David Kirkpatrick

August 30, 2010

Public relations no-nos — impersonating consumers

PR firm Reverb Communications is in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission for creating video game reviews at Apple’s iTunes store by posing as unbiased consumers, instead of the paid professional flacks they were. Now there is a somewhat fine line out there in the online world between fandom, fannish shilling and paid shilling, and the FTC frowns highly on the last item in that list if it’s undisclosed. Frowns in it so highly it even requires bloggers at any level of readership and popularity disclose a paid-for ad.

(Full disclosure: I occasionally run sponsored posts I’ve created for clients. Those posts beginning December 1, 2001, as per FTC regulations are clearly marked with a “sponsored” disclaimer. And to add a shameless ad to this aside, if you are interested in a sponsored post on this blog, hit the about page for contact information.)

And as a bit of advice to Reverb Comm., try to stay on right side of the FTC. It can make your life fairly unpleasant. Plus the bad PR your clients get hit with when shenanigans like this get exposed kill your viral efforts.

From the first link way up there in the first sentence:

US regulators have said a public relations firm has agreed to settle charges that it had employees pose as unbiased videogame buyers and post reviews at Apple’s online iTunes store.

The deal requires Reverb Communications and its owner, Tracie Snitker, to remove such potentially deceptive reviews and refrain from the practice, according to the .

“Companies, including public relations firms involved in online marketing need to abide by long-held principles of truth in advertising,” said FTC division of advertising practices director Mary Engle.

“Advertisers should not pass themselves off as ordinary consumers touting a product, and endorsers should make it clear when they have financial connections to sellers.”

October 31, 2009

Public relations and web 2.0

The rules have forever changed.

The release:

Social media require ‘Community Relations 2.0’

Boston College researchers find real-time advocacy challenges long-standing corporate practices

Chestnut Hill, Mass. (October 30, 2009) — The rise of social media and real-time advocacy have re-written the community outreach rules companies followed for decades. But many American firms are dragging their feet as they approach “Community Relations 2.0,” Boston College researchers report in the November issue of Harvard Business Review.

Gone are the days when controversial projects were rolled out strictly along the corporate timeline. A worker’s blog rant unveiled major problems with a multi-billion dollar Kaiser Permanente IT initiative, putting the company in the spotlight and on the defensive.

Today, a disgruntled customer can take the world stage, as did a frustrated cable subscriber who videotaped a Comcast repairman snoozing on the couch and broadcast the now infamous nap across the world via the Internet.

Social media such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube, as well as tens of thousands of blogs and wikis have exponentially increased the speed of formation of these communities and magnified their impact and reach, report Carroll School of Management professors Gerald C. Kane, Robert G. Fichman and John Gallaugher and co-author John Glaser, the CIO of Partners HealthCare.

“These new social media tools let people organize extremely quickly around any issue or event that inspires them,” said co-author Kane, an assistant professor of information systems at BC. “Within hours, these virtual communities can grow to hundreds of thousands, potentially reaching millions more in short order. Companies and organizations caught unprepared can find themselves in a media firestorm, just ask companies like Domino’s Pizza, Amazon.com, Comcast, and many others have.”

These online communities form quickly, according to the researchers, and can disperse just as fast. They’re leadership can change often. Yet mobile platforms – from cell phones to PDAs to laptops – keep members on the alert, ready to push the agenda or spring into action. These communities vary widely in purpose, membership and tone – from friendly and collaborative to openly hostile. The same tools have also played central roles in recent international events, such as the 2008 Mumbai Terror Attacks and the 2009 Iranian election protests.

But for companies in this brave new Community Relations 2.0 world, executives must know that these real-time communities differ from their online predecessors – such as listservs and message boards – in critical ways, namely:

  • Deep relationships form quickly online and information can be dispersed without delay.
  • Rapid organization allows these communities to mobilize hundreds of thousands of people in a few hours.
  • Knowledge creation and synthesis take place in a far more deliberate fashion.
  • Information filtering tools like search, ratings and keywords allow people to identify information that is important to them and then act accordingly.

     

Companies need to understand these new social media – their benefits as well as their risks – and devote strategic resources to engage these communities in genuine discussions. For example, many physicians from Partners HealthCare are active on Sermo, an independently operated network for physicians, and more than 3,500 employees have joined an informal and unofficial Partners community on Facebook. Many patients belong to the social network PatientsLikeMe. For Partners, these online communities represent strategic opportunities to interact with stakeholders on issues of common interest.

“Whether or not managers, leaders, or politicians even know the difference between Wikipedia, Facebook, or Twitter, they need to begin learning how to monitor and respond quickly to trends in these social media communities,” Kane said. “Doing so, they may not only prevent the spread of damaging information, but they may also find valuable partners in their organization’s mission. Companies like Dell, Starbucks and Kaiser-Permanente have moved beyond purely reactive strategies to proactively reach out to customers as an important resource for customer service, marketing, and new product development.”

March 27, 2009

Facebook 2009=PR blunder

Filed under: Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:41 pm

Two big public relations hits already this year. And this one is a cave-in to a very vocal super-minority (in the ballpark of one percent) of users.

Ouch.

From the link:

Facebook says it will tweak its homepage in the coming weeks in direct response to user uproar over recent designs changes. The social network caved to customer feedback against the site’s recent improvements and says it decided to listen to the millions asking for less change.

Also from the link:

Certainly most of the unhappy users will be fairly content with Facebook’s decision to listen to their feedback, but critics actually think this is a bad decision. Judged by numbers, around just one percent of Facebook users complained about the site’s latest redesign, still — in numbers alone, two million sounds a lot.

But as some point out, Facebook has enforced several times now redesigns on its users and ignored their complaints. This time round though, just like with the site’s Terms of Service, the number of users complaining grew tenfold (around 200,000 last year and just under two million over the last week) Facebook might have thought that they couldn’t risk losing such a large number of users.

February 25, 2009

Is Twitter the future of PR?

One word — no. But it will become a very interesting public relations/media relations toolas new ways of utilizing the social networking microblogging app gain currency. Twitter is already a PR/MR soapbox with very unique abilities and limitations.

I’m looking forward to seeing what comes over the next six months to year. Twitter has absolutely exploded in 2009 so I expect some exciting, and probably totally unexpected, things to burst onto the scene.

From the link:

High Tech Computer (HTC), the Taiwanese maker of Windows Mobilehandsets, last week employed the popular microblogging/social networking service Twitter to confirmthat its latest high-end business smartphone, the HTC Touch Pro2, will be coming to North America. The potential of Twitter as a marketing tool is becoming obvious to many traditional PR shops, and more and more are creating official Twitter accounts to help reach journalists and writers. And that’s just fine by me. Keep reading for my reasons why.

HTC is one of the few handset makers with a consistent presence on Twitter, which lets you post 140-character “status updates” and communicate with other users and “followers,” who elect to receive your updates. Palmis another smartphone maker that effectively employs Twitter to disseminate its marketing message and communicate with users. RIM has an official Twitter account, but it abruptly stopped posting last summer. Windows Mobileand Nokia have a presence on Twitter, as well, though I’ve yet to find an official account for either.