It’s interesting to see how social media and its importance continues to evolve, and with the presidential elections coming up next year, we predict social media will be heavily used in the campaigns.

President Obama, the first President to live tweet, held a live Twitter Town Hall last week, tweeting from the @WhiteHouse account (not his campaign account @BarackObama, which is the third most popular account after Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber) and answering questions sent through Twitter. What this means is anyone could tweet a question to the President with the hashtag #AskObama and the White House team chose the questions that were shown on the screen and answered by the President.

A total 169, 395 #AskObama tweets were sent about these four biggest topics: Jobs – 18,957 (23 percent), Budget – 15,000 (18 percent), Taxes – 14,777 (18 percent) and Education – 8,833 (11 percent).

Was the Twitter Town Hall effective? We think yes. For the President and his campaign, it was an interesting way to engage America and meet them right where they were – online. And for Americans, it’s another opportunity to hear from the President and get an update on where things currently stand, especially with the 2012 Elections approaching.

To see the full Twitter Town Hall video, visit: http://askobama.twitter.com.

We’re looking forward to see how presidential candidates utilize social media in their campaigns. How do you think they’ll use social media?

Q: What’s worse than an unanticipated crisis?

A: A poor crisis response strategy.

The popular and chic W Austin Hotel and recent home of Austin City Limits Studios recently had an accident when two glass panels fell more than 20 stories from the balconies into the pool, injuring four guests.

McQuade, the hotel manager, wrote a letter to hotel guests stating, “we feel badly for those injured,” and said he felt fortunate there were not more people hurt. The reasons for the panels breaking are unknown and guests are advised not to use their balconies until further notice. But is this crisis response strategy enough? Is this even a strategy at all?

If a balcony panel fell 25 stories on you while swimming on your weekend get away, and you received a measly apology letter, what would you think?

What are the do’s and don’t of crisis management? How do you regain consumer trust?

Here’s a brief list of how to act in the aftermath of a crisis!

  • DO act with transparency and immediacy
  • DON’T be the second party to explain what happened, the 1st sets the stage
  • DO fully apologize—”It’s our fault”
  • DON’T shift blame
  • DON’T behave as the victim
  • DON’T offer excuses
  • DON’T justify what happened
  • DON’T disassociate your company from the crisis
  • DO declare the cause of the crisis the strategized steps you will take to resolve it
  • DO constantly keep your public informed with updated information
  • DO state how this event will affect the future behavior and improvement of your company
  • DO practice restitution—making amends by compensating the victims or restoring the situation
  • DO offer new incentives for consumers to remain loyal
  • DO go above and beyond in the affected community—show corporate social responsibility and practice strategic philanthropy by participate in services related to your crisis
  • DON’T practice strategic ambiguity—refusing to directly answer questions and taking a public stand, this will often raise ethical questions
  • DON’T attack the media
  • DON’T keep contact with affected victims minimal
  • DON’T forget that your employees are major PR reps

This article describes the June 10th glass panel incident and was written prior to two more disasters that occurred at various W hotels; at the W Hotel in Midtown Atlanta, two women fell through glass windows, and at the Austin location last week, three panels fell more than 20 stories into the street.

The W Hotel issued a statement that the “entire team couldn’t be more devastated,” but they “still do not know why this has happened.” The hotel has been open a mere 7 months and is closed in order to replace nearly 1,000 glass panels. Among a plethora of problems, the series of W Hotel incidents demonstrates weak systems of risk management and crisis communication that could lead to the failure of a $300 million high rise built in the last year.

This DOs and DON’Ts list of crisis communication provides the go-to basics of how to behave while resolving your crisis, but as we all know, one of the best ways to improve oneself is to learn from others’ mistakes. If you’re looking for a real-life example for guidance, look up the classic and successful crisis-response strategy of the 1982 Tylenol cyanide poisoning. Johnson & Johnson’s PR response epitomizes the ideal crisis response strategy and should serve as a leading example for companies to follow in the midst of a crisis.

Happy Social Media Day! It’s hard not to see social media mentioned in the news these days. For example:

  • You may have heard about Representative Anthony Weiner’s Twitter fiasco that led to his resignation a few weeks ago. A similar social media scandal recently put a Chinese politician in hot water.
  • Tiger Woods used his Twitter account to announce he would not play in the AT&T National in Philadelphia. (link: a)
  • As the 2012 Presidential Election Campaigns begin, the Obama for America staff announced that President Obama will also do some of his own tweeting, signing his tweets with “BO.”
  • The FBI was also leveraging the power of social media…to catch a man who has been on the “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list since 1999. They monitored his long-time girlfriend and spreading the man’s physical characteristics on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. He has since been caught.
  • The search for Lauren Spierer, a missing Indiana University student, went viral immediately after the search began. Official and unofficial Facebook and Twitter accounts, websites and the Twitter hashtag #FindLauren has helped the world keep up with the hopeful search.

Social media is changing the way our world interacts and is expanding our ability to reach and connect with people we haven’t been able to before – old acquaintances, clients, prospective clients, industry leaders and even celebrities and athletes. Social media gives a company more marketing and public relations options, but as you may see from the horror stories of accidently posting inappropriate things, close monitoring and double-checking is necessary to make sure you don’t have a public relations crisis on your hands.

Social media isn’t for every company. It depends on where your target audience is, and though more and more individuals are exploring social media, it may not be the most effective way to reach your audience. Social media also requires commitment. Relevant updates may take time to conjure up and consistent updates are needed to maintain active accounts. Do you or does your employee have time to accomplish this daily or weekly?

Similar to our recommendations about starting a blog, you and/or your company must have a plan before you create your social media accounts. Here are some pointers to starting your social media strategy.

1. What are your goals for your social media accounts?

Some possible goals could be to increase brand awareness and credibility, improve customer service, build loyalty with your customers, and/or to monitor the conversations about your company or in your industry.

2. What are your updating guidelines?

Decide how often you will post and the subjects you will post about. Is your employee posting on behalf of the company? If so, create guidelines of what they can and cannot say.

3. How will you measure your effectiveness?

Possible measurement tactics can include monitoring the number of fans, followers and/or comments.

Have more questions about social media and how it can benefit your company? Feel free to contact us!

When we develop social media strategy, a company blog is usually on the list of recommended tactics. The information you post on your blog gives more details than a sentence-long Facebook update or a 140–character tweet on Twitter, and when updated frequently, a blog can be a helpful tool for your clients, potential clients and others in the industry. Developing an engaging blog can take work and discipline, but in the long run, it can build your credibility, brand awareness and create effective communication with your audience. Here are some pointers as you start your blog.

1. Make a blog guideline
Before you start writing content for you blog, you need to decide a few things that will help give your blog structure. What is the goal of your blog? How often will you post? What kind of topics will you write about?

2. Write blog posts to fit your audience
Now that you’ve decided on your blog topics, draft some blog posts and make sure they are engaging for your specific audience. Are they relevant, interesting, and/or helpful? Is it too much about you/your company and not enough about your audience?

3. Respond to your audience
After your posts are live, monitor how your audience responds. Do they like the topics or do they need tweaking? Respond to comments posted on your blogs, especially if your topic is controversial. Listen earnestly and respond honestly. Look for ways to educate and inform your audience.

As a business owner, I am definitely familiar with the challenges a new venture can present. Our clients (normally small to medium-sized businesses) often face the same challenges and have the same legal questions about starting or expanding their business, daily operations, partnerships, risk management and litigation, etc. To save money, some business owners (guilty as charged – pun intended) will obtain legal advice from an attorney friend (even if this friend is a criminal defense attorney or a divorce attorney – both niches have nothing to do with running a business). Isn’t this the equivalent of seeing an optometrist for a knee injury?

I was pleasantly surprised when I was introduced to Cathleen Slack with Lloyd Gosselink Attorneys at Law. The firm offers a broad range of services and the Business Services Group there offers two fixed-fee packages that help businesses either get off the ground or continue their operations. One package is an initial consultation package that includes three lawyers/two hours/$600 to make sure your business entity is structured to achieve your goals, maximize returns, and provide future growth. We always advise our clients to be proactive and not reactive when it comes to their communications strategy. Shouldn’t everyone’s business strategy (including the legal aspects) be the same?

Here’s an example of some of the services offered to help businesses succeed:

  • Formation of business entities, such as partnerships, limited liability companies, other professional entities, and both for-profit and nonprofit corporations.
  • Assisting with negotiating real estate leases, purchases, sales and development agreements.
  • Drafting and reviewing contracts including real estate, employment and severance agreements, construction contracts, and sale and purchase contracts.
  • Assisting with employment activities, including drafting initial employment forms and policies, workforce training, advising on employment law compliance, and evaluating employment decisions and documentation
  • Litigation avoidance, risk management, and pre-litigation counseling to help businesses avoid disputes and to be in the best position to prevail should a dispute arise.

For more information about Cathleen Slack and Lloyd Gosselink Attorneys at Law, go to www.lglawfirm.com.

After a big networking event, what do you do with the stack of business cards you’ve collected? Do you have certain goals when attending or is it just a check off your professional to-do list? Before you rush into your next event because they say it’s important, think about the following things.

  1. Why are you attending the event and what do you hope to get out of it? If there are specific people you want to meet, research them online or start up a Twitter conversation with them ahead of time.
  2. As you network and collect cards, make notes on the back of cards about the person to help you remember them and include things you want to follow-up with that person.
  3. Bring your social network to the event. Snap and post pictures to Facebook, Twitter and/or LinkedIn. Find and follow people on Twitter while you talk to them, depending on the atmosphere of the event.
  4. After the event, connect and follow-up with your new contacts. Add new contacts on LinkedIn, continue conversations on social media networks, and follow-up by email.
  5. Keep networking! It may sometimes feel like work to attend and converse, but networking with consistency and following-up genuinely can bring you to the right connections and you never know where the connections can take you.