How To Avoid a Social Media Disaster (via Mashable)

I was writing about my terrible ordeal with the telemarketer for the iStrategy2010 conference (on Social Media, no less) [Part 1, Part 2, Part 3] when I stumbled upon this helpful article via Mashable: How to respond when Social Media attacks your brand?. Of course, prevention is much better than cure… so here’s another helpful article via Mashable: How to avoid a social media disaster. (I really love Mashable!)

For the PR and Communications professional, the impact of a crisis has been exponentially exacerbated by the power of social media. As I’ve said before, this is due to the powerful fact that social media is essentially a network, with implicit assumptions of trust and credibility (by network members), and a built-in capacity for rapid dissemination of news.

Now, anyone and everyone can now vent their dissatisfaction about your brand and, I assure you, they will have their own like-minded audiences (friends, relatives, total strangers) who are similarly equipped and empowered. If unmanaged, you will have an echo-chamber of negativity that will get out of hand.

Even so, any practitioner will understand that one can never fully “control” what customers and audiences say about one’s brand – especially on social media platforms. Most would also agree that it’s not something you want to do, since social media is essentially a social medium – i.e. you don’t own it, the community does. It’s exactly because of this freedom to comment, to voice opinions and to generally share information that results in the kind of customers you want – those who are engaged with your brand! These customers end up being that desired loyal fan base that spreads the word about your brand to their friends and family.

Still, there are a few steps that you can take to prevent or circumvent a negative PR crisis about your brand on social media networks online. Here’s what the Mashable article recommends:

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16 Social Media Guidelines (By Real Companies)

I came across this list via Econsultancy. It’s very helpful to observe how some companies are coming to terms with social media by trying to “manage” their messaging via social media. Of course, the idea of whether it is possible to “manage the message” via social media (or whether one should even attempt to do so!) is wholly debatable. However, I believe anyone in the area of branding, marketing or communications cannot ignore social media and how your internal audience (i.e. your staff, colleagues, etc.) are helping you spread “the brand message” whether you like it or not. Hence, some measure of policy and guidelines may actually be helpful.

What are your thoughts after reading through some of the guidelines?

Do You Have a BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal?

Jim Collins and Jerry Porras introduced the concept of a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (or BHAG) in their 1994 book Built to Last. According to Collins and Porras:

A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as a unifying focal point of effort…It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal. It is tangible, energizing, highly focused. People get it right away; it takes little or no explanation.

BHAGs are more than just the set objectives or goals that describe what companies hope to accomplish over the coming days, months or years. While these goals help align employees of the business to work together more effectively, often these goals are very tactical, such as “achieve 10% revenue growth in the next 3 months.”

BHAGs define visionary goals in a more strategic, in the form of a vision statement “…an audacious 10-to-30-year goal to progress towards an envisioned future.” According to Collins and Porras:

A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.

Set correctly, BHAGs work – where it can even change the very nature of a business’ existence. And get this, I believe BHAGs work great in a branding and marketing context as well.

But what makes a good BHAG? From Collins and Porras, a good BHAG has four qualities:

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