Vetting Your Brand’s Voice – a Lesson from KitchenAid

This morning I caught wind of a Twitter “oops” made during last night’s Presidential Debate by the well known brand KitchenAid. Someone responsible for the Twitter handle Tweeted, “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president” – in regards to President Barack Obama’s deceased Grandmother.

While a lot of outlets are reporting on how KitchenAid handled the bump – Cynthia Soledad, the senior director of KitchenAid’s brand and marketing division jumped on Twitter immediately apologizing and offering explanations and interviews – I’m more interested in how such an accident happens in the first place. My Twitter pal Chuck Gose said,

This “simple case” begs the bigger question for me on how companies are vetting and qualifying employees responsible for corporate social communications. It goes beyond the technology tools and “need for social apps that let you better separate accounts.”

I’m thinking beyond that. I understand social media managers could have a dozen or more Twitter accounts that they are responsible for. I understand how easy it is to be furiously Tweeting in order to keep up with the conversations taking place, and to accidentally tweet from the wrong account. I get all that and yes, from that perspective, it’s a simple mistake.

The bigger question is – are brands thinking about who they are hiring for such important decisions and investing in the right level of experience for such? I’m not talking about HR violations like asking what someone’s political preference is, but rather, taking a look at their communications experience and ability to think strategically in the way they present information and engage constituents in conversations. I’d also recommend taking a look at their personal Twitter accounts, blogs and Facebook status updates to get a good sense of cultural fit with your organization and corporate values. I don’t condone asking for Facebook passwords but I do believe that checking a candidate’s public social behavior is a must – especially if they will be a public voice for your brand. In this case, perhaps that “tasteless” individual would have shown such characteristics and not been hired. Would you hire someone that made such a crass comment in an interview? I don’t think so. And if you’re hiring a social media manager, I think checking their social behavior when they’re not “on the clock” is perfectly acceptable.

I’ve watched the evolution of companies finally coming around  to social as an important part of their marketing mix. But I still think it’s a bit of a stepchild – companies want to be social but they still don’t take it seriously enough to put a strategic communications expert behind the curtain. This isn’t the role to throw an inexperienced, entry level executive into managing. Let me ask you this,

Who would you put in front of the microphone to represent your brand at a news conference?

Who do you have in charge behind the scenes to write speeches and content for that person to present?

Those are the same people who should be in charge of your social communications.

It’s been argued that the younger generation should be in charge of social because they “grew up on it” – with one young lady going so far as to say no one under 25 should be a social media manager. I don’t understand this mentality at all. Just because someone knows how to use a tool doesn’t mean they’re good at it. Everyone has a telephone, right? It doesn’t mean they are effective, strategic communicators. I have said this time and time again – putting someone in charge – or even as a team member – of your social should be carefully considered. You are vetting your brand’s voice and putting it in their hands!

Perhaps the KitchenAid executive was just one of a handful of folks who have responsibility for – and access to – updating the brand’s Twitter account. Perhaps they aren’t in charge of producing strategic content, but rather just posting prewritten updates. In any event, brands need to be very careful about who has control of and access to using social networks on their behalf – this is a good lesson that anything they say or write – even a “simple mistake” – can come across as your brand’s voice, and reflect on much more, such as political views, religious beliefs and other stances best left out of the corporate environment. (Not to mention, if they’re this tasteless, do you really want them in charge of your creative communications ideas?)

How do you manage your social accounts? Do you vet who has access and participation rights? How deep do you go in the HR process to check their online behavior before hiring them?



Flexing your social savvy: Do you ‘THINK’ before you tweet?

We’ve all committed social gaffes at one time or another, saying something in the heat of the moment that we immediately wished we could take back. But thanks to today’s public social media platforms, ‘what happens on Twitter’…can really stick around to haunt you.

The most recent case in point: This year’s Miss Seattle, who proclaimed her annoyance with the city of Seattle, its residents and its weather one dreary day in December. A local reporter caught wind and blogged about the blunder, which became a veritable viral sensation. An honest mistake, by all accounts – Jean-Sun Hannah Ahn, 22, a Seattle native, said she was merely missing the sunny weather in Phoenix, where she attended Arizona State University and was crowned Miss Phoenix – but damaging nonetheless.

Ahn has since spent the majority of her time in the position apologizing for her social media misstep. Most recently, she spent a day educating school children on her new platform: “THINK Before You Post,” which stands for Truthful, Helpful, Inspiring, Needed and Kind to remind them to make sure their online posts fall into those categories.

And so she joins the ranks of other famous (infamous?) faces who have failed to recognize that a public social media platform is just that…public. But they’re not alone; even though it may not be breaking news, there’s a good chance that many of us are also guilty of the same faux-pas. In fact, a recent Daily Mail poll revealed that approximately 25 percent of people have tweeted something they regret, and approximately the same number of people said they have posted something on a site that they never would have said to someone’s face.

So while there are no official ‘rules’ for using Twitter, we thought it might be helpful to review a few tips for projecting a more professional image, regardless of whether you use it for work or personal purposes. After all, you never know just who is watching…

  1. Have a goal. Decide what you want to get out of having a Twitter account before you set it up. Make a plan, have a purpose, and direct your actions accordingly.
  2. Mind your grammar. Capitalize only when needed (DON’T SHOUT IN CAPS!), use active language, refrain from using numbers “2” replace words, and use abbreviations wisely.
  3. Focus on value. What can you offer followers that others cannot? Post quality content regularly, – take an active interest and you’ll keep them connected, interested and engaged.
  4. Be edgy, not offensive. There’s a fine line between pushing the envelope and pushing the limits of good taste. Take your followers into consideration, but – above all – use common sense.
  5. Think before you tweet. This is definitely worth repeating. And when in doubt, wait. Give yourself a window for cooling off when you may be emotional.

Got any Twitter best practices? Or pet peeves? Feel free to share in the comments below!

What’s behind our urge to share on social media?

Most of us take Facebook at, well, “face” value – a social network that “connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them,” as the site itself says. But peel back the façade of friends, likes, photos, apps and more, and you’re left with an extensive data set on human social behavior that intrigues scientists and psychologists alike.

From CNN’s first-of-its-kind list of “The 12 most annoying types of Facebookers” to AllFacebook’s more recent post on “7 Facebook Personalities to Avoid” and even Vanity Fair’s take on “The Six Most Common Personality Types on Facebook,”  it’s clear that we’re fascinated by the fact that human interaction has migrated online, and that it’s able to be observed so easily within the Facebook microcosm.

Consider this: Each month, more than 845 million people record and share intimate details of their daily lives, relationships and online activity through their friend connections, messages, photos, check-ins, and clicks. Couple that with predictions that the number of active Facebook users will reach 1 billion in 2012, and you can’t help but ponder the common thread that unites approximately one-seventh of the entire world population, inspiring them to share so freely and publicly.

Well, according to several Harvard University psychologists, there’s a definitive reason behind why we like to reveal our thoughts, views and opinions to friends, near and far. The research, which was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences by Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell of Harvard’s Department of Psychology, even went as far as to claim that humans devote a surprising 30–40 percent of speech output solely to informing others of their own subjective experiences.

Why, exactly, are we compelled to do so? The act of disclosing this information about ourselves actually triggers the same pleasure centers in the brain that are activated by fundamental rewards such as food and sex, according to the study. Throughout the course of their experiments, the pair even found that some of the participants were willing to forgo money in place of disclosing information about their personal experiences!

Tie this back to us and our use of social media – and Facebook, in particular – as PR professionals and marketers, and we can get a much better idea of how to use these tools to connect with (versus broadcast at) target audiences, encouraging them to raise their voice and join in the conversation. And the more we practice this golden rule of social networking – keeping it about “them” not “us” – the more mutual success and satisfaction we’ll find in these relationships, both online and off.

How do you feel about sharing online, and do you have any particular best practices to share regarding personal/professional content? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Three tips for handling email overload

There may be some debate over whether or not email is dead, but take one look at your email inbox each morning, and I bet you’ll beg to differ.

As Peter Bregman reported in his recent Harvard Business Review blog, this affair with email is starting to really affect us in negative ways. According to an article he cited from USA Today, the number of lawsuits filed by employees claiming unfair overtime is up 32 percent since 2008. What’s to blame, in large part, for this increase? Email. And when you factor in devices such as smartphones, which we have with us – and neurotically check – at all times, there’s no denying that it’s quietly infiltrated our personal lives.

His advice for coping? Assign designated times to “bulk-process” emails and set designated non-email times, resisting the urge to constantly check email during these off-email hours.

Now, before we all balk and say that this is completely unrealistic, especially in a service industry such as PR where we’re expected to be on top of breaking news and at the beck and call of clients ‘round the clock – I believe that his is an argument worth hearing. We have to remember that the ability to be available and respond swiftly to inquiries is only one facet of the value that we’re able to provide as PR professionals. Public relations is more than managing the flow of information between an organization and its publics; our focus on building important relationships and relaying vital information back to an organization for analysis and action can have real, measurable impact on the achievement of strategic organizational goals. And this often takes time, focus and uninterrupted thinking.

Consider this, for example: Research in the UK revealed that employees working on a computer typically switched applications to view their emails as many as 30 or 40 times an hour, for anything from a few seconds to a minute. Dr. Karen Renaud, who carried out the study, said quite simply that email has gotten out of hand:

“Email harries you,” she said in an article in the UK’s Daily Mail. “You want to know what’s in there, especially if it’s from a family member or friends, or your boss, so you break off what you are doing to read the email. The problem is that when you go back to what you were doing, you’ve lost your chain of thought and, of course, you are less productive. People’s brains get tired from breaking off from something every few minutes to check emails. The more distracted you are by distractions, including email, then you are going to be more tired and less productive.”

This brings us back to Bregman’s point. He’s not suggesting that we throw the baby out with the bath water and abandon all established email etiquette when it comes to keeping up with the daily workflow. Rather, he’s proposing that we merely try to be more mindful about it. For example, when you set up designated intervals to handle emails, you’ll be working for that express purpose, effectively making you more focused and efficient on the task at hand. We have our heads down during these email-only times, and waste less time transitioning from one activity to another in a blur of information.

The hardest part is resisting the urge to check…and check…and check…which has likely become more of a reflex than a deliberate action. So until you can resist temptation and set up some real boundaries between you, your inbox and your daily to-do list, here are a few ideas to help make the detachment process a little less painful:

1. Stop it at the source. Whenever possible, try to reduce the amount of junk email that enters your inbox on a daily basis. Set up a spam filter, unsubscribe from unnecessary email newsletters and turn off automatic notifications.

2. Realize that hoarding won’t help you. Many of us like to let emails linger in our inbox, keeping them in digital limbo until we decide exactly what do to with them. It’s a matter of personal preference, but if you find that this system just isn’t working for you, try a more aggressive approach with filing and deleting.

3. Think before you hit send. And unless it requires a direct response, don’t do it. Tim Ferris spoke with blogger Robert Scoble about how he stays on top of tens of thousands of emails, revealing that “replying to more people more often — the goal of most people — actually creates more work instead of cutting it down.”

What are your favorite tips for cutting down on email chaos? Please share with us in the comments below!

Digital PRoductions – Client Work Highlights

Some folks don’t realize that our agency has long gone beyond traditional PR and offers digital production (in addition to social marketing and training services) that drives our clients’ content and community initiatives – providing creative services from graphic and web design to online video production to integrated community and user-engagement campaigns for all social media platforms. We’re pleased to share some recent examples of digital production work for clients, as part of a new series showcasing our expertise in this area. This month’s focus is on work for enterprise software client, Aternity. Please let us know what you think!

Monitoring BYOD Infographic for Aternity (client)

Infographic by PerkettPR showing new challenges IT organizations face as they widely adopt BYOD policies and allow employees to bring personally-owned devices to the workplace for use and connectivity on corporate networks.

Click image to see full infographic

Facebook Timeline Cover for Aternity (client)

A custom Facebook Cover Photo created by PerkettPR for Aternity Inc., the industry leader in end user experience management solutions for Global 1000 enterprises.

Aternity Product Demo – Mobile FPI (client)

Video production of an 8-minute demonstration of how Aternity’s breakthrough new technology unplugs end user experience management – by going mobile.