To wind up the year, I’m introducing you to several friends and colleagues who are experts in the field of crisis/public relations. Here’s your chance to sit down with an expert and get some sage advice on dealing with the challenges and risks of social media. Grab your favorite hot beverage and get to know the best of the best.
If there’s anyone that knows what a wild year 2012 was in crisis communications, it’s Brad Phillips. One of the nation’s top media trainers, he is president of Phillips Media Relations. When it comes to goofs and gaffs in the media, Brad has seen it all, and knows how to deal with it. His blog is a wealth of information on what to do (and what not to do) and his client list reads like a Who’s Who of political and corporate America. Some people hoard their expertise and some share it. Brad is the latter. He’s a good follow on Twitter as well. Find him @MrMediaTraining.
1. Tell us a little about what you do?
Our firm specializes in preparing spokespersons for media interviews and public presentations. Everything we do is tailored for each client, so a media training workshop for a health care nonprofit is going to look a lot different than a training for a Fortune 500 company or government agency. We spend a lot of time researching each client to better understand their challenges and develop a set of mock interviewing questions that are relevant to their day-to-day lives.
In addition, I also write a daily blog called “Mr. Media Training” and just published my first book, called The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview.
2. What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job, without question, is managing my work-life balance.
My blog is often topical, meaning that I often drop everything to write a “breaking news” post, even if that means working on a Saturday night, a Sunday morning, or in some cases, during a vacation. And I have to admit that social media has rewired my brain more than I’d like, becoming an ever-present part of my life. I’d like to find a way to put up a few walls to preserve sacred time with my family (or even myself).
3. What are your personal top three social media tools and how do you use them?
My Blog (Mr. Media Training, hosted by WordPress) – I blog 4-5 times a week. I try to vary the stories – some are topical, others contain PR “best practices,” and others contain public speaking or media interviewing tips. My hope is to engage readers in the comments section, sometimes by posing a provocative question or running a poll.
Twitter (@MrMediaTraining) – I tweet each new story out, but I also retweet the work of others and respond to tweets that catch my attention. A surprising number of my story ideas come from Twitter, so I tend to search for certain keywords to see what people are chatting about. I haven’t created groups yet, but they seem like a terrific way to manage the steady stream of new information.
Facebook – I post new stories to Facebook once per day and engage commenters who leave their thoughts on my Facebook page. I’m reluctant to crowd people’s Facebook walls (it’s a less forgiving social network than Twitter that way), so I typically don’t post more than once or twice per day.
4. Looking back at 2012, what were some of the most alarming trends you saw in how brands used social media in a crisis?
Far too many brands continue to hand their social media work over to an outside firm without carefully exploring who will be managing their networks, and how. Far too often, the work is delegated to an intern or junior employee who tweets something from their work account that they meant to send from their personal account; comments on something in the news without recognizing the sensitivities of that news event; or who respond too slowly in a crisis because they haven’t been trained in crisis management.
5. If you could give one piece of advice to brands on how to use social media well in a crisis, what would that be?
Be fast, be transparent, and be honest. For example, KitchenAid got caught in a crisis earlier this year after one of the people authorized to tweet on its behalf said something ugly about President Obama (the tweeter apparently thought he was using his personal account). Commenting on the fact that Mr. Obama’s grandmother died just days before he was elected, the tweeter wrote: “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! She died 3 days b4 he came president.”
Twitter quickly lit up with angry tweets about KitchenAid’s inappropriate comment. But within a couple of hours, KitchenAid’s brand manager tweeted this to several news organizations covering the incident: “My name is Cynthia Soledad, and I’m the head of KitchenAid. I’d like to talk on record about what happened. Please DM me. Thanks” Ms. Soledad was widely applauded for her transparency and honesty, and she received a lot of credit for her fast action.
A big thanks to Brad for taking time to share with us some insider information from the world of media relations. Our first expert in the series, Kathleen Hessert of Sports Media Challenge, had answers very similar to Brad’s on question four. You can check that out here. Don’t forget to subscribe to Brad’s blog and follow him on Twitter. His blog is one of my top recommendations for crisis managers and media relations professionals.