FAIL: Epic Missteps in the City of #Ferguson’s P.R. Strategy

Kimberly N. Alleyne
http://www.kimberlynalleyne.com

#FERGUSON

The civil eruption in #Ferguson (Missouri) has quelled since the Aug. 9, 2014,  shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer though the conflict that’s tearing an already divided community rages on, if silently.

Photo by Blue Cheddar

Photo by Blue Cheddar/Flickr Creative Commons

Varying accounts of what actually precipitated the fatal shooting of the unarmed recent high school graduate still mottle accounts offered in print, broadcast and cyber media: Brown attacked Darren Wilson (the officer who shot Brown); Brown was fleeing; Brown had his hands up begging Wilson not to shoot him; Brown didn’t have his hands up…the truth will eventually manifest during the trial.

Despite the calm that is now reclining on the St. Louis County town, a emotional unrest persists among the residents and there is a notable chasm-like void in the City of Ferguson’s public relations approach — to date, it’s been near indiscernible. Here are reasons why the strategy, whatever it is, has been ineffective.

1. Late to the game — By the time the City of Ferguson retained an agency of record (Common Ground PR), civil unrest on both sides had exploded; the shrapnel bred additional crises, such as Michael Brown’s autopsy report, that compounded the situation. The City failed to get in front of those crises–or to respond quickly enough.

2. Lack of community engagement — There are deep divides in the public opinion, primarily along racial/ethnic and socioeconomic lines. A smart strategy would be to focus on engaging the community via town halls and listening tours. You cannot communicate with an audience if you don’t know what they’ll respond to. Lack of engagement–and understanding–blows targeted messaging out of the water.

3.  Insertion of personal opinion – The City of Ferguson announced that Common Ground PR would assist with crisis management by “fielding media inquiries,” and soon after, the racial/ethnicity composition of the firm’s staff was questioned (Not unreasonable since they’re handling an intensely racially-charged situation). Denise Bentele responded, umm sort of, to the criticism in a statement in which she shared her dismay about negative online comments. What?! … Why? Regardless of what the public thinks, Bentele should have never offered personal commentary. And coming on the defensive about the racial make-up of her staff actually heightened suspicion about the firm’s capabilities. The crisis is not about her, and her opinion adds no substance to the public dialogue.

Denise Bentele, CEO of Common Ground PR,

Denise Bentele, CEO of Common Ground PR

4. Not responding on social media – So it looks like Common Ground is not very social. Despite the plethora opportunities to engage media and community members online and on social, the PR agency has also been criticized for not engaging on social, Twitter in particular. Not a tweet out of them so far.

5. No clear spokesperson (s) — Who’s running the show? A spokesperson has yet to emerge. There are too many people talking in this situation. The airwaves are far too crowded with opinionated voices soapboxing boxing about the tragic incident, and not one of those voices includes a City of Ferguson spokesperson. What gives? An essential, and basic, PR strategy is to establish a spokesperson and to equip she or he with a substantive message. That’s not happening in Ferguson. Fielding media inquiries is a back-burner priority in relation to this.

6.  Missed storytelling opportunities –In the face of the widely circulated images of an incensed community standing against police/military, rallies for Michael Brown, and rallies for the Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, there have also been displays of unity that transcend zip code, income, race and ethnicity. The City of Ferguson and Common Ground PR should seize those storytelling opportunities to flip the frame and show another view of the picture.

Also, a PR agency should be an extension of and a complement to a brand, more like a silent partner, not a replacement of its voice.

Common Ground PR should revisit its approach — the nation is watching.

 

My Week in Twitter — Thanks #BECornerOffice!

These Twitter activity recaps are great. Not a bad week:

My Week in Twitter_8.22These numbers were boosted by participating in an @blackenterprise #BECornerOffice Twitter chat with @EarlButchGraves. Great #leadership insights! I’ve already calendared the next one, which is scheduled for 9/8 with the 1st African American winner of “The Apprentice.”

Looking forward! Twiiter

Great Social PR: #Every Main Street

Every Main Street 2Our Great Social PR features highlight great public relations or media campaigns that utilize social media to amplify awareness and calls to action. This post highlights the #Every Main Street campaign presented by the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO).

AEO is the national trade association for U.S. microbusiness and microfinance. The D.C.-anchored nonprofit and its 400-member and partner network provide research and market insights about microbusiness, and advocate for policies that deliver capital solutions to #Main Street.

Background: Each weekday, 8,000 requests for business loans are declined. Accessing capital and business support services is a particular challenge for America’s 25.5 million microbusiness owners, who often need “micro” capital–amounts less than $250,000. Because microbusinesses make a substantial contribution to employment (41.3 million jobs in 2011), systemic roadblocks to capital–such as 8,000 daily loan declines–impacts job creation. Read more about capital access for microbusinesses here.

“In the land of the great American Dream, 8,000 daily business loan denials are symptomatic of a massive market failure. Our analysis shows it’s a failure to deliver an estimated $44 billion to $52 billion in critical capital to Main Street. Each time business owners are denied requests for capital, it hinders their ability to start, grow or hire,” says Connie Evans, AEO president and CEO.

 

What’s great: AEO uses a different photo every two weeks to capture the vibrancy and diversity of Main Street USA. They’re also asking folks to submit photos of the Main Streets where they live. Very cool, right?!

Key message: #Every Main Street needs fair and affordable access to capital.

Call-to-action: Like, Re-tweet, and Re-post the #EveryMainStreet photo on Facebook and Twitter using the #EveryMainStreet hash tag.

Campaign Goal: Increase awareness of the need for equitable and affordable capital and services. Metrics: likes, re-tweets, comments, shares, requests for information and photo submissions.

We’ll check in soon with Matt Crandall, AEO’s marketing manager, to learn how the campaign is going. Meanwhile, you can join AEO’s #EveryMainStreet campaign here: @aeoworks and https://www.facebook.com/AEO.

 

Let me know what you think about the #Every Main Street campaign.

Every Main Street1

 

Top 10: Why Writers Need Social Media

Kimberly N. Alleyne
http://www.kimberlynalleyne.com

Facebook with HashtagTwiiterLinkedIn-InBug-2CRev

 

I recall a conversation with a former colleague who adamantly proclaimed that Twitter was a rapidly evaporating fad soon to be six-feet under. That convo was in 2010. I was like, “Really? You think Twitter is dying? Wait, what now?”

Clearly Twitter is still standing, and it’s in good company with a host of other social media. Though not a few platforms have emerged since the digital era dawned only to die a slow, or quick, death, many more are thriving, with great vital signs. Here are my top 10 reasons writers should make use of some of them:

1.  Trigger Creativity–Being an active socializer in the digital space can spark creativity in fresh ways. I really enjoy Pinterest and Instagram. I’ve often been inspired to step out of my comfort zone, if not in my writing then in some personal way, which is never a bad thing. See #7.

2. Build your network– I landed one of my best freelance assignments to date via someone I asked to join my LinkedIn network. A caution to be intentional about the connections you pursue. Don’t connect at abandon— make sure there is potential for value-add to both parties, and not a one-sided connection. There are other options to LinkedIn. I am on a journalism list serve for example.

3. Find story ideas–Whatever your personal or professional interests are, they likely have real estate on the Internet. Even a cursory review of your preferred platform can bubble up story ideas, new angles for something you’re already writing about, or new angles on a current topic. For one example, how might you write about #Ferguson or #James Foley in ways that have not already been presented?

4. Build your brand–Social affords a great platform on which to showcase your expertise. Don’t be shy; despite the crowded online environment, each voice has a unique perspective. You never know who might benefit from your experience, so get out there! Check out Sccop It and Rebel Mouse; these are both great thought-leadership tools.

RebelMouse logo

5. K.I.S.S.–Keep It Short Scribe. When you’re writing for an audience with a short attention span, it forces you to embrace brevity. Unless you’re a long-form zealot (like me), writing short–read concise and succinct–is always good form.

6. Diversity of opinion–Social allows individuals to trumpet their beliefs and ideologies, but whether you agree or disagree is less important than exposing yourself to new ideas and perspectives, which ultimately raises the level of your writing. Go on, expand your vocabulary of ideas.

7. Confidence booster–Exposing yourself to an audience strangers is good for building your writing confidence. More likely than not, there will be feedback. Pick out the bones and keep the meat. Own your writing DNA. The more you do, the more your confidence will grow.

8. Stay in touch– The marriage of new and traditional media and communications has been consummated. And this ain’t a Hollywood marriage, folks.  There’s no need to be on every available platform, but you do need to get in the game. Pick what you want to use and how you want to use it. Whatever your choice, be consistent. I use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for professional branding and networking. I use Tumblr for personal interests such as running and baking.

Tumblr

9. Need for Speed–Using social forces me to write more quickly. One can post a comment, pic or tweet in a matter of seconds, or not more than a minute. When you’re engaged in the social space, you gotta write fast to keep up, and stay relevant and in the conversation.

10. Diversify, diversify–When I post a press release on Twitter, I am confined to 140 characters. When I post the same press release on LinkedIn, the word/character count is less restrictive, but standards for language style are far different. There are two reasons for this: platform audience and platform personality. What’s acceptable on one platform is not necessarily embraced on another. Social media make you mindful to cater your writing to different audiences and platform personalities.

 

What social media do you use? What tips would you add to this list?

 

Write on.

 

Words Not Flowing? Try These Tips to End Writer’s Block

Kimberly N. Alleyne
http://www.kimberlynalleyne.com

 

Flickr Creative Commons

Flickr Creative Commons

Fellow scribes,

Ever find yourself spilling over with ideas and words for an article or communication, but they just won’t. flow. out? Yeah, writer’s block can put a serious dent in a scribe’s flow. I read a PR Daily article that listed great tips for breaking down that proverbial wall.

Not too quiet and not too loud

At the top of the list is to write in an environment where the noise level is balanced, not excessively noisy and not deafeningly quiet. According to new research findings, the audio has to be just right. A study found that a workspace such as a coffee shop or fast food restaurant where there is constant activity, is optimum for creativity to stream without obstruction.

The study, “Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition,” is published in the Journal of Consumer Research, and examined five experiments to determine in what ways ambient sounds impact creative cognition.

Get moving

This is a great tip. Any physical movement can jumpstart the creative side of your brain: walking, dancing, running, spinning, yoga or even  crunches. Try it. I did a few reps of leg lifts, lunges and squats while writing this post. Not only is the activity good for your heart, but it also ushers in clarity and sharp thinking.

You don’t need to pound away for a full workout to capture the spark you need, either. In fact new research suggests that ten minutes will do the trick.

Here are more my ideas for crushing writer’s block:

  • Change your location—sometimes different scenery offers new perspective for writing.
  • Read—great writing requires avid reading. Pick up a classic.
  • Challenge yourself—do a crossword puzzle, Sudoku puzzle or anything that engages the other side of your brain.
  • Get chatty—call a loved one you’ve been meaning to catch up with.

You never know where the perfect intro or turn of phrase is waiting to be discovered. If none of these approaches get your writing juices flowing, then throw convention and perfection aside and just write! Go for it—write what comes to mind without concern for grammar, flow or structure. Don’t let the block get the best of you. Keep at it, and eventually you’ll find the groove.

Write on.