Category: Crisis Communication

Four Lessons Learned Practicing PR Abroad

By Amanda Ferrin

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Although you may not be considering working abroad, intercultural awareness is essential for anyone in the PR industry. Whether you’re interested in working in the corporate sector or a nonprofit, understanding the global market can greatly enhance your career.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to do my internship for a tourist company in Costa Rica. It was a terrifying experience that forced me to step out of my comfort zone. Here are some of the things I took away from it:

 

 

1. Knowing English is vital, but learning a second language is important

 

Considered to be the language of business and technology, English is the most spoken language of the 21st century. There are over 1.5 billion global speakers around the world! However, recent data from the United States Census Office suggests that the nation will have an estimated 138 million Spanish speakers by 2050, which would make it the largest Spanish-speaking nation.

Because our world is getting smaller and more diverse, many employers are looking for bilingual people to work in their PR/communication departments. Although you may not be able to travel abroad or take language classes, there are many free apps and websites, like Duolingo, available for practicing your language skills.

 

 

2. Successful communication isn’t always with words

 

Although I was translating marketing materials from Spanish, my actual Spanish-speaking abilities are limited. There were many instances where I had to use hand gestures to convey what I was trying to say. Smiling and showing confidence is key in those situations. Whether there is a language barrier or just a communication gap, stay aware of your non-verbals, which are vital in making a positive connection. This is especially important when you’re interviewing or meeting with clients.

 

 

3. Learn to look outside of your own cultural lens

 

When you are living in a certain location for a while, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is exposed to the same things as you. Your organization may be targeting a large demographic of people who have diverse interests. It’s vital to consider how things will be perceived by your audience.

Although we are taught everything in PR is deadline-driven, I found that to be less true in Costa Rica. Living by the phrase, “Pura Vida”, Costa Rican culture is laid back. The World Cup was going on during my internship and my co-workers actually stopped working to watch the game. If you ever partner with an international company, you may find yourself adjusting to different cultural norms.

 

 

4. Research, research, research

 

We are told to do this all the time as students, but it’s so important! I don’t know many people who use WhatsApp in the U.S., but it’s actually the most popular messaging solution in the world. Nearly 1 billion people are using it and everyone was using it in Costa Rica. Don’t assume that what’s popular at home is popular somewhere else. Do your research! You may have to utilize social media platforms you’ve never used or sell a product that’s not well-known in the U.S.

 

These are just a few of the lessons I learned during my internship. Whether you choose to stay in Missouri or move to the other side of the world, having intercultural awareness can give you the capacity to develop meaningful relationships with new, diverse audiences.

 

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The Social Media Plan and Its Cycle

By Jessica Gough

 

The Span of Social Media

It is no secret that social media is taking over the internet. In fact, over 77 percent of the U.S. population uses a social media profile regularly. That is 2.34 billion sets of eyes just waiting to be captivated. As a company, those eyes are extremely valuable to your success. So how do you attract them to your content?

 

What is a SMM Plan?

A social media marketing (SMM) plan allows an organization to detail what they would like to accomplish within the realm of social media. Along with these broad goals, a SMM plan also outlines what actions the organization will take in order to achieve these goals. A variety of benefits come from a social media marketing plan, so it is important to ensure your organization is taking advantage of this opportunity.

 

 

The SMM Planning Cycle

    It is important to understand that, like social media itself, SMM plans should continuously evolve. In order to maintain a successful plan, it is crucial that your SMM plan evolves with society. These nine steps will help guide you through creating your SMM plan.

  • Listening

What is your brand’s current social media presence?

 

  • Setting Goals

Analyze your organization using SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. What realistic goals does your brand want to accomplish?

 

  • Defining Strategies

Use the “8 C’s of Strategy Development”. What strategies will help your brand reach its goals?

 

  • Identifying the target audience

What are the needs of your target audience?

 

  • Selecting Tools

What tools will work best for your strategies?

(hashtags, SEO, link shortening, images)

 

  • Selecting Platforms and Channels

What platforms will reach your target audience best?

 

  • Implementing

Put your plan into action!

 

  • Monitoring

Track you progress, and COLLECT DATA.

 

  • Tuning

This is a constant and continuous process.

 

Creating and monitoring a strong SMM plan will allow you to connect with various audiences in a familiar way. This connection can lead to numerous advantages for your organization.

 

Works Cited

https://www.statista.com/statistics/273476/percentage-of-us-population-with-a-social-network-profile/

https://defendernetwork.com/news/national/employers-relying-social-media/

https://getsocial4630.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/the-eight-cs-of-strategy-development/

An Unflinching Look at the Average Day of a College Student and PR Pro

By Jasmine Scott

Clipart picture of an exhausted and stressed businessman cartoon character

Image credit: iStock

Here’s a painfully honest peek into the life of a full-time college student, who also works remotely as a part time PR Professional for a non-profit organization.

 

7:15 a.m.: My alarm clock goes off.

I’d love to tell you that I hop out of bed with an abundance of energy and joy, but I said this would be honest. So, I hit snooze on my alarm clock…two more times.

7:30 a.m.: I roll out of bed and check my email.

I am subscribed to several news reporters, so this is my version of reading the newspaper. It’s very important to keep up with news in the PR world. PR is a quick moving industry and it’s important to keep up with what’s going on in your community as well as the world.

After I’m up to date, I brush my teeth and throw on a coat (it’s winter now). I make sure everything is in my backpack, grab a bottle of water out of my fridge, and make my way to my 8 am class.

7:55 a.m.: I sit down and pull out my notebook. I check my email until the professor starts his lecture and make a mental note of what I have to do this day. Spoiler alert: I have a lot to do.

8:50 a.m.: My only class of the day ends, and I make my way back to my apartment to get the second part of my day started: work.

9:00 a.m.:  I clock in and check my email. I usually only have about 10 unread emails in my inbox, some of which are just funny memes to put everyone in a good mood. I read through everything and update myself on any information I miss working remotely. I respond to the funniest memes first. After that, I email my boss and update him on my projects.

10 a.m.: I make a to-do list of everything I need to accomplish before I clock out. The list usually goes something like this:

  • Review recent Facebook posts
  • Schedule Facebook posts
  • Check email again
  • Scour through thousands of photos and stories sent to the company I work for
  • Check email again
  • Start blog draft
  • Plan out LinkedIn posts for the week
  • Check email again
  • Eat lunch at some point?

10:30 a.m.: It’s prime content creation time. I work for a non-profit company, so our posts are created to be ‘donor-centered’, which means that donors and investors are our target market.

I start creating new content by reviewing our Facebook posts. I see what posts our donors are interacting with and what posts are doing well or poor. Next, I look through our photobank for and start planning out posts in my head. After some creative thinking, I start creating posts. Finally, I schedule it and repeat the process.

1 p.m.: Did you hear that noise? Yeah, it was my stomach growling.

It’s time for lunch. So, I quickly make a sandwich (turkey and cheese with mustard, obviously) and continue working.

1:05 p.m.: I notice I have 4 unread emails since I last checked my inbox. I read through those and continue on with my day.

1:30 p.m.: Coffee.

After I eat my lunch, I tend to lose my focus. This is when I hit my mid-day slump and need to change my focus. I make a cup of coffee and switch my focus to the blog.

The first step of writing a good blog post is having a strong and compelling story to tell. Luckily, we keep track of the stories sent to us by our donors and partners. I read through the stories, sip my coffee, read through a couple more stories, and sip my coffee. I repeat this until one story particularly catches my eye. After picking a story, I start the first paragraph of the blog. I write it, pause, read it, erase the whole paragraph, and start again. Yes, this exactly how it goes almost every time. But I preserve and finish my draft. I email it to the writer I work with and wait for her edits.

4:30 p.m.: My boss randomly Facetimes me.

5:00 p.m.: I should clock-out, but I can’t. My to-do list isn’t complete.

The last thing I need to do for the day is plan out my LinkedIn posts for the week. This really depends on what’s going on for the week. Some weeks there is a huge event coming up, so I center my posts around that. Other weeks, I make posts based off what else is going on or even any amazing stories we have. I write down the posts I want to make this week and plan them out.

5:30 p.m.: After checking my email one last time, I clock out for the day.

5:31 p.m.: I open my fridge and make a snack. Probably a Hot-pocket.

6:15 – 8:30 p.m.: This is usually when I have meetings for different organizations.

9:00 p.m.: I’m tired, but my day isn’t over yet. In fact, it’s just beginning.

I open my agenda book and go over my schedule. I open my school email and see if my teachers have emailed me (they have). I respond. I open Blackboard to see if my teacher’s have put any grades in. I begin my homework.

I love being a PR major because my homework mostly consists of writing, creating content for mock clients, and preparing presentations. A PR Pro must be deadline driven, even in college. I don’t miss a deadline.

10:30 p.m.: Have I eaten today?

Yeah, I have. But I’m hungry again. I know you aren’t supposed to eat big meals before you go to bed but…it’s only 10:30 and I’m still doing homework. So, I usually eat. Most of the time it’s super healthy and definitely not a bag of chips.

10:31 p.m.: I open a bag of chips. Hey, I’m just doing what I can to make it to graduation.

11:30 p.m.: If at all possible, I try to give myself at least 30 minutes of relaxation before I go to bed. Sometimes I’m being productive until 2 am, but I try not to be.

I love working remotely because it’s helping me get one step closer to my goal of being a PR professional after I graduate, but it definitely takes focus and balance to get everything done. Every day is different. But it’s worth it.

How to Land Your First Job Before Graduation

By Emily Jarboe

Graduating college and venturing out into adulthood can be a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s terrifying, intimidating and exciting all at the same time. As if leaving college wasn’t scary enough, then there’s the pressure to secure that first job after graduation. Say goodbye to student discounts and hello to a 401K.

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Image credit: iStock

Most people plan to apply for jobs once they get out of school, but I made it a personal goal to land a full-time job before graduation. From teachers and career centers to job fairs and internships, there are so many resources to take advantage of that will no longer be available once I leave. Since I was so proactive in the job search process, I was able to land a job before graduation. Here’s how you can too:

 

Perfect Your Resume

Your resume is your big chance to catch a potential employer’s attention. This is where you can brag about your incredible work experience or highlight your summer internship. It’s a place to showcase your skills and all the hard work you put in during your time in college. I would recommend a clean, easy-to-read design that is tailored to fit your major. Be consistent with the spacing and choose an appropriate font. It’s also important to have several different people look at your resume to get a variety of feedback. Visit your college or university’s  Career Services Center where they can assist you in creating a resume that stands out from the crowd. Most importantly, keep updating your resume and continue to tailor it to every application.

Internships Are Key

An internship, whether during college or after, is a great way to gain real-world experience in your career field. It also can help you establish important relationships and connections with company professionals that can be very beneficial for your future career. The right internship can lead you to a full-time position, so choose wisely when searching for one. Personally, I believe that my internship gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about myself and pushed me to step out of my comfort zone. Plus, employers are much more likely to hire someone who has completed an internship rather than someone lacking real-work experience.

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Image credit: Snagajob.com

 

The Value in a Career Fair

There are so many benefits to taking the time to attend a career fair. One of the biggest benefits is the opportunity to network with potential employers. Many students believe it’s easier to find jobs online. While that might be true for some, I believe you have a better chance of landing the first interview when there is an opportunity to speak one-on-one with a company representative. I attended three different career fairs during my time in school, and each time provided me with the chance to practice interviewing. Approaching a potential employer can be intimidating, but by the third or fourth time I became comfortable and was able to make some valuable connections. Dress in professional attire, bring 20 copies of your resume, and take advantage of this free networking opportunity.

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Image credit: theblacksheeponline.com

 

Cultivate Relationships with Your Professors

I’ve always tried to keep good relationships with all of my teachers because you never know what kind of doors they can open for you. One of my professors helped me land a job interview that otherwise would not have been possible without her assistance. She recommended me for this position, which gave me a significant advantage over my competitors. I ended up receiving a job offer, and I wouldn’t be where I am in this process without the help of my teacher.

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Image credit: bestvalueschools.com

The most important takeaway from this post is to remember to trust the process and don’t get discouraged if you don’t receive a response right away. Good things take time and it’s important to be patient during the job hunt. I applied for several positions in the beginning and didn’t hear back from anyone until a week later. Take your time and enjoy the process. Don’t be tempted to take the first job offer you receive. It’s okay to be picky and wait for the position that is the right fit for you. Lastly, don’t neglect your LinkedIn account. Keeping up with LinkedIn can help you get noticed by future employers and recruiters.

Endless opportunities are waiting for you, so go out there and get them. Good luck and happy job hunting!

Four Creation Tips For Your Online Portfolio

By Nickey Buzek

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“Can I see some of your work?” You may have a wealth of experience and the skills to back it up, but if your abilities aren’t coming across in an easy-to-access fashion, you may be missing professional opportunities. Here are four tips that will make your online portfolio showcase your skills:

  1. Choose the right platform – There are a multitude of providers dedicated to helping you build a website. Some of them include Wix, Squarespace, and web.com. You’ll want to do your research and make sure their platform aligns with your portfolio goals. If your public relations skills are focused on design, for example, you’ll want to choose a platform that lets you be more creative with visuals. If your skills lean more toward the written aspect of PR, you’ll want a platform that showcases verbiage.
  2. Choose a design – While each of the providers mentioned above will give you suggestions on funky templates, there are two basic designs that are proven to enhance user experience (UX). The F pattern is used for websites with large amounts of content. Wikipedia is an excellent example. Notice that important headers are on the left and description information flows to the right.
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    Image credit: wikipedia.org

    This makes it easier for the user to locate information and understand the organization of the page. The Z pattern, however, is the pattern you’ve probably seen most often. It uses four main spaces for important information: the top left, top right, middle, bottom left and bottom right. This pattern is used so often that internet surfers are quickly frustrated when they can’t find important information in its “natural spot.” Using the Z pattern will cater to user’s natural search.

  3. Showcase your skills – While your portfolio is a reflection of you as a person, the purpose of the website is to showcase your skills. Refrain from making your homepage a giant picture of your face with a bio attached. Chances are, if someone’s already on your portfolio website, they’ve already met you. Have your homepage showcase the different areas your skills cover. Include clickable images or links that take them to more in-depth examples and explanations.
  4. Create a visual guide – The aesthetics of your website act as the user’s road map. Manipulating content size, color, groupings, and contrast will help the user understand what content you want them to look at first. 123222221223223Large items and bright colors will be seen first, and items grouped together help the user see what items go with one another. When creating your visual guide, it’s helpful to have someone look at it who has a third-party view. How they navigate your website will more than likely be how others navigate your website.

 

Designing a portfolio that’s easy to use, aesthetically pleasing, and easy to navigate is a daunting task when you’re just trying to meet the needs of people asking to look at your work. Just remember, your portfolio is meant to showcase your skills in an easy-to-navigate fashion. These four tips can start you on the path to success, but don’t hesitate to take a deeper dive into the world of website design!

Crockpot Controversy Crisis

By Emily Thole

*Warning. This post may contain spoilers about the hit TV show, “This is Us.” Proceed with caution.*

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Image credit: NBC.com

 

“This is Us” is the television show everyone is telling you to watch. It is full of happiness, anger, sadness, joy and every emotion in between, however, there is one monumental episode that you can’t forget. If you’re anything like me, this blog post will bring up a flood of emotions, so get your tissues ready.

As avid viewers of the show, we all know where we were when Jack died. Yes, I’m bringing up that heartbreaking moment. I was sitting with my roommates on our red leather couch in the living room, staring at the small screen with tears rolling down our faces, full of disbelief. This man fearlessly saved his entire family from a house fire, and then went back into the blazing building to rescue his daughter’s dog and a few personal items, only to wind up valiantly perishing. He was a hero, and then he was gone. Not because of burns, or an injury that was visible, but for having too much smoke in his lungs. This is the drama that keeps viewers coming back.

What does this tragic scene have to do with public relations? Well, after the episode, fans were boycotting one particular brand, and because of that, they had a crisis on their hands.

One thing I didn’t mention was how the fire started in the Pearson household. It was a Crock-Pot. The faulty slow cooker is accidentally left on and it starts a fire in the family’s kitchen, which leads to the entire house burning down, and later, Jack’s demise. Fans of the show immediately took to the Internet to share their heartbreak and frustration over the episode and the Crock-Pot brand. Their name was disgraced, and their stock plummeted, but Crock-Pot’s response to the crisis is one PR professionals can learn from.

 

Quick Response

First, Crock-Pot responded quickly. They released a statement less than 24-hours after the show aired. And shortly after they sent out a news release stating facts about their products to ease consumers’ minds that can be read fully here. Not only that, but they created a Twitter page called “CrockPotCares” to respond to viewers who were concerned about product safety, and throwing away their Crock-Pots.

 

Empathy

Crock-Pot did a great job of listening to consumers’ complaints. They understood that people were upset, and they did their best to respond with understanding to build back their image. They even created the hashtag #CrockPotIsInnocent to use in their responses to defend their brand.

Good tweet to consumer https://twitter.com/CrockPotCares/status/956258200239706114

Free crockpot https://twitter.com/CrockPotCares/status/956278840103448577

 

Help from Star Power

Although this was a crisis they didn’t see coming, Crock-Pot wasn’t afraid to ask for help when getting their image back. They used the actor who portrays Jack, Milo Ventimiglia, in a commercial promoting the Super Bowl, joking about the Crock-Pot controversy. “The Late Show” host, Stephen Colbert, mentioned the issue on his show, stirring up conversation. Ellen DeGeneres even partnered with the company to hand out Crock-Pots as one of the giveaways on her show. Each of these people helped Crock-Pot restore their image.

A crisis can pop up at any time. Companies must be prepared in case a television show uses your product to kill off a beloved character. In a time of crisis, PR professionals can use Crock-Pot as an example. Although the situation presented on screen was fictional, Crock-Pot responded successfully and recovered quickly because of the crisis plan they had in place.

 

Crockpot even got Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) to make a video joking about the crisis as a whole (https://twitter.com/CrockPotCares/status/959789384785715200)

SUPER BOWL

Their own hashtag #CrockPotIsInnocent

Ellen https://twitter.com/CrockPotCares/status/961722927833067521

Stephen cobert https://twitter.com/CrockPotCares/status/958022381741764609

Good tweet to consumer https://twitter.com/CrockPotCares/status/956258200239706114

Free crockpot https://twitter.com/CrockPotCares/status/956278840103448577

Taking a Knee

By Emily Thole

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Image credit: Yahoo Sports and Associated Press

 

In the restless and brutal sea of social media, taking a risk could leave a company struggling for air. You may have noticed from recent events, Nike decided to jump into the water head first by tackling a highly controversial topic in the U.S. With immediate response, the internet both attacked and commended Nike for taking a knee on a political subject that many brands and  organizations avoid.

Colin Kaepernick, former San Francisco 49er’s quarterback who inspired player protest throughout the NFL, tweeted a photo marking him as the newest face of Nike.

The photo shared stated, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Since Kaepernick’s first protest in 2016, where he kneeled during the national anthem against police brutality, he has received backlash from the NFL and people around the country. His actions ultimately left him without a spot on any team, but Nike decided to endorse him anyway. In the early stages of the “Just Do It” campaign’s 30th anniversary, they made a statement.

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Image credit: Twitter.com

 

As a result of the partnership, Nike made headlines. Celebrities including Jamie Lee Curtis, Serena Williams, Russell Crowe and COMMON were praising the brand on Twitter alongside Americans throughout the nation.

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Image credit: Twitter.com

 

But with the good also comes the bad, and even ugly. Multiple individuals took to social media posting images and videos of themselves burning their Nike products, and cutting the swoosh logo from their socks and apparel, voicing that they will never shop with the brand again.

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Image credit: Twitter.com

 

Nike isn’t the first brand to tackle a controversial issue. Many other companies have taken a stance on social issues as well. Dick’s Sporting Goods protested gun violence after the Parkland, Fla. massacre by saying they would no longer sell assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and also prohibit the sale of guns to customers under the age of 21. Airbnb shot back at President Trump when he closed the borders to refugees in a campaign called, “We Accept,” by voicing their company’s acceptance of other races and nationalities in a time when the biggest figurehead of the nation was saying the opposite. When the U.S. pulled out the Paris Agreement, Ben and Jerry’s started a campaign called, “Save Our Swirled,” focusing on the topic of climate change. Each of these brands were criticized for becoming politically involved, just like Nike.

For a brand with popularity around the world, what form of success can come from this controversial partnership? Through all the back and forth of praise and hate, will either party prosper?

It depends on how you measure success, and from my research, numbers don’t lie. According to the Washington Post, after an initial drop when Kaepernick shared the photo, Nike online sales went up 31 percent. The incident got people to talk about the organization, and, whether positive or negative, the Nike brand was pushed to the forefront of their minds. According to Bloomberg, the company received over $43million in media exposure in the first 24 hours, and that continues to grow.

Risking your brand’s reputation is scary, but if it is something you believe in, take a knee and show the world what you stand for.

Tips On Forming A PR Response To Natural Disasters

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Image credit: Washington Post

By Adriana Vivas

Since August, our part of the hemisphere was devastated with multiple class 4 and 5 hurricanes in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and closer to home in Texas and Florida. Additionally, two earthquakes have rocked southern parts of Mexico just days after the first 7.1 earthquake in Mexico City. Many people have lost everything they own in the destruction from these natural disasters. As a PR person, knowing how to respond to natural disasters and connect people in times of devastation is key. Here are some tips on how you as a PR person can help:

 

  1. Let people know of your support.

Even if your company/organization was not directly affected by the natural disaster, showing support can demonstrate to  your audience and those affected your knowledge of the situation while also adding to your public image. However, try not to overdo brand building in the event of a natural disaster.

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Image credit: twitter.com

 

  1. Try to connect your audience with ways they can help.

Posting a link your audience can access to donate toward relief efforts can make a huge difference. Either linking to your company/organization’s website or social media can create awareness your audience might otherwise not have seen. More awareness equals more donations and some donations don’t have to be monetary. Water, food and other goods are being requested by the governments and relief teams who are helping.

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Image credit: twitter.com

 

  1. Focus on the communities affected first.

If your company/organization decides to respond, make sure the focus is community first and business second. While it is not wrong to create a better public image of your brand, doing so before directing attention on the community and people affected by the natural disaster can create a negative response.

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Image credit: twitter.com

 

With these tips in mind, you and your company/organization can not only create a more positive image for your brand, but also make a REAL difference in the lives of those affected by these terrible natural disasters. And remember…

“ We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone” – Ronald Reagan

 

Do you have any tips for response in a natural disaster or crisis? Let us know in the comments below, and check us out on Facebook and Twitter.

How Disasters Have Expanded the Use of Social Media

 

Before writing this blog, the writer, Morgan Anderson, would like to extend her deepest condolences to the victims and families of those affected by this national tragedy. For the privacy of the victims, names have been omitted.

By Morgan Anderson

On October 1, at 10:08 p.m. local time shots rang out at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. The current total of those injured as of Monday, October 2 at 2:00 p.m. is 515 people injured and 58 deceased. CNN has said, “By the time [James] Paddock was dead, it was the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.”

After the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, social media was flooded with information ranging from trying to find any connections to terrorist groups to videos of the tragedy taking place.  One group of videos with the hashtag #prayforlasvegas has been shared over 55,000 times on Facebook, and contains graphic video of the shooting, including victims lying down on their stomachs screaming with their necks covered.

On Twitter, tweets are going viral for those looking for loved ones at the concert. Multiple tweets have been issued out by the Las Vegas Police Department on how to find loved ones who were at the concert.

On Snapchat, their news account, “Discover,” has released the snapchat stories of individuals at the concert in a video labeled “Las Vegas Shooting.” This video also had pop-up facts about what happened during each snap. The user-submitted snapchats were edited and compiled by Snapchat, and then released.

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This is not the first time that Twitter has expanded its use to help those in need. During Hurricane Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia and Maria,  Twitter  was used as a way for people to contact local police and volunteers to get to safety when emergency lines were overflowing.

During times of panic and terror, people turn to social media now more than ever.  Twitter gives users the ability to contact anyone, anywhere and get a direct answer quickly.  Facebook gives us the ability to connect with family and friends from all over the world. Snapchat gives us the ability to talk to friends and have fun doing it.

These three social media accounts provide the world a new way to deal with disaster. From natural to horrific, social media has grown through the worst events in this century.

I wish I could tell you how hard it was to write this blog. I should never have to write a blog titled “How Disasters Have Expanded the Use of Social Media.” I shouldn’t have to write about how hurricanes and mass shootings have evolved social media, or how instead of calling 9-1-1 because the line is full, they move to Twitter and Facebook begging for help from others.

The truth is, 58 families lost a loved one. Over 20,000 people who attended this concert had their lives changed, and not for the better, and more people know about it because of social media.

 

Innovative PR extends our deepest condolences to the victims, their family and friends, and everyone impacted by this horrific tragedy.

 

A PR Pro Vs. The Alterni-Fact Beast

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Image credit: http://www.prsa.org

By Cole Braun

As you go through your Facebook news feeds, there is sure to be headlines for a variety of topics.  Many of them are hilarious, or maybe even scary. But you, the public relations professional, know better than to believe everything. But what about your clients you represent, or your own family? Do they know how to differentiate what is based on fact and what is made up for the sake of increasing click-through reports? You can help them with this guide to addressing fake news and how a professional should deal with it.

The first thing to understand is that PR professionals have no business adding fuel to the fake news fire. We all know it has become a problem which is why we must take a stand against it. The Public Relations Society of America addressed fake news with an official statement in January, 2017 saying that, “Truth is the foundation of all effective communications. By being truthful, we build and maintain trust with the media and our customers, clients and employees. As professional communicators, we take very seriously our responsibility to communicate with honesty and accuracy.”

PRSA & The Code of Ethics

If you are familiar with PRSA, or the student organization, PRSSA, you know this organization established a code of ethics that members take seriously. The official statement on alternative facts, reflects on the organization’s code of honesty, saying that members, “adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.” If you wish to know more about the PRSA Code of Ethics, please follow here.

The PRSA Statement on “Alternative Facts” was released in January by the organization’s Chair of the Society for 2017, Jane Dvorak, APR and Fellow PRSA. After addressing how the society values its Code of Ethics, she finished by saying, “PRSA strongly objects to any effort to deliberately misrepresent information. Honest, ethical professionals never spin, mislead or alter facts. We applaud our colleagues and professional journalists who work hard to find and report the truth.”

One of the first things we as professionals must do is research. When dealing with information, we must ask, ‘Where did this come from?’ ‘Where does this link back to and who said what?’ You never jump into strange waters without a life preserver, or in this case, the facts.

A Rule of Three

Check your story three times before you take it seriously and hit the share button. You need to see how many people are saying the same thing and, if it is coming from a credible source. If the topic is breaking news, more than one publication will be telling the story.

CNN Correspondent, Brian Stelter said in his report, The plague of fake news is getting worse — here’s how to protect yourself, from October 2016, that there are three general categories related to misleading online information sites.

  • Hoax Sites: completely fake
  • Hyper-Partisan Sites: Some truth involved but stretched for the sake of the parties involved.
  • Hybrid Sites: A mix of fake and fact combined to make a good story.

Whatever their purpose, these sites are not going away anytime soon, so learn to recognize them. Here are some tips found in the same article from CNN, shared by the Sunlight Foundation’s Alex Howard in a tweet:

  • Search the source link on Twitter
  • Google it
  • Check Snopes
  • Consider record of source

These are all excellent tips, and you can take it a step further with a Google search of the author’s name to see if they are credible as a reporter.

Open the Floodgates of Positivity

When it comes to combating the fake news epidemic, there are multiple recommendations on what to do.

If you have prepared for a crisis already, you probably have a pre-written response to a situation like this; that’s good! In February 2017, an article on How PR professionals should handle the fake news phenomenon appeared in Agility PR, written by Director of Media Insights Jim Donnelly. Donnelly conducted an interview with Hofstra University Professor and Bloomberg contributor Dr. Kara Alaimo on handling fake news.  One question specifically addressed these situations with two or three rules to keep in mind. One positive measure is to have a response ready in advance, because when it comes to experiencing a crisis, every minute counts.

Alaimo also points out making sure you are keeping your client’s values in mind while communicating. If this is something you have been consistently doing before this incident, then it will be no hassle to reference back to, showing your clients’ interests are a priority.

 

 

A common question is when is it best to respond?

That answer seems to vary across multiple professionals. In the end, it just depends on the situation. For example, when it comes to internet trolls, it is best to just ignore them so they move along. But when their story trends, then answer with the truth, do not allow yourself to get flustered because that only feeds the trolls.

Alaimo share as well that, “you need to monitor carefully. The time to respond is if a social media post is starting to gain traction amongst stakeholders who are important to the company, such as customers, employees, investors, buyers, or board members.”

Another form of combating fake news is to “flood the media with a positive narrative.” In a November 2016 article for PR Week by Ilyse Liffreing, So your brand is the victim of fake news. Now what?  Liffreing shares that you need to embrace the crisis and make the best of it, reversing the dialogue to positive content about what is happening with your brand. Share the truth and back it up with more positivity. If you don’t counter with good news, you could potentially open yourself up to more fake news.

The question now is, where are we headed as a profession in this new era of alternative facts?

The first thing to remember is accountability. Dan Guttridge from Ragan’s PR Daily notes in his March 6 article, PR pros’ role in the fake news epidemic, that we need to hold journalists accountable and “check credibility through facts and sources.” We can even take this a step forward and hold ourselves accountable for what we say to people and how we represent our brand as we traverse this terrain of fake news.

Guttridge shares some more amazing tips as you continue through his article. Here are some other key points we should consider as PR professionals,

  • Do your own research.
  • Stop reading headlines as facts.
  • Expand your world.

That last tip is fascinating because he makes the argument to find some reputable journalist to read and take the time to learn more about what is happening. Speak to people who challenge your views and make you think.

We as PR professionals can provide the cure for the fake news virus. Know that if we keep our integrity and credibility, public relations will thrive in this fight.

 

Do you have any thoughts on the “fake news” epidemic? Let us know in the comments below, and check us out on Facebook and Twitter.