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?



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.

Module 1: Thinking Faster with Social Media

How the social web has changed PR

The social web allows PR to communicate with our target audience in a meaningful way. Rather than talking at them we are able to have a conversation with them. The immediacy of the social web enables us to directly share our message with our stakeholders and customers – without having to rely on traditional media. However with these changes PR must be prepared to respond with greater immediacy. Ideally we should develop our client’s online presence before a crisis happens.

Public Relations fundamentals remain the same but the tools to achieve our goals and the ability to connect with our audience has opened new doors. According to recent data from Media Technology Monitor, two out of three Canadians use Social Media in one form or another.

New connections are created with cyber conversations

According to comScore’s 2013 Canada Digital Future in Focus Report, the top three Canadian social networking sites are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Navigating through the social media options and identifying how to effectively utilize them can seem overwhelming.  Think about how much Facebook has changed – it isn’t as popular with young people anymore who now favour Instagram to share ideas. Perhaps because it is more visual and allows them to better express their individuality. Initially PR used LinkedIn to support Human Resources recruitment efforts. In Canada, LinkedIn had the most significant growth, out of Twitter and Facebook from Q4 2011 to Q4 2012 based on total unique visitors. Since then there has been a shift and PR is now using LinkedIn for more than just attracting top talent. Companies are using this tool to engage followers to discuss projects, participate in surveys, and share corporate news and more.

In Canada, Twitter ranks second in popularity. Working in PR I’ve been asked by department managers to create a Twitter account for their division to increase brand visibility. Based on its popularity they see it as the ideal solution. What they fail to acknowledge is that every campaign requires a carefully planned strategy and a standalone tool may not be the sole solution.  I love it when someone is excited about social media and willing to embrace it. The challenge is to educate them – and myself – about how to utilize it effectively.

Whether your goal is to connect audiences, engage, influence or create a call to action I believe PR communicators will find success creating an integrated 360 communications plan that encompasses both social media and traditional methods to augment the visibility of their brand strategy.  Regardless of the platform you choose the fundamental principles remain the same. You have to know your audience, have access to relevant information to write compelling content; you have to be timely in your message and committed to listening. Most importantly you need to be patient and build a relationship with your stakeholders and customers.

Technology has always influenced how we share information and social media is making it more exciting to work in PR.