated customers.

Be Useful

Empowered employees are useful ones, and useful employees are empowered.

It does little good to respond quickly but then just fob off a frustrated customer to someone else in the corporate food chain. As Brandwatch notes, there is a difference between response time and resolution time.

It’s better to communicate that you’re working on the proper response, set a realistic expectation of time, and then deliver a real resolution. After all, customers want resolutions, not spin.

Contrast this with an example from the Gutierrez Slideshare (slide #29 in the deck), where a Bank of America customer is lost and seeking the closest branch. Instead of answering their question, the customer is instead directed to an online locator. Rather than converting a frustrating customer experience into a positive one, the customer was forced to go to another URL to get help. Even if the employee had never been to Manhattan, they could have used the locator and reported back with the information. This added step increased the wait for true resolution for this customer. Bank of America provided less service than expected. Not a good move on their part.

What’s Best Practice?

What do hurried customers, lost on the streets of New York; or at home and worried that a birthday present won’t come in on time; or confused about a service, really want?

They don’t want their time wasted. They don’t want to be treated as if their requests are too much bother for the company (for those requests won’t be a bother to your competition). And they don’t want to be given the runaround.

When companies understand these requirements, and put them into online practice, then they are truly offering the best possible customer service via social media.