What your Twitter profile says about you

How you approach Twitter may say something about you!

twitter_logo

While the following post may be drastically overgeneralized, it reflects what I think a person’s Twitter account says about them. It may not always be true; in fact, I’m certain it’s not always true. These are my quick-draw reactions to what I see, however, and I wonder if you agree. Let me know if you don’t!

You have a private account

Duh. You are a private person and likely you use Twitter as a tool to communicate with personal friends only. Also, you may be sharing things that you don’t want future employers to know about. Like those crazy pics from the club.

You have a large following, but follow few people

You must be some sort of rock star! Also, you are likely interested in building your personal brand by broadcasting messages to a large following, rather than hearing what others have to say and carrying on an active dialog.

You follow many people, but only a small percentage follow you back

You probably follow a lot of celebrities, industry leaders and news organizations, who rarely follow you back. You use Twitter as a newsfeed to replace or augment other media outlets. You also may be a little obsessed with celebrities.

Your “following” and “followers” counts are pretty balanced

You are actively engaged or at least interested in having a dialog with people, whether it is a smaller circle of people you actually know and have met or a larger circle of people who share similar interests.

You make it clear in your profile that you #FollowBack

You are interested in developing a large following either for marketing purposes (i.e., creating an audience to spam) or because you equate large followings on Twitter with “fame” (i.e., poor man’s celebrity). NOTE: This also goes for those who follow people only until they follow back, at which point they are unfollowed, causing confusion for the person who was followed when they try to send a direct message, only to discover they cannot because the other party unfollowed shortly after a reciprocal follow was realized.

There are quite a few spam accounts, SEO companies and porn sites following your account

You don’t monitor who follows you or you don’t care enough about who follows you to block them. Or, you like porn.

You post frequently throughout the day

You may be lonely, seeking affirmation and response from others via Twitter. OR, you may be a business that seeks to keep your name in front of prospective customers (who likely are unfollowing at this moment). Or, your mom said she wants to know where you’re at and what you’re doing at all times, and Twitter is the best way to keep her informed.

You haven’t posted since March 2011

OK, this could be a lot of things, and a few of them might not be so great. The best scenario is you tweeted 30 or 40 posts and didn’t get the response you thought you might, so you became disinterested. Or maybe you tweeted too much and then finally forced yourself to quit your Twitter addiction because it was consuming too many of your waking hours. Another scenario is that your Twitter account was tied closely to a job you no longer hold, which may be a positive (if you hated the job) or a negative (if you remain unemployed). It’s probably a best practice for individuals and the companies that hired them to clean up these “loose ends” since they do make a brand statement about both.

Another, more final, explanation might be that you have passed away, leaving behind a legacy of untended social media accounts. I can’t tell you how often I’ve reviewed a Twitter account that had once been tremendously active but suddenly stopped and wondered to myself if something tragic had happened to the person whose face once appeared regularly in my feeds.

Your only tweets are FourSquare updates

You want your friends to meet you in person to converse. Or, you set up the FourSquare feed to Twitter a year ago and forgot about it.

You mostly post pictures of yourself at home, at work, on vacation, and everywhere in-between

You want to show everyone just how awesome your life is. Plus you find it difficult to write using your smart phone.

You mostly post links to industry articles and share experiences from your work

Your use of Twitter is totally professional and you prefer Facebook or an actual face-to-face interaction to share what’s going on in your life.

You mostly post pictures and tweets about your cat(s)

You’re a cat person.

HOT Comms at PSU. Not!

Penn State University President Graham Spanier doubled down on PSU’s reputation gamble — and lost.

I’ve written before about the necessity for organizations to practice Honest, Open and Transparent Communications (HOT Comms).  It comes to mind again as we witness another allegation of leaders concealing the truth related to the child-abuse charges against former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

Graham Spanier, former PSU president
Graham Spanier, former PSU president

In this case, former Penn State president Graham Spanier has been charged with concealing child abuse.  I’m sure Spanier was thinking that keeping the public and his own board of trustees in the dark about allegations against Sandusky a decade ago would preserve his university’s reputation (and ability to capture donor dollars, ticket sales and student enrollment). In fact, it did the opposite. By hiding facts from the light of day, Spanier threw his university’s reputation onto the craps table alongside Sandusky’s.

The public would have understood and forgiven PSU had the truth come out because of the university’s actions, not despite them. There are legions of PSU faithful who continue to support the university even now; many more would be on the administration’s side had it acted with integrity and practiced HOT Comms.

With HOT Comms, it is important to remember that people see through b.s., so obfuscating with unclear language and “spin” is never a good option when communicating about an issue. Attempting to conceal it altogether isn’t a good idea, either, because eventually all “secrets” become known in this age of hyper-connectivity. Sharing information — good or bad — in a consistent, straightforward manner builds trust on the part of an organization’s key audiences.

Deliberately delaying the sharing of a “truth” or even an “allegation” basically tells people, when they find out (and they will) that you are dishonest and will place others at potential risk for monetary gain. Spanier’s concern for PSU’s reputation was about donor dollars, football ticket sales and enrollment numbers, plain and simple. Negative news might impact any of those categories by as little as 5%, costing PSU millions of dollars. But only for the short-term.

Penn State failed on many levels. It concealed damaging information and practiced numerous delaying strategies.  The world would have forgiven the university quickly had it acted promptly and honestly when issues first came to light. By doubling down and throwing their hat in with Sandusky, Spanier and other PSU administrators took a big gamble and lost.

Pro Sports Leagues Losing Lustre

Pro sports leagues are shooting themselves in the foot … er, feet … and their reputations will suffer as a result.

Last night I watched two Keystone Kops (aka NFL Replacement Refs) signal two separate interpretations of the final play of a game, with the final outcome being the wrong call winning out and the wrong team winning the game.

2012-09-25 - KeystoneRefs

Not wrong because I’m a fan of one team or the other (I root for the Miami Dolphins, which is a whole different kind of wrong right now) but because it had chipped another chunk of credibility away from the one professional sports league that still had some.

Professional sports is in a reputation crisis. Team owners, represented by league officers, quibble with players and officials over pocket change. For instance, the NFL is arguing with its refs over salaries that lag behind other league officials as well as retirement benefits. The owners may be right in contending that NFL officials shouldn’t earn as much as an NHL ref or MLB ump because they officiate just 16-20 contests a year.

Bringing in DIII refs to coach in the NFL, however, is ludicrous.  By the way, who would blame DI or DII football refs for sticking with their current gigs rather than jeopardize their current income for possibly just one or two games at the highest level.

As my friend Elizabeth used to say, the NFL is tripping over dollars as they stoop to pick up the pennies. Their reputation, after all, has a dollar figure attached to it, and it’s quickly becoming tarnished.

The NFL’s brand is about a quality experience for the fans, including the best coaches, the best players, the best stadiums, and all the team paraphernalia a heart could desire. It is not about two zebras disagreeing on a call, a replay ref unable to overturn a wrong call and every person watching the game knowing that the wrong team won but unable to reverse the results.

The NHL, meanwhile, is in its fourth player lockout in 20 years, demonstrating that some people never learn. Each of the previous lockouts resulted in reduced fan interest (which equals lost revenues for team owners and players). Perhaps the NHL and NHLPA will pull this one out of the fire before too much damage is done, but it sounds like many are ready to dig in for the long haul (with many players already signed to play for European teams this year).

Major League Baseball has been rocked by doping, bad umpire calls and inflated egos for years.  The sport lost me years ago when it failed to deliver a consistent level of parity across the league (something the NHL and NFL actually did achieve), allowing small-market teams to continue struggling for the Yankees’ leftovers.

The NBA, meanwhile, is a collection of over-inflated egos and salary cap rules that allow certain big-city markets to form and re-form all-star teams in big city markets while the hinterlands can only hope they can naturally grow their talent into a contender once every generation.

Individual athletes — think Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong or Lebron James — have had their own reputation crises the past few years. We expect individuals to be flawed and make the kinds of mistakes these guys did (hurting their own careers, legacies and marketability). One would hope that the collective wisdom of many smart people, including many high-priced consultants of every ilk, would come up with better solutions than the ones we have seen so far from professional sports leagues in North America.

A Year in the Life

In a few weeks I start the next chapter of my career at Davenport University as Executive Director of Communications.

The day after Labor Day I begin the next chapter in my professional career when I report to Davenport University as the newly appointed Executive Director of Communications. I’m excited to be joining a university that is “on the grow.” With a brand new campus near the junction of M-6 and M-37 just south of Gerald R. Ford International Airport, there’s a new excitement surrounding Davenport and the programs it operates statewide.

The position will provide a wonderful opportunity to contribute strategically to the university, and I look forward to sharing more about what I’ll be working on after I start!  Meanwhile, I’m working on finishing up assignments for some of my Luymes PR LLC clients, including LEAD Marketing Agency, Brann’s Steakhouse & Sports Grille, the Alliance For Health, IMN Inc., RapidGrowthMedia.com, and more. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work with so many great companies this past year.  From Adoption Associates to Zondervan, West Michigan is blessed with quality organizations.

My Davenport start date is just two days shy of the one-year anniversary of my last day at Amway Corp. It’s been a great year learning what it means to be an independent consultant, to be an entrepreneur, to service clients even as you seek new ones. This past year was marked by the generosity of so many others who gave of their time and counsel to me, referring business, and offering unlimited encouragement.  While starting a new business is always difficult and typically not so profitable in the beginning, I am happy that I was able to come out on the plus side and have such a rich experience as well!

This story, I am certain, is to be continued!

The Ad Men of Mad Men Turn to PR?

AMC’s Mad Men returns to television tomorrow night. Looks like the ad guys of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce need some PR help!

No, I haven’t seen an advance script of tomorrow night’s season premiere of Mad Men, but I’m going to make some educated prognostications based on the brief description of the episode and its title, “Public Relations.”

Back in the ’60s, PR was much less “developed” as a profession. Today, nearly 50 years later, Public Relations is still less defined than I’d like, based on the fact that its practitioners come from a myriad of backgrounds and are asked by their organizations to practice in a myriad of manners. Typically, however, communicating with public audiences with a heavy emphasis on earned media are part of the profession. Also, there is that tendency to turn to PR when a crisis strikes (as opposed to using good PR practices to all along to earn trust and goodwill).

AMC's Mad Men returns for a fourth season tomorrow night. Draper and crew turn to Public Relations in this new episode.
AMC's Mad Men returns for a fourth season tomorrow night. Draper and crew turn to Public Relations in this new episode.

SO, how are Don Draper and cohorts going to use Public Relations? Sounds like the agency of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is in some trouble after a Draper gaffe and, just guessing, they need some PR help.  I’m hoping the agency actually hires a new PR person (need some new characters!) and they start to demonstrate integrated marketing campaigns. That would be novel (and way ahead of the times)! 

I’m guessing, however, that the firm has a “public relations crisis” that affects client confidence and Don and crew fix it themselves. There’s nothing those ad guys can’t do, right?

Owning it

Tiger Woods taking ownership of his issues in interview with The Golf Channel.

I’ve blogged here before about Tiger and hope to not do so going forward. He’s announced he’s coming back to the tour, and I’m sure the media will be ruthless in its pursuit of him.  But I’m impressed with the interviews he’s conducted as part of his “re-entry,” especially the one with Kelly Tilghman of The Golf Channel.

In it, he answers tough questions and admits his faults. He doesn’t dodge questions, but he also doesn’t provide details that he’s said all along he will not provide. Good for him. The worst thing would be if he starts to provide any of those details or hints at it even. Because with that little bit of blood in the water, the media would be relentless. 

Many of the comments following stories about Tiger are becoming much more sympathetic to him. Many question why this is a story at all. As I’ve said earlier, the sooner he gets on the course and starts winning, the sooner all the questions will go away.  But I totally respect him for taking his time and dealing with his issues through therapy. Hopefully it will save his marriage. Hopefully it will save him, too.

Tiger’s Path to Recovery

Tiger has apologized and asked for forgiveness. Will you forgive Tiger?

A few months ago I blogged about Tiger “doubling down” on his personal and professional crisis by not being honest, open, and transparent. I was watching closely today to see if he would be able to pull out of his steep dive and begin to right his course.

I was asked to join Terri DeBoer and Rachel Ruiz on the set of WOOD TV8’s “eightWest” morning talk show to provide live commentary about Tiger’s address to the nation. Not only was Tiger’s address nearly unprecedented, since media were not permitted any questions, but it also was an atypical morning for eightWest, normally taped a few hours before its broadcast at 11 a.m. Thank you to everyone at WOOD TV8 for your professionalism and the opportunity to chat with Rachel and Terri.

Last night, preparing for my stint as analyst, I thought about what I wanted to hear from Tiger and created my checklist. Of course, everyone wanted to hear he was sorry.  I wanted to see emotion from Tiger, who normally can be quite stoic. I wanted to hear him express concern for Elin and his children. I wanted him to acknowledge that he was viewed as a role model, and that he had failed in that regard. I wanted to hear him apologize to his fans and to golf and to his sponsors.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods

I think Tiger was prepped well by his handlers to hit all of these marks. He did show some emotion at the beginning, and the embrace of his mother at the end was nice. Although he was a little stoic for the latter tw0-thirds of his speech, you could tell he was uncomfortable. With good reason.  He was standing in front of tens of millions of people admitting infidelity, poor judgment, broken values.

My wife sometimes says you have to “own” your decisions — good or bad. I think Tiger owned his decisions today. He placed blame only on himself. He had made the bad decisions. He was wrong. He had gone against the values he’d been taught.

Elin, he said, had been nothing but graceful in her handling of the situation and deserved praise, not blame. He acknowledged he also had let down his family, friends, “business partners,” fans, and children who had viewed him as a role model. He acknowledged he had broken the rules, somehow thinking he was above them.

And he asked for our help, to “find room in your heart to someday believe in me again.”

It is an important first step in the right direction. I don’t agree with those who believe he should have allowed media to ask questions. He actually provided a lot of information and answered most questions that should have been asked. If there were questions beyond what he shared, they would either have been inappropriate or not questions Tiger desired to answer.

As a public person who has received truckloads of cash to endorse products (of estimated $110 million he earned in 2008, only $6 million were golf earnings, according to Forbes), the public does have a right to know when that person isn’t what he says he is. It’s kind of a truth in advertising thing. You can’t be held up as a shining symbol of dependability and success when, in actuality, you are cheating (by taking steroids, or taking shortcuts, or taking liberties that are not generally accepted).

BUT, that does not mean Tiger has to answer every question the media asks. He does not have to share his conversations with Elin or details of his affairs. His PR people probably scoured the web and prepared him well to address the biggest and most pertinent concerns out there.  And the media will still get their opportunity to ask Tiger questions, but at this time he is a recovering addict and is not ready to have that kind of dialog.

The brand of Tiger may never recover the full value it once enjoyed, but I believe he’s on the right path.  If he returns to his winning form on the links and avoids future salacious sandtraps, he will be forgiven. He just needed to ask for it.  And now he has.

Crisis response = minutes, not hours

Crisis communication response times are now measured in minutes, not hours (certainly not weeks)

In the media training I helped lead last week we discussed the slow response of certain business leaders in the wake of crises affecting their brands. With social media, what once was just a little slow would today be considered glacial. 

One case study we discussed was the emergency landing by Captain “Sully” of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River a little more than a year ago.  The successful emergency landing on the river, famously captured on a cell phone camera, occurred at 3:30 p.m.  The evacuation onto the wings of the Airbus A320 happened quickly, and within minutes nearby commercial ferries were taking on the passengers. Capt. Sully, who first walked through the plane twice to ensure all passengers had been evacuated, emerged as America’s newest hero.

At 4:55 p.m., fire crews began to stand down.  All the cable news channels had extensively covered the situation. Many interviews of experts and witnesses and analysts had been conducted. By that time, there was little that the American public didn’t know about what had happened. A jet airliner landing on the river in NYC?! Post 9/11, the media are super-prepared to be all over a situation like this.

At 5:07 p.m., US Airways CEO Doug Parker issued a statement during a news conference at the airline’s headquarters in Tempe, Arizona, confirmed that there had been an accident. He didn’t really say much more than that.  He didn’t use the opportunity to praise Captain Sully, with whom he had already spoken on the phone.  He didn’t say, “We’re thrilled that the expertise of our flight staff prevented this from being a much more dire situation.”  After all, all 155 occupants of the ditched jet survived!  By the time he stood at the podium, he knew his airline had just been presented the biggest gift ever — an accident that couldn’t be avoided, but only minor injuries and some property loss.

Now, 90 minutes isn’t that much time, especially if a number of meetings and discussions had to occur before the hastily assembled news conference.  That said, more information needed to come from Mr. Parker and, more important, some emotion. People know that some accidents are going to happen and are unavoidable. But, people want to see a human reaction to crises … not some “don’t-say-too-much-for-fear-of-lawsuit” statement.

For weeks, the crisis at Toyota has been building.  A little less sensational, but affecting many more people. Quality issues have now resulted in the recall of 9 million cars worldwide. Again, people don’t expect mechanical things to be perfect, but they do expect the manufacturers of mechanical things to not only fix the problem, but to publicly acknowledge the errors and demonstrate some *human* remorse.  Not just a statement. Not just a policy. Not just a fix.  They want to see real people saying real things about real situations.

Toyota’s president, Akio Toyoda (grandson of company founder), was part of a hastily arranged news conference Friday night (earlier today) and apologized, taking personal responsibility for the problems. “I deeply regret that I caused concern among so many people,” he said. “We will do our utmost to regain the trust of our customers.”  He acknowledged this is a crisis (Really? You didn’t know that earlier?) and he also apologized to shareholders for the 20% drop in company stock.

That he is apologizing and taking this seriously is great.  That it’s happening a few weeks after the news first broke is not so great.  And while I believe shareholders are indeed an important audience, an apology to them should be done through a shareholder-only communication. Doing so in the news conference only indicates that the only reason Mr. Toyoda is up there is because the crisis is affecting financials, rather than the fact that his faulty cars are affecting people.

I appreciate good brakes. This morning, while I was taking a left out of a parking lot, some oncoming cars were stopped to allow me through.  Little did I know, however, that another car was barreling down the left turn lane.  The driver/cell phone talker, however, did have good enough sense and brakes to come to a skidding stop as I inched across the lane. Thank you for good brakes to unknown car maker (I don’t remember what make of car it was … it could have been a Toyota!).  

I want Toyota to say, “We’re sorry that a faulty process has led to this. We will do our utmost to ensure this doesn’t happen again and to make sure every Toyota owner has complete confidence in their car’s mechanical abilities!” I don’t own a Toyota personally, but I believe I drive next to many of them every day. 

And I want them to say these things early in the game and not weeks later when their stock is crashing. That’s all I want.

Getting Naked for (Long-Term) Success

Honest, Open and Transparent Communications (HOTcomms) are fundamental to long-term success.

As I entered my office (aka The Sparrows) today, I noticed a cooler right next to the Jones Soda cooler labeled Naked, a brand of fruit juices. It reminded me of a blog post I wrote a few years ago on Getting Naked.  I thought I’d revisit that topic here.

At the time, I was preparing for a WOMMA conference at which I was speaking on managing online corporate reputations. It’s a theme I’ve tried to carry through on my site and business cards and in my practice of public relations: Honest, Open, Transparent communications (HOTcomms). 

If HOTcomms were practiced by all companies and organizations, the public relations profession itself wouldn’t have its own reputation issues.  When organizations use their “PR” function to obfuscate or “spin” or perform some other sleight of hand to distract their audiences from the plain, bare truth, the public simply loses trust in the organizations AND anything labeled “PR.”

When will CEOs, political candidates and others realize that eventually their disingenuous communications will come back to bite them in the butt?  There may have been a time in the past when you could get away with tricking your audiences, but today there are millions of people online ready to correct the record or shed light on a topic they feel is being “spun.”  Candidates espousing a particular position are reminded of previous statements or actions indicating a different viewpoint in the past. Companies hiding information related to their financials are usually discovered these days. Ask Enron or any of the hundreds of companies listed online that have tried to get away with unethical practices.

Social media — a vast online conversation surrounding just about every topic — has nearly ensured that the truth will eventually come out on just about any topic.  If more than one person knows a secret, eventually they’ll talk.  And that secret will quickly spread throughout the online universe, because that’s what happens with secrets. The more you try to hide something, the bigger the “aha” moment when it’s discovered.

Robert Scoble and Shel Israel wrote about being open in Naked Conversations, and Don Tapscott and David Ticoll covered similar territory in The Naked Corporation.  In April 2007, Wired Magazine had a series of articles themed “Get Naked and Rule the World.” All of them pointed out that, increasingly, there are no secrets. Information “wants to be free” and quickly becomes so online.

With this new reality, businesses and organizations that will advance to the next level are those committed to transparency, adapting to consumer needs as expressed by the consumers themselves, and providing a level of unprecedented participation. There are many examples of brands that have succeeded in creating productive, engaged conversations around their brands. Those conversations are not always positive, but the willingness to allow critique results in a “double positive.” The honest, open and transparent brands get good marks for what is already positive about their brands, and they get good marks for openly discussing what’s not completely positive (provided that consumers see movement in the right direction on those negatives).

People don’t always expect perfection. But they expect not to be lied to. They can forgive a company when things don’t always go right. But they don’t forgive attempts to spin or cover up or outright lie about what hasn’t gone right.  My advice always is to “out yourself before you’re outed by others.” If you allow someone else to tell your bad news before you, you’re already digging yourself out of a hole. By presenting the not-s0-great information yourself, you’re able to also tell your key audiences what you’re doing about the situation.

So, my advice back in 2007 and for 2010 is to “get naked.”  While HOTcomms may not always be the way to quick success, it is fundamental to long-term success.

Decisions, Consequences & PR

Consequences for decisions and PR’s role

We all make choices–good and bad.  Often there are consequences for those choices. Fortunately, for most of us, those consequences aren’t played out in the tabloids (print, web or TV variety) as they are for Tiger Woods right now.

Choices Tiger made throughout his life yielded tremendous success in golf. Apparently, although the full truth is not known and is probably none of our business, his personal relationship choices may have placed him in a difficult position.

His accident this past weekend and the resulting scrutiny — fair or not — may have knocked some of the lustre off his sterling reputation and possibly nicked his bankability as an endorser.  The brand of Tiger has been hurt. Tiger’s response to all of this is critical. So far, seeking privacy and defending his wife against rumors have probably been wise choices.

Companies and individuals make bad decisions all the time and have to pay the consequences. How one responds to the negative consequence, however, is just as important.     

Too often corporate decision makers don’t pause to consider all potential consequences before pushing the button, whatever that button might be.  Too often they don’t bring in the right people to talk about possible consequences for any business action. Considering all of your stakeholders is important when making a business call, and too often a single decision maker within a large organization doesn’t know enough about all of the stakeholders. A quick review by a PR counselor can ensure that all of the important questions have been answered before proceeding.

Bad decisions happen and they can lead to problems for an organization. But what happens next is really important. Do you double down on your bad decision? The worst consequence might not be a drop in next month’s sales when you consider a damaged reputation can affect sales for years.

Bad decisions can lead to bankruptcies and even government bailouts, damaging reputation. A decision to then grant executive bonuses probably isn’t involving good PR counsel.

Major business decisions should involve some PR counsel, just as they require legal review. That holds especially when the decision is a response to a problem resulting from an earlier bad decision. Not someone who can help “spin” the story positive.  Rather, someone who will tell the decision makers what they really need to hear to make the right choices for their organization — choices that will serve the organization well for years to come.