November 16, 2010

Is social media IQ impacting our overall EQ?

Posted in social media tagged at 4:02 pm by Jennifer

Social media has exploded like a giant cyberspace mushroom cloud, and there are arguments on both sides for the impact it has had on human interaction. Have we become more social because of these new tools? Or are we now “antisocial” hiding behind a veil of connections that exist only online?

I think we can all agree that social media has enabled us to meet more people than we might have otherwise, that it allows us to keep in touch with previous contacts and that it’s made information sharing with a mass audience much easier. But because online dialogue is different than face to face contact it has the potential to influence how we interact with each other in a negative way if not done properly. Basic communications tools, like emotional intelligence (EQ), should really be applied to online communication as well.

The three overall “pillars of EQ” from my basic understanding are;

  1. Am I able to read people well
  2. Do I understand my own emotions
  3. Do I manage the emotions of others effectively

The instantaneous nature of online communication often means we risk sending something out when angry, excited or emotionally charged that we regret later on. (Similar to saying the same things out loud, except that it leaves an online paper trail.) The other issue is that we often take for granted the people we communicate with or their emotions, especially if you have a large online audience. “Followers” stop being people and become just a homogenous part of your measurable audience.

So how can we apply emotional intelligence to the larger world of social media?

  • Always keep in mind that there are people on the other end of your messages. They may have different reasons for reading what you’re communicating, but they’re all interested in what you have to say.
  • If you happen to have a large online audience, it’s a reflection of the impression you’ve made and the interest you’ve generated online. It can be a reason to be really proud that there exists a significant pool of people who want to be in touch with you and read what you have to say. BUT – no one should place all of the emphasis on the number of relationships/ followers/ audience they have over the quality of those relationships. You risk making people feel ignored and that they aren’t “worthy of your time”, not a great impression to make.
  • Think first type second – a good rule of thumb when we’re angry is to take a deep breath, think about it first and then say what we have to say to another person. This (hopefully) stops you from saying something you might later regret. There is no reason the same rule shouldn’t apply to online interactions.
  • The internet allowed people to gain a level of anonymity online, and so trolling was born. Hiding behind a computer screen and a fake name some people feel free to say cruel, hurtful or untrue things on message boards, blogs, forums etc. Personally I never use an anonymous name when posting online or providing feedback. At the end of the day nothing I or anyone else says is ever going to change these people, but if you are the target of “a troll” my advice is to ignore it unless there is some validity to their statement or an actual need to respond. By getting into an online “war or words” you’re just giving them what they want – attention. If their complaint was valid or you could actually find a resolution with them, then they would probably not be hiding behind an anonymous name.

If you have a personal experience or any thoughts on this, feel free to raise your hand and share it with the class. Also a shout-out to Movember for their great meetup yesterday in Toronto that inspired this post topic.


October 12, 2010

Would you date your Google results?

Posted in Social Life, social media, Work-Life at 2:16 pm by Jennifer

Sitting in a slightly crowded and dimly lit lounge, you see an attractive stranger. They smile at you, you smile back at them and then a conversation kicks off. If it goes well at the end of the night you might have a name, a phone number, a business card or an email address. And then as is only fitting for modern courtship, we do the unthinkable – we Google.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to dating in the digital age.

As a single working professional living in Toronto social media has been an amazing way to meet new people, to get myself invited to events and to do research relevant to my career and interests. I’ve looked into things for clients (like trying to find a giant blue garbage bin), kept on top of industry news, I’ve found great recipes and I’ve been alerted to the grand opening of Snakes and Lattes. But when it comes to dating, has social media helped or harmed us?

When I Googled my name I learnt that there is a writer named Jennifer Ouellette who wrote “Physics of the Buffyverse” and yet another who designs hats and headbands, some of which were featured on the TV show Gossip Girl. Then there were results that actually traced back to me – my LinkedIn profile, Twitter and this blog you happen to be reading now. Not a terrible Google outcome, but is it all that descriptive of “who I am” or what I’m like in person?

Allow me to use a few examples from my personal life to illustrate the new face of dating. One date began talking about interests that I had but hadn’t told him about. When I was caught off guard by his pseudo-psychic tendencies he admitted “I Googled you”. I immediately felt like I had been cyber-stalked by the next coming of a tech savvy Patrick Bateman. I have been told that I look nothing like my pictures and that I photograph badly. (Is that supposed to be a compliment!?) Another date had been surprised how “laid back and creative” I was because (apparently) my online presence makes me look “very corporate”. (…. really?) Well there’s a simple reason for that ladies and gentlemen… I work in a professional field! My online presence is a part of my “digital resume”, and I’ve made the conscious decision to keep it that way. But I think that I still keep my own writing style and unique “voice” in everything that I do.

The truth is only certain aspects of my personality are online. Not everything is always relevant to what I’m writing about or the conversations I’m joining. I’m not really going to blog about the fencing class I’ll be joining in the new year, about my favorite arcade games, about which paintings at the AGO take my breath away, about my irrational fear of spiders/things with more than four legs or about which musical compositions are able to move me to the point of tears. Personal information is something I usually prefer to keep in me and share on a case-by-case basis.

But this all leads to interesting questions for social media users; is it better to break more boundaries and project all of yourself online or nothing at all? What weight should we give the Google results of someone we thought we were interested in moments before making that search? What impact does social media have on couples, on relationships, on first dates and on breakups?


September 22, 2010

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain*

Posted in current events, events, social media tagged at 4:48 pm by Jennifer

I can’t write a post about transparency and not mention that while I do talk about Netflix in this post, I won’t be going into their services etc. I work for Mansfield  and is a client of ours. So while this post isn’t about Netflix per se, their services or even really Netflix as a brand I thought that I should put that out in the open from the very start. And now that’s out of the way, on to my post!

Public perception of the PR industry is not always favourable. It seems to either glamorize all night parties and rubbing shoulders with celebrities or it paints us as huddled around a long boardroom table plotting evil schemes to make big bad companies look good. That just isn’t the case, and PR companies that try to “spin the truth” or “trick the public” tend not to have the respect of their peers or survive in this industry. The reality is despite devastating cuts to the media industry there remain savvy and dedicated reporters ready to flush out a balanced story as well as a rise in bloggers who truly do their homework. Social media has given way to an army of tech-savvy super sleuths and the last thing I would ever advise a client or colleague to do is try to deceive them! These days it seems the truth is just a click or link away.

So what’s this about? It’s a lesson to all of us in being open, honest and transparent with the public when sharing information with them. Recently Netflix launched a press conference and public event in downtown Toronto. It was right around the corner from my office and flyers were being handed out yesterday, I just so happened to get my hands on one.

Their concept was really creative with actors dressed up as movie characters passing flyers out – really fun and I thought this was a great way to promote the launch of their new streaming movie service. Those actors were a great idea. The ones paid to “play types, for example, mothers, film buffs, tech geeks, couch potatoes etc.” – not such a great idea. Especially when media are asking those same extras for their opinions on the product thinking that they are average people who just so happened to stop by the launch.

This isn’t the first snag in a public relations campaign where a company was not transparent in their activities. WalMart suffered a major blow when the blog “Walmarting Across America” instead “WalMarted across the internet”. It was exposed to be a PR campaign disguised as average couple Jim and Laura’s roadtrip to various WalMart locations. As my coworker pointed out when we were talking about this, “Why would anybody do that?”

This post isn’t meant as a hand slap to Netflix or WalMart’s PR agencies by pointing out what happened. When mistakes are made we should learn from eachother and apply better techniques to our overall practices. At the end of the day we need to relate to the public, earn their trust, understand the power of social media and engage people openly on behalf of our clients but also protect our own reputations. Not being transparent can lead to situations where you will have to work really hard to rebuild public trust.

Also check out Chris (a.k.a Nachosatmidnight)’s take on the launch including some funny graphics that made me ha-ha.

– BB

* From The Wizard of Oz – I did a paper my graduating year about the importance of “the man behind the curtain” and the statement this makes on “political spin”.

September 7, 2010

A tweet can cost you plenty

Posted in current events, Social Life, social media, Work-Life at 3:17 pm by Jennifer

Love it or hate it, Twitter is steadily gaining in popularity and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Celebrities, athletes, CEO’s and everyone in between are communicating these days in short sentences, but 140 characters is still enough to get into big trouble.

Professional athlete Stephanie Rice may have won big at the Olympics, but when she tweeted an offensive statement during a heated rugby match she immediately experienced international backlash. Despite making a public apology and taking down the offending tweet, Jaguar soon dropped their endorsement of Stephanie.

Jaguar spokesman Mark Eedle released the following statement on the issue; “We have terminated our agreement with her. It’s to do with how we want to associate our brand and unfortunately this … is not an association we want to have going forward.” (Source: AP)

While I firmly believe that in many instances a person’s private life should remain private and outside the realm of corporate/public scrutiny, when you enter into certain careers or accept corporate endorsements you accept the terms and the level of public accountability that come with it. Tiger Woods is another example of companies making a judgment call and ending endorsements based on the personal life of their spokesperson – and he lost a lot more than his wife over his scandal. Stephanie may not have meant to offend anyone and chose her words in the heat of the moment, but the result is a lesson for all of us.

A few lessons learnt;

  • It’s good practice to brief your clients in social media usage and etiquette, even as a refresher. People have varying levels of experience in understanding new mediums of communication.
  • If your company or client sponsors and/or uses individuals as spokespeople, they are linked to your brand. It’s important to know what they are saying/doing in the public eye as well as messages they are sharing through their public profiles.
  • When in doubt, don’t post it. While you can “remove” things there is always an online trail, and you don’t know who may have seen the information before you had a change of heart.
  • Offensive, racist or derogatory words? I’m of the opinion they’re never okay no matter the context.

 Do you think Jaguar was justified in terminating their endorsement over her tweet?


September 1, 2010

Is there a line between “inspired by” and just plain copying?

Posted in social media, trends at 9:46 am by Jennifer

Last week I read an article in the Globe tech section about everybody’s favorite smelling meme – Old Spice guy. The article was about the new Telus ads that seem to try to capture the same over the top bravado which made “Spice” such a great campaign. Many people are commenting that this is an obvious attempt to capitalize on a campaign that has been incredibly successful. Is this the case?

Where is the line between repurposing marketing tactics that worked for one promotion and pilfering them for your own brand?

One of my favorite campaigns was the Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty”. It made me smile, I loved the messaging and it started discussions between people about standards of beauty. Then came the campaign for “true beauty”. They subverted the Dove messaging to its very core, but in the end accomplished what they set out to achieve – to reply to the “real beauty” campaign by asserting they have their own tightly defined parameters of what “beauty” is. Did they try to capitalize off of the original campaign? Of course.

But back to the man I wish my man could smell like. I loved the campaign, still love the campaign BUT – was it the first of its kind? Is the sense of overconfident bravado, over the top claims blended with humor an original marketing concept? Not too long ago there was the most interesting man in the world – what would he have to say about Mr. Old Spice stealing his thunder?

At the end of the day many ideas will draw inspiration from something else, it’s a part of the creative process. But where we draw the line between plagiarism and inspiration is not necessarily always clear cut.


August 19, 2010

A New Reason to be Afraid of Chatroulette

Posted in current events, social media at 4:08 pm by Jennifer

When Chatroulette made its debut on the internet I was excited. The simple concept was intriguing to me, being able to connect with complete strangers from across the globe at random via webcam. The ability to have face to face real-time interactions with people of different cultures and backgrounds. To be able to hear about how people live in different cities and countries. To…. see body parts I really don’t want to see blown up on my computer screen.

As Chatroulette started to gain momentum I began writing a blog post about how this new social application could be used as a unique PR and marketing tool – having heads of companies online randomly interacting with users about their brands (imagine Bill Gates popping onto your screen to tell you about the new version of Windows), TV show characters making the rounds online in advance of a show’s new season (what I wouldn’t give to pick the brains of the True Blood cast) or musicians self promoting through one-on-one concerts via webcams. There are countless possibilities.

So for my post, I went online eager to experience this new phenomenon and do a full write up including screen shots. I was left… a bit dejected and having seen things that I can never unsee. The Chatroulette blog post was put out of my mind. Until today.

Today Mashable spotlighted a brilliant campaign for “The Last Exorcism” movie that took place over Chatroulette, where unsuspecting men got a glimpse of more than they bargained for. Their reaction shots are priceless.

I think this campaign successfully and creatively used Chatroulette, finding ways to “interact with” rather than “market at” people. Bottom line – something that catches my attention or makes me laugh is much more impactful in my opinion than some of the advertising “wallpaper” we are largely becoming desensitized to.


–  BB

June 9, 2010

BP – The new acronym for “Bad Publicity”?

Posted in current events, social media at 8:35 am by Jennifer

I am very curious to find out who does the PR for British Petroleum (BP), and have the feeling this will end up being quite a case study on crisis management (as well as the worst oil spill in history). What is shocking me and frustrating millions worldwide is that they (BP) don’t come across as accountable, caring and throwing everything they have at this problem. The public want answers and action, not a veil of silence.

Breaking this silence and taking BP to task in a humorous way is the new Twitter account @BPGlobalPR – pretending to be the BP Public Relations team and releasing a stream of tweets “on behalf of” the corporation. An interview with the anonymous individual behind it is on Popeater – a great read. A few examples of his tweets;

“We’re paying Google a lot of money to make sure you only have access to the best possible info on the oil spill: our info.”

“Catastrophe is a strong word, let’s all agree to call it a whoopsie daisy”.

There is even a fictitious “BP Exec” named Terry, sharing his thoughts and activities in 140 characters or less online:

“I just spent 4 hours on the coast waving my wand at the ocean and yelling magic words.”

This spotlights a number of larger issues that companies can learn from, including being social media savvy and present online. Corporations can have mixed feelings about social media, whether they like it, hate it, want to use it or want to hide under a rock and ignore it. But the bottom line is that the public uses it and any medium used by the public should be understood by corporations and members of the company who deal with/are accountable to the public.

BP should make much more of an effort to be transparent, fund large scale cleanup efforts, open ideas to outside experts and the public to demonstrate to the world that they are doing everything humanly possible. In my honest opinion it’s much too late for them to save face, but better late than never.

Thoughts on the fake Twitter account? On BP’s relative silence?