Putting the “Success” into Succession Using Social Media

The transition from one CEO to another is a difficult feat for both internal an external publics, as everyone stands on edge hoping for a smooth transition from one leader to another. Many questions arise during the succession of a CEO or other leader of a company. How will the company change under the new leadership? Will this CEO be as good as our last one? Will staff or customers abandon the company if they don’t like our new CEO?

 

As the public relations practitioner, we need to ensure that all leaders stay on the same page throughout the transition and convey this message to employees and customers. There also needs to be a consensus among these stakeholders that the choice and process of coming to a decision for the new leader is fair and fits the company’s needs and vision. Risks need to be minimal and precautions need to be in place to handle these risks.

So, how can social media alleviate these leadership shifts? In an age where stakeholders expect information quickly and efficiently during a time of change, social media acts as that hand to hold and exchange information with key publics. If customers have questions, this is the perfect place to answer them. This two-way communication is essential during a CEO succession, as it shows the company is transparent and cares about the feelings and needs of its stakeholders; that these stakeholders can trust the company has his or her best interests in mind.

 

Recently, Yahoo has experienced the process of CEO succession with bumps and bruises along the way. With the quickly changing hands of power in the CEO process, many have been left to question the stability of the company. Despite the lack of accountability, the company has not used their social media outlets, such as Twitter and Facebook. Unfortunately, this has left Yahoo users unsure of the company’s stability and seem to lack clear goals as an organization. By neglecting to use these outlets, they cut off the hand that social media offers: opportunity to make direct connections and build trust they need during a CEO succession. 

For companies like Yahoo, social media can be intimidating because it leaves the gates open to questioning and speculation. However, as PR practitioners, it is our job to use this vulnerability as an opportunity to build relationships with our publics and show that we are willing to answer the difficult questions to make our stakeholders feel comfortable and safe about the transition. By taking stakeholders through the process of a CEO succession, we ensure they know about all changes made within the company and feel safe and secure about the change. Sharing the changes and improvements made by the CEO change also make great content during a CEO succesion. Ultimately, in a time of instability, social media is that shoulder to lean on and provide a sense of peace for stakeholders.

 

 

Pitch Perfect: 3 Takeaways from The Final Project

For our final project in PRL 215, we had to collaborate with members of the class and create a strategy for improving the reputation of Syracuse University. While group projects can sometimes present a challenge, working in a group and observing other presentations taught me so much about PR and group work in general. So, what was lessons have I learned from trying to master the perfect pitch?

1. More Team Members = More Brain Power

I feel blessed that my team was extremely diligent and worked hard to create a great idea and presentation. Without them, the results would not have been as creative. Each person brought something unique to the table in terms of background, talent and skills, which ultimately made our group and project stronger. In Public Relations, we often work on teams and need to understand how to utilize the skills of each group member. This exercise improved my teamwork skills and showed me the power of collaborating powerful minds. I wish that we had more group projects this semester; it would have been a great way to get to know my classmates and their talents.

2. The Shorter, the Sweeter

For me and other members of my generation, 25 minutes is — sadly but truly — far too long to sit and listen to a pitch. If you needed that much time then you didn’t have a clear focus and understanding of your goals for the client. In this world where information is constantly thrown at audiences, we need to be sure we deliver them concisely and with lasting impression. One of the groups in Professor Kucharavy’s class had an especially powerful beginning, which caught the attention of the audience and kept the audience entertained throughout the presentation. This needs to be maintained to really sell the idea and your PR team as the right ones for the job.

3. Learn By Doing

Actively working on projects like these are the most invaluable experiences you can have. The best way to understand the trials and tribulations of the PR industry is to be thrown into the situation under a deadline and figuring out how to make everything work. I loved doing this project not only because of my group, but because I am understanding my own strengths and weaknesses in terms of group work and public presenting. I know I sometimes speak too fast, but now I know the power of my creative mind is helpful for the more artistic aspects of PR. Watching other groups succeed or stumble through their presentations helps me understand what I want to incorporate into my own practices. I truly hope that the class integrates more simulations like these, because they are essential to helping a budding PR professional grow.

The Fate of Social Media: A Fad or Here to Stay?

As PR students, we are quickly adapting to the idea that social media is the place to be in order to connect with our publics and get feedback from others. Luckily, the “digital natives” of our generation don’t have too much adjusting to do, as most of us use smartphones almost as an extra appendage and immediately log onto Facebook or Twitter when we have Internet access. However, we have to ask ourselves if this is really something to devote so much time learning about. Will these networks cease to exist in the next few years? In the New York Times’ discussion “Is Facebook a Fad? Will Our Grandchildren Tweet?” journalists and social media users from all walks of life examine the rise, and possible fall, of social media. So, lets ask a scary question: Will something new come along, or will the glamour of social media flash and quickly fade?

Social Media: Old Dog, New Tricks

Before we ultimately deem social media dead or alive for the future, first we should examine the roots of social media. True, computers weren’t around in the early 1900s, but that ease people’s undying need to communicate with each other. We can trace social back to 1932, when the Notificator was created as a scrolling message board where friends could stop and read messages left for them. Sound familiar? This could be seen as the world’s first idea of a Facebook Wall, where people feed their need for communication and connect with friends. The legacy of the XX is quickly replaced by the telephone, beeper, smartphone, tablet — all methods for us to have social media at our fingertips. During the discussion, Keith Hampton argues that people are only likely to flock to such technologies if a sizable matter of people are on that medium. We have seen the popularity of these tools come and go, but fundamentally the need to communicate with people remains the same. Our grandchildren may not be liking statuses or retweeting information, but we will always be attracted to these means of staying in touch with one another.

So, Will It Last?

Most critics, and even tweeters, vote that the social media trend is here to stay. Why does these media methods trump other methods of communication in terms of longevity? For Morra Aarons Mele, it’s the power of equality that makes social media so attractive. From the homes of mothers to the streets of Egypt, these digital conversations allow people to connect with others interested in the same fields and at the same level — even connecting with companies as equals. Though social media is still young, it has already empowered users to connect with others and have a voice. However, with so many screams, where will social media go?

What Does this Mean for Us?

For PR pros, it brings several gifts and curses to our profession. Social media makes our publics more accessible than ever, allowing us to have one-on-one conversations with consumers and advocates of the company. In a profession scarred by it’s “spin doctor” reputation, these avenues allow opportunities for companies to be human and transparent to publics. Unfortunately, this means that our jobs will never stop, even after the doors of our office close for the day. During the discussion, Leslie Perlow points out that professionals always have the urge to check their phones to stay in touch with work life, even on vacation. In the digital age, the 9 to 5 PR job will cease to exist and we will be expected to monitor the welfare of our organizations at all times. Where is social media’s place? Everywhere. We are now married to the media and whether we like it or not must become a power couple with each social media network.

Like fledgling PR students, social media has a long way to go. Though it’s power and effects on our society are evident, in some ways its current dynamic can limit our human nature and communication skills. Sheryl Turkle feels that while social media has a foothold in society, it allows us to hide behind a screen and only offer a perception of what we want viewers to understand. Will social media ever allow us to be purely human? Is it really the technology blocking us from hiding our flaws, or is it our own self-consciousness that has made us harness these tools for this purpose?

Well, hang on for the ride, because we all have some exploring to do.

Big Questions and Big Stories in a Big News World

With so much information buzzing past people’s ears on TV, the Internet and other media outlets, what stories are going to snatch the readers’ attention? As an aspiring PR professional, it is essential to understand what trends and ideas are important to the public so I can ensure the message of my company reaches as many people as possible and makes an impact. After observing the top stories on several news sites, including CNN.com, NYTimes.com, ABCNews.go.com and NBCNews.com, I began to find trends within these headlines and stories that news sites felt would catch the eye of their readers. These qualities include:

{Controversy}

Hot-button issues are hugely popular with news sites, which was evident as all the news sites began covering Obama’s push to lift the ban on gay marriage. Over the years, this politically-charged issue has divided the nation and caused a stir among politicians across the aisle. These stories spark a similar interest for news readers, who have strong feelings about the issue of gay marriage. These types of stories draw the readers to not only browse through the story, but to re-ignite their beliefs in an issue. As a PR professional, I could imagine wanting to stray away from these issues so I do not alienate public in particular. However, it is good to understand that a controversy, such as a company crisis, may be picked up my news sites and cause my company to come under major scrutiny, so it is important to be prepared for crisis communications.

{Out of the Ordinary}

From a man swallowed by a sinkhole while sleeping to the newest stiletto workout craze, people are captivated by peculiar incidents that don’t occur in everyday life.  The uniqueness of these stories make them attractive to readers, as it shows truly anything is possible and that events can break away from the norm of daily life. As a PR professional, it is important to highlight aspects of a company or create events that will capture the public’s attention that may ordinarily not happen every day. Creating these sort of events can help put a company on the map and impress publics for our company’s uniqueness and cutting edge ideas.

{Internet Trends}

Viral content, such as the Harlem Shake, has taken the social media scene by storm. With so many social media users, it is necessary for news sites to capture and tell the stories of these sensations. Today, it is more important than ever to make sure Public Relations professionals are paying attention to these trends and to understand what is popular on blogs and websites like Reddit. PR professionals need to understand the relevance of the second screen and cater to connecting to publics on these media outlets.

{Geographical Relevance}

When comparing stories from the NY Times and LA Times, their stories cater to the events happening in their specific geographical areas. For example, the NY Times focuses on a school opening in the Bronx while LA Times highlights a forest fire in the California region. These stories immediately impact the people in their circulation area, and while these digital websites are available for international viewing, people are still reading the news that is relevant to their immediate location. From a PR standpoint, it is essential to understand that a story affecting people on the East Coast may not interest people in California, so knowing who to pitch your story to in terms of organizations and publications is important. Remember, we are trying to make the most impact and get the most eyes on the story, so the more relatable to the people in that geographic location, the better. However, this trend could begin to phase out since the Internet is so universal, so these stories can become less captivating to the Internet public with time.

 

 

Personal PR: 5 Ways to Annoy Your Professor

As aspiring PR professionals, what better place to start building our personal reputation than in the classroom? Public relations is about managing your reputation, or how people perceive you. Your actions in class say a lot about who you are as a student and a person. As a teaching assistant for Social Media and the Enterprises, I have come to appreciate what our professors endure from students and learned the lay of the professor land. So, let’s start here in school and work on building a great personal reputation by avoiding pissing off the people who grade your papers. These 5 tips won’t guarantee you an A, but they will certainly help you look like and hopefully be the gold-star student.

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1. Text in class

Professors know that there isn’t anything that interesting under your desk to peek at during lecture. No one just looks down sneakily at their crotch and smiles in the middle of lecture for the heck of it. Trying to sneak a peek at your phone during class isn’t just detracting your attention from the lecture, but is insulting to the professor, who has taken time to prepare the lesson for that day. Do yourself a favor and leave your phone in your bag. That text will be there later!

2. Complain About the workload

Even though you aren’t happy about writing that 10-page essay, remember that your professor has to grade it — along with about 50 other papers. Your professors are giving you that amount of work to prepare you for a future career, so look at it as though they are doing it to help you (as a TA, I can promise you we really are trying to help!) I’m not saying to act really excited, but showing your appreciation by not saying anything and merely remembering how many hours they spend grading your work.

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3. “Take notes” on your laptop, but actually go on Facebook

Even if you are taking notes, teachers always suspect you are surfing the web or checking your social media accounts. Although I love social media, it’s definitely a distraction from your work. It’s also obvious to your professors you aren’t paying attention to their lecture and is quite insulting to the person who is speaking and grading you. Stick to old-fashion notebooks and give your teacher your full attention. Your professors and your GPA will appreciate the care.

4. Skip class and arrive the next session and ask, “Did I miss anything?”

No, actually the class sat there contemplating where you were. Of course you are going to miss the lecture material, so make it your responsibility to get notes from a friend or email the professor for a copy of the slide show if it isn’t already posted online. If you can, also let your professor know you will not be in class — they are generally accommodating and it shows them you genuinely care about making up the missed work.

5. Not read the syllabus

Seriously, it is the most frustrating thing when students ask questions that are clearly stated in the syllabus for the class. Professors take the time to compile those for you, so do them and yourself a favor and read through it so you don’t miss anything and look clueless for asking something that is clearly written in there. If you ask something from there, it looks like you don’t care about these fine details. What does that say about your work ethic in the class as a whole?

Connecting with Community: 3 Ways Whole Foods’ CEO is Doing it Right

Whole Foods has become an international household name in the grocery world, known for its top-quality wholesale organic food and work to create environmentally-friendly products. At the heart of its brand it Co-Founder and Co-CEO John Mackey, who maintains his connection with customers through his work and blog on the Whole Foods site. Though Mackey does not write the content (it’s co-written by Raj Sisoda, a business professor and co-founder of Conscious Capitalism Institute,) his pledge to do right by his customers can be heard loud and clear through his video posts. So, what can other CEOs learn from Mackey? Well, give this teacher an apple (organic, of course) and take some notes:

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Lesson 1: Show what you know

While Whole Foods’ other communication’s outlets focus on the food and specials at the stores, Mackey’s blog reflects his expertise in business. Mackey shares information about the methodology of managing a large business, which makes great fuel for aspiring entrepreneurs. However, Mackey’s blog gives this a special Whole Foods twist, focusing more on creating better businesses for communities through “Conscious Capitalism.” This not only makes Mackey an expert in his field, but also a mentor for aspiring entrepreneurs. This looks fantastic for Whole Foods, as he preaches the message of quality for food and for business that keeps the brand looking consistent.

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Lesson 2: Be a Trust Agent

If you are familiar with Chris Brogan’s book, you know that a trust agent is someone experienced in their field who has not only changed the game, but also built a community around his brand. Mackey is a prime example of a trust agent, as his blog stays consistent with Whole Foods’ pledge to quality and connection to local farmers. Through his video posts, Mackey shows his commitment to the store’s mission as he works in the stores and speaks about the importance of creating better businesses. His passion for quality and better business is tangible, which is refreshing for someone in the business industry. These personal yet professional posts make him look professional yet approachable – the perfect image for a CEO.

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Lesson 3: Use the platform to do more

After using these first two skills in tandem, Mackey has turned his personal brand and experience into a full-functional operation. Mackey leveraged his large community and fervent following to co-write “Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business” and to support Conscious Capitalism, a non-profit dedicated to creating businesses that work for their communities. Mackey is a true entrepreneur in the sense that he not only reaches his community in effective ways, but also uses his brand to reach beyond the parameters of his business. His blog continues to promote the ideas of his book and establish this personal connection with his followers, a powerful and effective method that makes him an exemplary teacher for entrepreneurs.

 

A+, Mr. Mackey

Community Management: Taking PR to the Web

Syracuse University is more than a university, but a culture and way of life. Students and alumni bleed orange for the school and even brag about how mighty our fuzzy orange mascot can be. As public relations practitioners, we work to nurture and build this community around the brands like SU.

With social media, this task has become more complex and in ways more incredible than ever before. Social media has put a new twist on how people like Kelly Lux, once a representative for Alumni Relations, connect the Syracuse University community together. With social media and public relations becoming a happily married couple, people like Kelly were presented the challenge to further build these communities through social media networks. That’s how Community Management was born, screaming and kicking its way into the PR world.

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Community managers like Kelly, who represents the School of Information Studies, works to develop, nature and foster a relationship for people with common interests – in this case, the iSchool, information technology, and the university as a whole. By using social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook, Community Managers get their finger on the pulse of what these publics are talking about.

Community managers also support these communities by relaying important information and fostering conversation between these different publics. In terms of internal relations, a community manager builds loyalty and enthusiasm around their brand, helping their employees feel passionate and proud of their company. Overall, they help maintain client and employee loyalty, which is essential for any successful brand. For Kelly, community management extends beyond the computer. She also works with other employees to ensure the message is the same across both digital and analog platforms.

Community management is the intersection of social media and public relations, which basically makes it my dream job. As social media continues to influence our culture and communities, it will be more important for PR practitioners to think more like community managers and find the pulse of their publics online.

Hurricane Sandy: Three Accounts that Survived the Social Media Storm

Though Hurricane Sandy only physically battered the East Coast, the social media world was swirling with tips and updates before and during the storm. Government agencies, news stations and relief organizations used social media platforms like Twitter to relay this crucial and even life-saving information to those affected by the storm. As the storm wracked the coast, these agencies fought against the traffic that was sending social media into a storm and produced meaningful information that made a positive impact.

arc The American Red Cross played an instrumental role in this natural disaster, as they administered essential information and advice for those in the trenches as the storm hit the shore. The American Red Cross is an organization committed to aiding those going through the aftermath of disasters. However, they were also instrumental in disseminating information quickly and effectively before and during the storm. The Red Cross Twitter account used the trending topic #Sandy to post  tips about finding shelters, preparing for the storm, and even a mobile application to help in the event of a hurricane. They also advocated for blood and money donations during and after the storm to help relief efforts. Three months later, the American Red Cross continues to work with families and update their publics about the relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

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During the hurricane efforts, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie put himself on the map as a great leader of his tattered state. His Twitter account became the proving grounds as he became the voice of reason and hope for his publics. Throughout storm preparations, Christie posted advice about keeping safe and the most effective routes to use as the state began evacuating families. As a man representing his state, Christie became both a strong voice and a source of hope for the people of New Jersey, promising strength and powerful leadership through the duration of the disaster. Twitter allowed Christie to reach out to the New Jersey people and make that two-way communication possible in a time when New Jersey residents needed a helping hand. By being human over digital media, Christie emerged as a prominent political figure and effective leader through the hurricane.

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency used Twitter to do what was most necessary during this disaster; to disseminate information quickly and efficiently. FEMA posted information almost every five minutes on topics ranging from disaster shelter locations to places to find pizza when food was scarce. They also became a platform to share information from the American Red Cross, who worked together to spread as much essential information as possible. As an organization responsible for helping others and responding in America’s time of need, FEMA used this social media tool to its advantage and effectively helped those who were suffering during Hurricane Sandy.

Socially Speaking: A Visit from Christy Perry Toughey

Christy Perry Touhey, an adjunct professor and web content manager at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, joined our class to give us the low-down on everything social media. As a communications student exploring the realms of people-to-people communication, it is essential to understand how to get information to our publics in meaningful ways. How do we use social media? How do we use social media from a company and personal perspective? How do we engage our audience? Touhey spoke about the law of the social media land provided great perspectives for incoming social media users.

Although I already have extensive personal and job experience using social media, I found Touhey’s insights useful from a business perspective. She offered advice about engaging your audience by responding, asking questions, and sharing information. With her background in public relations and journalism, she also explained how social media helps people share expert advice and increase awareness about your brand. As students studying public relations, I am glad she stressed that social media has transformed how the message gets to people and how we lack control over the message. This is an important point for us to understand and her advice offered our class a means of helping to shape the message and respond to the negative and positive feedback.

Her most eye-opening points came from her explanation of social media’s impact on social change, for example in Tunisia and Egypt. These examples displayed that social media is more than just a communications tool, but truly the way to change an industry and even the world. Effective communicators need to realize that this method of communication isn’t going to leave anytime soon, so we must learn the ins and outs of these media channels to reach our publics in effective ways.

Something I wish she spoke more about was personal branding and the idea of empathy. In today’s market, we are selling our personal talents and skills as public relations consultants. We are our own brands on social media, and touching on the importance of promoting ourselves and networking would have been extremely beneficial to the class. Additionally, the idea of an “ROI on empathy” is equally important because it shows that brands care about their customers and are working for the people. If explained more, I think it would make the importance two-way communication and understanding more apparent. We cannot just tweet and post content if it isn’t beneficial to our publics (internal and external), and this needs to be stressed to the top communicators and students.

Overall, I enjoyed Touhey’s perspective on social media and feel it was a great jumping off point for students like us preparing to communicate with people in the digital world.

Nice To Meet You!

      I’m Hailey, a sophomore studying Public Relations and Information Management & Technology at Syracuse University. I’m extremely passionate about studying social media and how it builds relationships between peers and with organizations.
      I graduated from Lower Moreland High School in Huntingdon Valley, PA, a small town bordering Philadelphia. I have a sister, Kelsey, a brother, Danny, two dogs and three cats. During high school, I was a competitive figure skater and captain of my synchronized figure skating team, Philadelphia Symmetry. During my career as captain, we qualified and competed at the U.S. Synchronized Figure Skating Championships in California.
      During my college career, I intend to focus my studies on social media and communications. I love technology and how it empowers people to innovate and create. Social media empowers everyone to have a voice, share personal stories and connect to people in ways they never imagined were possible. As a student in the Social Media and the Enterprises course, I created a YouTube video as a part of our “Viral Video” project titled “Call Me Maybe Syracuse University.” During the spring and summer, the video received over 100,000 views and was featured on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, Mashable, #140Conference and other major conference around the world. By experiencing the power generated by this video, my passion for social media and its role in our society grew exponentially. I am currently a teaching assistant for the course and have the opportunity to share my passions with other students.
      Aside from studying social media, I also love running and yoga. I caught the running bug from my dad, a 15-time marathon runner, so I like to race and go on runs through the land preserve across the street from my house. I plan on racing the Mountain Goat Run in May and participate in the Flower City Challenge in April. To balance out the intensity of running, I enjoy practicing yoga in my free time to relax and learn about the concepts of spirituality.
      I am proud to call myself an SU student and do tons of activities around campus to share my love for the Orange Nation. I am a part of U100, a student ambassador group the conducts tours for prospective students. I also work for New Explorations in Information and Science, a social media and technology lab at the School of Information Studies. I also work as a journalist for the School of Information Studies, where I write blog posts andpress releases about events around school. I love to compete in hackathons, as well, and was named winner of the MLB College Challenge this past semester.
      As I blog about topics for my Advanced PR Writing for the Digital Age course, feel free to post your thoughts or questions and I would be happy to answer!