Module 11: Compassion and Sincerity in Managing a Crisis


I decided to focus on GM’s recall announcements for this week’s blog. General Motors issued an ignition switch recall recently in the midst of facing three separate recalls involving US production and sales of cars linked to 12 deaths (click here to read story). The recall was later extended to include Canadian customers (click here to read story).

CEO Mary Barra has requested an internal safety review following the recall and issued a message to the public through YouTube. Barra is putting herself forward as the CEO and the face of the company.

GM has a team of 20 people working seven days a week to manage their social media presence including monitoring and responding to inquiries and concerns or complaints – they’ve upped this to 50 during the recall.

GM is proactively addressing its operational crisis by utilizing social media (Hashtag #GMrecall) to reach a broader audience through the internet, blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Customer service reps are addressing customer complaints offline but negative comments online could still impact brand sentiment.

GM social media

Online discussions (those supporting Barra and those criticizing GMs response) illustrate how difficult it is to manage social media because one negative comment can spiral into more and more. A Facebook page called GM Recall Survivors, shares less than positive GM customer stories.

Despite these public customer complaints an analysis from Crimson Hexagon, a social media analytics firm in Boston, found about 26 percent of Twitter messages mentioning GM were positive, 71 percent were neutral and 3 percent were negative. This data suggests that GMs broader online reputation has been barely impacted.

The danger of addressing a crisis on social media is the lack of control over feedback however with a targeted and focused approach you can minimize negative impressions. Social media has allowed GM to show its commitment to resolving customer concerns and continue to build enthusiasm among their customers.

What would I do differently?
If I were in charge of GM’s crisis communications I would focus on improving dealer communications as most of the negative comments are related to a lack of inventory for repairs and poor customer service from local dealers. I would utilize internal social media sites to promote awareness and engagement amongst employees across the country to ensure consistent messaging and improve staff morale. I would also utilize public social media platforms to drive concerned customers to visit the company website for information on the steps they should take related to the recall announcements (I found a link to a story on GM’s New Customer Engagement Center Assisting in Ignition Switch Recall Efforts on their LinkedIn site halfway down the page).

I would post safety tips from subject matter experts (cleared by legal) for drivers. Note: When I visited GM’s homepage I didn’t see any information related to the recall notices and when I clicked on the ‘Find a Dealer’ link it was broken. I would ensure a message with information to contact your local dealer was posted on the home page with links from social media sites and I would check that all links were working!

GMs YouTube video was a little long and some online critics felt Barra’s delivery could be more sincere. I too would encourage the CEO to deliver a video message with a heartfelt apology. The key to remember is accepting responsibility is not the same as accepting liability. Sharing a personal message with customers will reassure them of the company’s commitment to investigate the crisis and to put steps in place to improve the process. After all, your customers’ perceptions of the brand are shaped by the CEO and the company’s messaging and approach. I would record short, plain language follow-up messages to talk about what GM is doing and share some actions to demonstrate their commitment and accountability to make real changes.

Lastly, I would improve customer service in response to online comments, questions and concerns. GM needs to be consistent in a timely and empathetic response to customers online and off. A disgruntled GM customer in remote Alaska turned to Twitter after trying to resolve her recall issue in a one hour phone call. As a result of her public tweet GM agreed to cover the cost of a round-trip ferry to ship the customer’s car to the nearest dealership for repair. As a result of GM stepping up the customer posted a public thank you. This would be a great opportunity to create a short video demonstrating how GM is responding to customers.

Being open, transparent and listening to customers would allow me to maintain a positive online reputation in a social media crisis.


Module 10: Free Vs. Paid Social Media Monitoring Sites


With so many options for free and paid social media monitoring tools picking the right one for your business can be overwhelming. Here’s a review of four social media measurement sites:

Social Mention (free) is a social media search and analysis site. It analyzes data and measures influence in four categories: Strength, Sentiment, Passion and Reach. Monitoring over 100 sites Social Mention lets you choose what to focus on, such as blogs or monitoring keywords to gather information on related users, hashtags, etc. If you are a small business this service should meet your needs with up to 500 free mentions per month.



Klout (free) targets small businesses looking to analyze their online influence. Klout gives you a score from 1 to 100 based on your Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and Foursquare account activity along with over 35 different variables to determine your real social media reach. Other users can recommend your influence with a +K, which helps boost your ranking. Graphical displays show you how your score has changed over the last 90 days, and a pie chart indicates which sites your influence comes from. For business users Klout provides a general snapshot of activity and social stats day-by-day over 30 days.


HowSociable (free) lets you measure both your social media presence and your competitors. You can view patterns and trends to see which platforms work best for your brand and areas where you need to improve. HowSociable makes brand management easier by reporting on your brand impact online using a ‘magnitude score’ of 0-10 that indicates your brands level of activity in a given week from across the social web (based on 36 most popular sites). You can adjust your brand strategy based on the measures reported.

This tool is ideal for reporting return on investment from social media. Subscribers can set goals, measure improvements and identify their brands strengths and weaknesses. A free account lets you track 12 social sites, including Tumblr and WordPress. For a fee you can monitor 36 sites (Basic $9 per 3 months, Plus $19 per 3 months and Max $99 per year).



Sprout Social (paid) tracks content and conversations across social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook. Subscribers can request reports on engagement by day and time, and user performance for multiple accounts. This helps users schedule their posts to maximize the effectiveness of their messaging. With more customers using social media to raise support questions, Sprout tracks customer service response times to help you improve yours. The site uses demographic measures to tell you where your customers/audience are located and monitors keywords across social networks so you know who is talking about your brand, on which site and what they are saying. This paid tool makes it easier to manage customer relationships across multiple social networks. Sprout offers a free 30 day trial and the monthly fee starts at $39 for standard and goes up to $99 for a premium account.


When choosing a social media monitoring site consider your budget and do your research to ensure the tool you select can provide all the information you need.

What social monitoring sites do you recommend and why?



Using the 3As to demystify social media measuring and monitoring


Company’s put their focus and resources into programs that produce a high return on investment (ROI). As the social media manager you can use the 3As to measure how social media engagement supports your business objectives.

  • Action: Business results of online outreach
  • Attitude: Overall sentiment and relationship measures
  • Attention: The overall volume of interest

Start by keeping a list of everything you can and must measure (see page 197 in Social Media ROI by Oliver Blanchard). You also need to tie everything you measure to business objectives. Most importantly, test, measure, learn, adapt and repeat. Blanchard also recommends looking at F.R.Y. (View YouTube video), which is frequency, or number of transactions per month; reach, or number of new customers; and yield, or total transactions.

Look at what each department is measuring and what measures should be reported on at the overall program management level. Compare apples to apples. Identify if you are measuring financial outcomes (weighing the Return on Investment – Gain-Cost/Cost) or nonfinancial outcomes – intermediate metrics that tell the story by capturing changes in customer behaviour.

You can measure Action by tracking the results of your company’s online presence. To do this look at your campaigns key performance indicators (KPIs) such as tracking website or online store visits, volume of purchases, event registration, attendees, higher customer service satisfaction, etc.

Establish a baseline of activity (action your customers/audience take) and outcomes. Next, create and share activity timelines that show how each department’s efforts overlap. This combination of activity will help you determine what information is relevant. For example if your company launches a Facebook page (Action) and the public responds by opting in and you see an increase in brand mentions (Attention) and an increase in positive sentiment (Attitude) you may also see that sales reported an increase in net new transactions. Using a graph you can plot the action, reaction, impact (outcome) and result (conversions).

Keep in mind that none of these measures and analysis can provide meaningful value without context. They must be viewed as part of a collaborative analysis. For example, as you explore results you may find that there are other factors influencing the sales reports such as a price drop, a positive product review, shortage of inventory, etc.

Measuring Attitude allows you to gauge audience connections to build better relationships. Tracking how people feel about your organization you can measure your audience’s emotional connection. To do this successfully you need to track sentiment, satisfaction and relationship to your brand through constant monitoring of your online presence. There are tools on the market but this is best done by humans. Only people can interpret context and tone to determine if a negative comment really is negative or if the comment is just worded in a way that appears negative to an automated tool.

One way to track sentiment is to review Facebook posts and likes, Twitter retweets and blog product reviews. Likes and retweets of positive sentiment could show an impact on sales. Using Twitter to respond to negative customer service issues could create stronger loyalty and retention that may lead to an increase in frequency and yield of customer transactions.

Measuring Attention allows you to look at your brands likeability with your audience. This can be achieved by counting followers, volume of blog traffic, rankings, number of posts, retweets and mentions on Twitter, links and likes. It’s important to connect these measures to the actions that are drawing attention. This will tell you what they like on Facebook or why they are following you on Twitter. This information helps you to maximize activities that receive positive action and continue to engage your loyal influencers.

By evaluating which social media activities are driving results you can understand what works, what doesn’t and why to justify investments and measure their value to your organization.

Check out this link that talks about the 5A’s of social media measurement (The Five As of Social Media Measurement).

Social media policies in healthcare

pharma-social-mediaThe topic of creating organizational social media policies got me thinking about the importance of spelling out ground rules. I recently had job interviews with two different hospitals and it was interesting to learn how far apart they were in terms of adopting social media. I was surprised to learn that one of the hospitals did not support the use of social media. Simply put they didn’t want to navigate the mind field of potential privacy issues and negative feedback. And their physicians are much too busy to be on social media.
Years ago, hospitals were nervous about utilizing social media and concerns over privacy and risk were in conflict with social media culture and values. As more and more patients turned to the web for information, healthcare sought out opportunities to establish a presence and share their storytelling to promote awareness and education.
Today patients and physicians are using social media both officially and unofficially to communicate effectively, to research medical information, seek out communities and offer opinions. Children’s Hospitals, like CHEO in Ottawa (see CHEO policy – and Sick Kids in Toronto are among the most advanced in terms of using social media and have rolled out internal and external social media policies.
An example shared by the Ontario Hospital Association ( to promote their 2013 Social Media in Health Care Conference highlights the use of social media to promote awareness and communication. Hélène Campbell a young woman from Ottawa was diagnosed in September 2011 with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and, was placed on the transplant list. She shared her story by documenting her own need for new lungs via social media. She not only raised awareness for organ donations but she also attracted support from celebrities including Justin Bieber and Ellen DeGeneres. She became a digital and traditional media sensation. Happily, Hélène received her new lungs and today continues to promote awareness through social media. Cancer patient Karina Xavier has battled bone cancer since 2011. The 15 year-old YouTube make-up artist aficionado and blogger was paid a surprise visit in hospital by Supermodel Gisele Bundchen who was touched by her online video.
The Mayo clinic promotes a number of blogs and communities and has demonstrated how healthcare can successfully adopt social media – and they share their social media policy #SocialAtMayo Mayo Clinic’s Social Media Guidelines ( The Mayo Clinic, a not-for-profit medical practice and research group based in Rochester, Minnesota was an early adopter of social media. Today they have established a Center for Social Media and recently held their first Social Media Grand Rounds.
I’m not expecting every hospital will achieve the level of social media success that the Mayo Clinic has but it would be nice to see all hospitals adopt a social media policy and plan that supports awareness and education. As PR practitioners it’s important to ensure the framework we build includes policies and procedures that are easily understood by all users both internally and externally – and we engage our staff in their creation and rollout to safeguard their success.

Module 4: Storytelling with Infographics

If content is king, how do you develop the right content? Look at your audience`s needs and interests and share content that is customer-focused, interesting, engaging, entertaining and informative. First review all your options including budget, frequency, resources, access to subject matter experts, key deliverables or actions and social media platforms.

Great content doesn`t have to written. Research shows that your customers or audience are more likely to engage with your brand if you have strong visuals such as infographics – a mix of design, writing and analysis – to share your message.

The adage, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words‘ could soon be changed to ‘an infographic is worth an average 12% traffic growth‘. The popularity of infographics continues to grow and with statistics like ‘30x more likely to be read than text‘ and ‘90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual‘ PR practitioners should be looking at the benefits of publishing infographics as part of their social media plan.

What Makes A Good Infographic?

Working with designers to create the right visuals is just as important as crafting the right message for your audience. I was overwhelmed by the volume of infographics that illustrate the concept of content strategy. On a scale of 1 to 10 they weren`t all visually appealing, that being said if infographics stimulate an emotional response I guess selecting a great one is somewhat subjective based on personal preferences.

Some basic guidelines to remember:

  • Consider the goal of your message and visuals to create a consistent, integrated strategy.
  • Consider what the user is thinking and feeling when they encounter your content. Listen. Observe. Ask questions.
  • Consider the context of how your user will typically consume your content.
  • Plan how you will evaluate your content effectiveness.

Content Strategy Considerations Infographic

content marketing image 1

This visual is simple and uses circles in a loop to explain multiple drill-down levels behind developing a content strategy. The colour choices captured my attention. I like how the elements to consider in a content strategy are represented in more detail as the layers of the circle expand. The con is that it does cover a lot of information and it isn`t a really dynamic image.

Anatomy of a Content Strategy Infographic

 anatomy-of-content-strategy image 5

This infographic uses brief descriptions mixed with images and a good use of whitespace to share how Kinaxis, a supply chain business shares their definition of a content strategy. The image is a marketing ploy to promote the company`s tactics. It`s important that businesses use infographics that relate to their line of business and the information presented is accurate. Unfortunately in this case the business shares an illustration that fails to explain content strategy effectively. I found it a little misleading.

Iceberg Content Strategy Infographic


This visual of penguins sliding off an iceberg caught my attention and drew me in to click on the blog link to learn more. It is a simple graphic that incorporates images and titles to represent a concept. The visual shows how content – words and images – can fall off track if you don`t have the structure i.e., the iceberg beneath it for support. I think it is a good planning reminder. Does it tell the story without reading the blog? Share your opinion.

Module 3: Exploring the Potential of Foursquare and QR Codes to Promote Your Business

For this week’s social media assignment I checked out Foursquare and downloaded a free QR Code app to learn about location-based services (LBS). The blog post by Mike Lewis sums it up best with his tried and true acronym ‘C-H-E-C-K-I-N’ based on Carmine Gallo’s The Power of Foursquare: Connect with Your Brand, Harness New Fans, Engage Your Followers, Create Rewards, Knock-Out the Competition, Incentivize Your Customers and Never Stop Entertaining.

Single Biggest Learning from Foursquare

Using Foursquare I instantly found a list of local dining, tourism, and shopping and entertainment venues along with comments from others who have visited these businesses. I even had an option to ‘check-in’ with Facebook to see where my friends had visited. It is a great tool to explore any city. I was surprised to see what I had been missing out on.

After reviewing the features of Foursquare I can see how PR pros can use it as an affordable and scalable tool to promote their B2C retail clients. Integrating Foursquare with a client’s website and promoting it on Twitter and Facebook can help you connect with relevant audiences and boost your following.


Adding Foursquare to Your PR Plan

PR pros can harness the tips and special information found on Foursquare to promote a client’s business in several ways:

  1. Connect With Your Brand – Creating a Foursquare page to promote a company’s brand with a banner, description and link to client website, Twitter and Facebook accounts enables you to ‘check-in’ and share updates with your audience. Encouraging your followers to complete the ‘Leave Tips’ feature when they ‘check-in’ lets them share their positive and negative feedback. PR can ‘leave tips’ about other local businesses to position your client as an authority on a subject and raise brand awareness with relevant customers visiting similar locations. Promoting your brand without a hard marketing sell can build community for your client.
  2. Harness New Fans – Once your followers ‘check-in’ to a location, it can be shared with their friends on Foursquare and Facebook as well as their Twitter followers. This can influence new fans to do the same based on a friend’s recommendations. This is a great way for PR to reach new audiences.
  3. Engage Your Followers – When a customer checks into Foursquare and clicks on a venue they see information about the business along with who the ‘mayor’ is – a loyal customer who has the most ‘check-ins’ in the last 60 days. This message is shared with everyone who clicks on your business name and can be used to engage your followers and build trust in your business. PR pros can use Foursquare’s free analytics to learn more about their customers and target offers and rewards.


Do QR Codes Work?

While I’ve always thought the QR Code is a great way to engage smartphone users this was my first time trying it. I opted to download a free app for my iPhone. While there are lots of QR Code apps to choose from, both paid and free, it would be nice if there was an app that was compatible across all platforms including iOS, Android and Blackberry.

Unfortunately I did not have a lot of success using my QR Code app. My efforts to scan the QR Code on my turkey bacon product packaging didn’t work. Next, I scanned a magazine ad QR Code for Buff, a snowboarding headwear manufacturer, but it took me to the company’s European website instead of the North American one so the information wasn’t that useful to me. I finally found success scanning the QR Code for a Royal Distributing ad. At first the image was too small but with a little effort I was able to focus in and scan the code. I was excited to link directly to an informational company YouTube video.

Based on my experience I think the biggest challenge for PR pros endorsing QR Codes is helping businesses better use them to promote their venue, event or brand. In my case, I only had success 1 out of 3 times. It took more effort to scan the QR Code than the value I got in return. As a consumer I didn’t have a great experience but I am willing to try it again.