Archive for February, 2014

Experts: Don’t Let The Trolls Get You Down

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

r1014544_11452680Sometimes, I see the stuff that Twitter users write and I can’t believe it. The attitude, the language and the attacks make the “liquid courage” of alcohol seem like an emotional inhibitor by comparison. Last weekend, though, a couple of Twitter “trolls” came after me.

I attend the first-ever basketball game between Syracuse and Duke at Duke’s legendary Cameron Indoor Stadium. Several of my friends asked me to “live tweet” my experiences and, along the way, I posted some photos and behind-the-scenes points of view. The game ended in controversial fashion and I posted, appropriately I think, some opinions about that. Later in the evening, a couple of Duke “trolls,” people I don’t even know, who don’t follow me and with whom I had never interacted before, essentially harassed me via Twitter, because of the opinions. I found it uncomfortable, at best, and at worst, pathetic. Do people really spend their time searching Twitter for opinions so they can lash out at strangers? Yes, they do.

That led me to wonder how Twitter uses far more public than I handle the venom on a regular basis. How do they deal with being attacked? What type of thick skin is necessary? I asked a few and here are their responses:

Scott Hanson – host NFL RedZone, NFL Network (73,000 followers):

95 percent of the feedback I get for my work is positive. But, I encounter trolls after every NFL RedZone broadcast.

I usually deal with it by ignoring, or believe it or not, responding with something very kind — just to see how they’ll react. If someone says, “you suck!” I might reply “just general suckiness, or anything in particular you don’t like?”

Believe it or not, some people who displayed vitriol ten minutes earlier, immediately try to become your best buddy when they realize you took the time to respond.

The “great” thing about Twitter trolls is they are all 100% vulnerable to the block button. I’m usually slow to use the block button. But repeated vulgarities over multiple tweets will get you banned from my timeline.

I had one guy — let’s call him “Frank” — who, after being blocked, called upon at least a dozen of his friends to Tweet me, “Frank says you suck” one at a time for the next two weeks. I blocked them one by one, and Frank relented that my thumb stamina was easily superior to his ability to make new friends.

Stephen Clark – news anchor WXYZ-TV and known nationally as “The Tweeting Anchor” (nearly 15,000 followers)

You’d think as much as I tweet that I’d encounter more trolls. It happens but not to the point it’s unbearable.

I will almost always try to engage the person in conversation. Some people are just looking for a reaction. Some people have a legitimate gripe or question. I try to figure which I’m dealing with. 90 percent of the time I manage to “convert” the troll to someone who is willing to temper their comments, take part in a civil conversation and gain actual insight.

I’ve actually had phone conversations with a couple people who started out as “trolls” but have since moderated their own tweets to become much more “sociable.”

Those people who insist on continuing to sling negativity, I will unfollow or block. But I’ve only done that 4 or 5 times. The funny thing is I often don’t have to say anything to people who attack me personally.The regulars on the #backchannel come to my defense and drive them off.

Jamie Samuelsen – sports talk host, WXYT-FM 97.1 The Ticket (19,500 followers)

My general policy is to ignore them completely. Nothing is to be gained. You’re not going to change their mind. And you’re only giving oxygen to their quest. But every so often I fire back – not with anger or vitriol – but more with logic and reasoning. I’d say half of those respond with either an apology or near incredulousness that I even responded. Then they’re quickly spinning in reverse. But the other fifty percent just keep firing at which point I back away.

I used to have a poilicy of not blocking followers figuring that they had a right to be heard. But when they cross a certain line (i.e. ripping some member of my family) – I block.

Bottom line – you’re always going to have detractors. Just check out the Kimmel bit he does on Twitter trolls. It’s hilarious. I can’t imagine being a prominent athlete or actor in this type of setting.

Social Media No Longer Taboo for Professional Services

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-02-22 at 6.19.17 PMThis past week I had the good fortune to present on social media at the invitation of the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants (MACPA) as part of their continuing education series.  I found the audience particularly intriguing as it was not that long ago that it was considered inappropriate for a professional service firm to even participate in anything other than LinkedIn.  And while times have changed for many, based on the paltry show of hands raised when I asked my group who utilized social media, there is still a lot of catching up to do.

Today, when approached correctly, it is entirely appropriate, even desirable, for law firms, CPA firms, financial consultants, etc. to utilize social media. What constitutes a proper course of action?  To begin with: setting goals. What is it exactly that you are trying to accomplish with this medium? Who do you want to reach? Why? To do and say what? Answering these questions is altogether easier when you consider this: Whenever you embark on any marketing or communications endeavor, the desired end goal should be to meet your company’s business objectives. Most often, that means striving to stand apart from your competition, highlight your key differentiators and attract and retain clients.

Social media, of course, entails numerous platforms. Besides the traditionally business friendly LinkedIn, along with Facebook and Twitter, many business professionals do not consider the power of video through YouTube and blogging.  All of these avenues can be utilized to cross-promote company news, media coverage, white papers, awards and overall thought leadership; ideally driving traffic to your website while making you and your company more searchable and credible.

Not a fan of social media? Not a user? Remember that in the end it’s really not about you. It’s about being where your target audiences are – and where more and more people (millions, in fact) go for news and information more and more each day.

And when you do finally decide to imbibe in the power of the ‘Book of Face’ and others, do it right. Post content that is not overtly promotional and provides true informational value. Then use analytics (web, Google, to measure what is resonating with your audience.  After all, social media is, at its core, people having conversations online. And, as with any conversation, it’s just as important to listen as anything else – and then adjust accordingly where necessary to truly give your ‘opt it’ audience what they want.





Shared TV Experiences Becoming Lost Art

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

tvmain_300x300Spoiler alert: I don’t have DVR. That said, I do utilize “On Demand” when I am not able to watch a particular show at its regular time. That said, I do strive, whenever possible, to watch my favorite shows “live” – that is, when they originally air to the masses.  It’s becoming a lost modus operandi and I think our society suffers a bit in the process.

O.k., let me opine a bit nostalgic here.  Even though, in the years before cable when I was growing up, most of us were limited to only three major networks of television programming, the majority of us watched the hot programs of the day ‘together’; in other words, at the same time. This often made for lively next-day water cooler banter that communally bonded those involved.  ”M*A*S*H” in the 70s, “Hill Street Blues” in the 80s and “Seinfeld” in the 80s and 90s.  In TV’s earliest days, families watched most programming together with “Ed Sullivan” the forerunner to “American Idol”.

Adjusting your schedule to accommodate a particular show time is almost unthinkable today. Yet, think about the media avenue where it still exists: the movies.  And while we often dread the prospect of sitting behind someone tall or missing the opening minutes when we make the decision to head to the silver screen, there is still something special about the “pack”-like shared experience of watching something for the first time with others.  From tense or tender moments to the applause at the end of a great celluloid offering.

Of course, DVR, Netflix, Hulu and the rest are desirable to missing must-see TV due to our increasingly busy schedules and the sheer volume of programming available today. Yet, isn’t something else missing when we attempt to discuss a previous night’s show only to be informed by the individual we are seeking to chat with: “Don’t tell me what happened! I DVR’d it!”



Traditional Media Still Draws A Crowd

Monday, February 10th, 2014

DRC Media Panel

Let’s play Jeopardy. I’ll take Media Myths for $200, Alex.

“Traditional media is dead. Old platforms are irrelevant.”

What are “things a self-proclaimed ‘social media guru’ would say?


An event convened by the Detroit Regional Chamber today, which I had the privilege to moderate, proved that what we now call “traditional media” is alive and can still draw a crowd. The advice session on how to effectively get businesses into news stories sold out. WJBK-TV Planning Editor Al Johnson, Detroit Free Press Business Editor Christopher Kirkpatrick and Huffington Post Associate Editor Kate Abbey-Lambertz gave the packed room of businesspeople and communicators practical advice on how their news could turn into actual news.

The crowd is proof that despite profound economic and technological changes, we still trust journalism to provide us with information and we, as businesspeople, still see great value in having journalists tell our stories in credible news outlets. To do that, the panel offered candid advice on what is effective in the current environment. Here are some fundamental takeaways:

-The journalists all said that email is their primary means of evaluating story pitches and they must be “hooked” by the subject line and first line or two of the body of the email.

-An editor often isn’t the best person to approach about a story. Get to know the outlet and who covers what before pitching.

-Package the story in the context of the news – How does it make news? How is it part of a trend?

-”Fluff” in press releases might make bosses happy but it makes the job tougher for reporters and editors, who have to wade through it. Avoid unnecessary adjectives. Stick to the who, what, when, where, why and how of the story.

-Understand the medium – TV stories must be visual, business stories must be about business, web stories must invite clicks.

These media decision-makers understand that PR pitches can lead to compelling, newsworthy content. But everyone must do their jobs for that to happen. And, in PR, part of doing our job is understanding that these outlets still have audiences.

The Best and Worst of CVS’ Big News

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Unknown-1This morning, the giant CVS drugstore chain made big news by announcing it would no longer sell cigarettes and other tobacco products in its stores, effective later this year.

The company broke through with a national news splash and re-shaped the news day before it began in earnest. Here are a couple of initial observations, with the full disclosure that I worked on PR for CVS’ entrance into the Michigan market in 1999:

They exceptionally orchestrated this announcement, with a 7 a.m. embargo that was honored by every news organization that had the story ahead of time, ready to go. As far as degree or difficulty goes in PR, this is about a “9.” They also set up their CEO for a round of interviews and had a website online with their messaging, in various forms. The strategy and execution of this announcement is a positive case study waiting to happen.

However, what keeps this from being a flawless announcement (if there is such a thing) is that in its messaging, the company does not talk directly to its customers. It seems to talk around them. The CEO’s language is filled with healthcare-ease and corporate-ease, in between powerful lines like “tobacco products have no place in a setting where healthcare is being delivered.” For example, he talks a lot about “outcomes” (a term popular in healthcare circles that consumers don’t use) and an upcoming smoking cessation program that is promised to be “robust” (another favorite in corporate communications that rings hollow for the public). He told CBS, in a quote that ran on the radio World News Roundup, “(this decision) positions us for future growth and the opportunity to play a bigger role in our evolving health care system.” Huh?

It’s important, when making news, to communicate directly to your key audience. In mainstream media, for a retail company, that is customers. Conversational language and a second-person tone using “you” and “your” would have taken this announcement from “really good” to “great.”

Richard Sherman: What a Difference Two Weeks Make

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 1.26.38 PMThough much has been written and debated about Seattle Seahawk cornerback Richard Sherman, on  the eve of the big game and with the just published issue of Sports Illustrated featuring a “Point After” commentary written by Sherman himself, I feel it apropos to take another look.

In a league where player off-the-field behavior is publicly and regularly measured with a ‘days since last arrest’ database, Sherman’s still on-the-field post game diatribe was widely lambasted as overly bombastic, inappropriate and unsportsmanlike, even detrimental to the image of a league trying to find a kinder, gentler, (law-abiding) persona.  That bothered Sherman. And that’s a good thing.

As he sought to explain himself in the days ahead, an altogether different picture of Richard Sherman emerged.  Intelligent, well-spoken and thoughtful, the former Stanford scholar, who returned to school in his final year of eligibility to begin a Masters degree, showed he was much more than the stereotypical mouth-breathing thick-necked, bone-cruncher; he was human, competing on a high-pressure stage and getting caught up in the moment.

In the SI piece titled, “What I Learned Last Week”, Sherman writes that, “I shouldn’t have attacked Michael Crabtree the way I did. You don’t have to put anybody else down to make yourself bigger.” He cites a tweet he received from a fan that opened his eyes to his position as a role model for kids.  And though he does not apologize in the piece, he does admit he could and probably should have acted differently.

Mike Valenti, Afternoon Drive host at CBS sports station 97-1 “The Fan”, was one of Sherman’s few defenders the day after the AFC Championship game, arguing that the players are entertainers and should be allowed to express themselves, in particular so close to the final gun, an argument Sherman references in his commentary. Thankfully, the Seattle defensive back was smart enough to step back, offering an explanation and perspective.  It’s what the NFL needs from its players and for its image.