How to Avoid #Hashtag Hazards

The hashtag, when used correctly, can reach a broader group of people than those who follow you on Twitter or connect with you on LinkedIn. It facilitates branding and allows companies to create catchy slogans motivating audiences to remember and to respond.

However, the hashtag is more complicated than just throwing a few words together. Here are a few basic tips to consider when using the #.

At READY FOR SOCIAL MEDIA, we coach:

#KnowYourMarket

Charmin hashtag #TweetFromTheSeat

#TweetFromTheSeat, Charmin’s irreverent hashtag is often talked about in marketing circles for one very good reason. It successfully makes something as unglamorous as toilet paper fun, approachable, and appealing to young people. Not an easy feat.

Here’s how it works. The company’s official Twitter account posts funny quips with the hashtag, and encourages users to do the same. Research shows that 40% of people aged 18-24 use social media in the bathroom, giving them a reason to engage with an otherwise strictly utilitarian product.

It’s working too – how else would you explain a toilet paper brand having over 68 thousand followers on Twitter?

#RememberThatCapitalizationMatters

A hash-tagged phrase that lacks capital letters allows the reader to misinterpret your meaning,

#Nowthatcherisdead was mistakenly interpreted by many who began to eulogize Cher.

#ImagineTheResponses

Social media, particularly Twitter, is a platform for users to speak their minds. Before you choose your hashtag, think about the positive and negative responses that will be sparked. If a hashtag is too broad or controversial, your message may be mocked.

#QantasLuxury. Not widely known for its great customer service or luxuriousness, Aussie airline Qantas’ social media team made a big mistake. They asked customers to enter a competition by sharing their experiences just one day after the airline grounded their fleet and locked out staff for 48 hours over a union dispute about pay. Disgruntled staff and customers took to Twitter in full irony mode!

#KeepItRelevant

Every brand, team, or company has a mission. Whether it is to sell products, win games, or recruit followers. It’s important to align the # with your product or service. Even though something may be a good cause, it may not directly apply to your purpose or product.

#RaceTogether. Starbucks launched this hashtag in an effort to raise awareness for the country’s racial divide. They printed the new hashtag on every cup of joe. Unfortunately, this # message did not apply to coffee. And while the brand’s intentions were clearly for justice, they missed the mark in getting involved.

Always remember to #Wisely.

The Best Defense

The best defense…is a good offense. What’s a multi-national company to do when the quarterback has turned against your fans? Some companies tackled the country’s quarterback with Super Bowl ’17 commercials in an end-run.

Know your Audience photo

Photo Courtesy of: bustle.com

In the era of hashtags and social media,  Coca-Cola and Airbnb reached out to defend their international audiences in the wake of ethnic exclusion. #WeAccept was the tag line for Airbnb’s commercial featuring multicultural faces which advocated that: “The world is more beautiful, the more you accept.”

Airbnb’s co-founder, Brian Chesky, made extra points relying on hosts to volunteer their homes to stranded travelers. He announced on Twitter that the company would “provide short term housing over the next five years for 100,000 people in need.”

Coca-Cola had similar skin in the game with a commercial featuring “America the Beautiful” being sung in multiple languages calling for a fair catch from the new travel interceptions our country is enforcing. Although the commercial was revived from its original airing in 2014, the powerful play was now received with a different meaning.

In an environment of exclusion, Coca-Cola and Airbnb scored ads advocating for inclusion. Both companies’ knowledge of their international clientele was utilized to make a statement. An audible expressed that these American companies stand with the world.

Knowing your audience is a game changer in effectively conveying a powerful message. Airbnb has many clients that stay in American homes when visiting from abroad, while Coca-Cola is a touchdown all over the world.

Strategic uses of the media is beneficial to all companies. Even when you are blocked, strategy and preparation are key. Use communication strategy and media coaching to be Ready when it’s your turn to take the field.

 

 

 

 

Do Your Homework!

Oscar Wilde, Will Rogers and Mark Twain all quipped, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.”

President-elect Trump’s candidate for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, failed to make the grade and tested the patience of yesterday’s Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions.

Photo Courtesy of: Blog.Ted.com

Senator Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire) a longtime proponent of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) confessed to MSNBC that she was very concerned that Ms. DeVos seemed confused or unfamiliar with the fact that the IDEA is a federal law that the Secretary of Education would be charged with enforcing! It is a law that hits close to home for many, including Senator Hassan.

The prospective Secretary of Education continued to display her lack of Readyness when she repeatedly asked Senator Al Franken (D – Minnesota) for clarification on a policy of measuring proficiency vs. growth that he deemed, “a subject that has been debated in the education community for years,” then proceeded to say, “it surprises me that you don’t know this issue.”

Not only was Ms. DeVos vague on her answers, she failed until the very end to bridge to points she should have come to make : her qualifications, her passion for “children and education with 30-years as a voice for parent, uh students, and to empower parents to make decisions on behalf of their children, primarily low-income children.”

Senator Chris Murphy (D – Conn) who’s been very vocal on gun control since the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary, asked, “Do you think guns have any place in or around schools? You can’t say definitively today that guns shouldn’t be in schools?”

“Well,” Ms. DeVos responded, “I will refer back to uh, Senator Enzi” (R – Wyoming)  “I would imagine there are guns in the schools there to protect from potential grizzlies.”

Clearly, this applicant failed to educate herself on the questioners, learn the questions that would be dearest to them and give honest, informed answers. Why didn’t she research the subject? Why didn’t she hire a “tutor” to practice mock interviews with video feedback and constructive critique? Why didn’t she do her homework?

The most telling question of all came from recent Presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders (D – Vermont) who challenged her as the teacher’s pet: “If you were not a multi-billionaire, if your family had not made hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions to the Republican Party, would you be sitting here today?

Ms. DeVos’ admitted, “Senator, as a matter of fact, I do think that there would be that possibility.”

If the Shoe fits …

A number of media faux pas (literally false steps) were made recently at the Footwear News Achievement Awards in New York City.

puma

Photo Courtesy of: HIGHSNOBIETY

Winning the Retailer of the Year award, Ronnie Fieg, a New York footwear and clothing designer had “no comment” when asked about his collaboration with New Balance, the brand that “put its foot in it” in November. Their spokesperson seemed to endorse President-elect Donald J. Trump and the comment prompted shoe burning and trashing by its young customers. The moral, know your audience.

“I’m not going to speak on that,” I don’t get political,” Mr. Fieg said. Media coaching would have helped him be more positive about his sponsor.

Cuba Gooding Jr., the actor, was more prepared for the media, putting brands in a positive light. Given that the Shoe of the Year was a sneaker, he was asked whether he was a sneaker man.

“No, but I used to be,” he said. “I used to be a breakdancer back in the ’80s, and you weren’t worth your weight unless you wore Converse high-tops.” Now, however, he’s all about the work boot. “I live in my Blundstones,” he said. “I have eight pairs. They’re all black.”

And the whole point of having a celebrity spokesperson is, well, that she is a spokesperson. Rihanna, who received the Shoe of the Year award for her collaborative project with Puma, the Creeper (above) refused interviews. That put the shoe on the other foot for Puma’s Director of Brand and Marketing who offered glowing reviews of the singer-cum-designer, noting that the partnership had cast the brand in a new light.

But one attendee, the Icon Award winner, Iris Apfel, 95 (interior and fashion designer and business woman) left a footprint of levity on the evening’s festivities.

Stepping up to the stage with the help of Michael Atmore, the editorial director of Footwear News, and another younger man, she noted: “It’s nice to be old and have two pieces of beefcake escort you … whomever they voted for.”

In My Own Words

It’s said that justice is blind. But justices can be blindsided, too.

Courtesy of: Sebastian Kim, for Time Magazine

Courtesy of: Sebastian Kim, for Time Magazine

Recently, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg promoted her new book, My Own Words in an interview with Katie Couric. Seeming not to have availed herself of media training before her book tour, Justice Ginsburg found herself giving an opinion on a topic with which she was unfamiliar. Famous for her outspokenness on the Court, the justice was asked to comment on several athletes’ refusal to stand for the national anthem at the beginning of their games. She acknowledged their right to protest, but added that they would only exercise that freedom “if they want to be stupid.”

An opinion heard round the world, more for its source than for its sentiment. Justice Ginsburg was one of Time Magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People of 2015,’

Ms. Couric did exactly what an investigative journalist is meant to do: elicit answers to provocative questions. Being Ready for an interview means preparing answers ahead of time (Why I wrote My Own Words) (Some of my more controversial decisions have been …) (How the world and the court have changed since I went on the bench in 23 years ago in 1993) to smoothly address to questions.

After learning more about the athletes’ reasoning and intentions from a different bench, Justice Ginsburg swiftly apologized for her “harsh” comments. Because, even a Supreme Court Justice can sound unjust in the court of public opinion.

Pro-testing!

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate,” became Paul Newman’s mantra in his 1967 movie, Cool Hand Luke.

Recently, popular San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick failed to communicate his reason for taking a knee vs. standing to observe the national anthem. Protesting police brutality of blacks is a justifiable cause by the football star who finally was quoted as saying “I’m not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

colin-kneeling

Photo courtesy of: USA Today

But Mr. Kaepernick failed to announce his stand (or in this case, not standing) beforehand, perhaps in a press conference or media interview and, therefore, his protest was totally misunderstood.

Notably, during the 28th annual salute to the military hosted at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, retired Navy Seals parachuted into the stadium to present a giant American flag to a crowd filled with former and current military. But Mr. Kaepernick continued to not stand. An angry fan described the action as, “extremely disrespectful,” and even argued that the quarterback “shouldn’t be playing football if he can’t stand up for his country and support the men and women who put their lives on the line.” Additionally, Mr. Kaepernick’s retaliation against police brutality exists within city justice systems, and does not extend to the military on a national level.

Other athletes have used their position of fame and influence to speak out against these same issues. NBA superstars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul used presentation skills of poise, humility and persuasiveness to stand together at the opening of the 2016 ESPY Awards and verbally deliver a call to action.

“Kap” hasn’t had the media training that savvier pro-testers have … to know how to use the media as a communications tool. It’s all part of learning the media game and how to play it!

Sloppy spokespeople

There’s a trend among the most recent spokespeople to simply copy, paste and post their sponsors’ social media directions.  In the past two months, Scott Disick of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, model Naomi Campbell, and Real Housewife Ramona Singer were all caught carelessly posting messages from their sponsors instead of their own endorsements. And all three have been victims of online ridicule from their own Instagram inattention.

Mr. Disick (see photo) who is no stranger to mockery as a consequence of the show that made him famous, was met with Tweets like “You know you failed at life when you can’t even copy x paste. @ScottDisick” from @AMstudiio and “Stop making stupid people famous! Scott Disick cut/pasted an email from a marketing team onto his Instagram caption from @loudspike.

scott disick

Photo Courtesy www.usmagazine.com

These sponsored posts typically earn the celebrity thousands of dollars, yet it seems that this is not enough to buy their effort and conscientiousness. At the end of the day, it is the celebrities themselves who lose credibility and are embarrassed by the public reaction, forcing them to correct the post–but not before it is screenshot and pasted all over Twitter.

Though it probably is no great loss to reputable companies like Adidas, they might think twice before continuing endorsement contracts with Ms. Campbell after she captioned her Instagram post,

“Naomi,

So nice to see you in good spirits!!! Could you put something like:

Thanks to my friend @gary.aspden and all at adidas – loving these adidas 350 SPZL from the adidas Spezial range. @adidasoriginals.”

Ms. Singer’s post for Rodan + Fields addressed her in the third person as she was advised:

“Here is the draft with some language for the post – if we could have Ramona add something personal in about why she feels confident going makeup free that would be great. Happy to make any changes you’d like. The link to R+F is linked to her personal page on their site and the Instagram is linked to her acct as well.’

In our Los Angeles media coaching, READY FOR MEDIA advises spokespeople to carefully review and prepare their messages for the most credible representation of themselves and their sponsors. The realm of social media is increasingly being utilized for endorsements to connect celebrities with a sponsors, products and their audiences. Because of the permanent nature of internet content (whether the original is deleted or not), these posts need to be prepared with as much diligence as live soundbites.

Only time will tell if these celebrities and their marketing teams will be asked to continue these sponsored endorsements, but hopefully it only takes once to learn this lesson. One would think that when the caption is already written word-for-word that the job of the poster is simple enough.

Kanye can’t keep it concise

Rapper and entrepreneur Kanye West’s appearance on Ellen had an uncharacteristic start with short answers about his personal life, but he lived up to expectations once asked about his business ideas. Mr. West, who recently tweeted Mark Zuckerberg (the founder of Facebook) to invest $ 1 billion dollars in his ideas, began a 6-minute rant after Ms. DeGeneres innocently asked, “Give me one example [of] the ideas because maybe someone watching will give you the money.”

Photo Courtesy www.flavorwire.com

Photo Courtesy www.flavorwire.com

Mr. West’s tirade covered everyone from Michael Jackson to Steve Jobs and everything from his parents’ academic backgrounds to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, leaving the audience bewildered and Ms. DeGeneres speechless, as she searched for an opening to cut to commercial. But despite his erratic train of thought, anecdotes and apologies …

“I’m sorry daytime television, I’m sorry for the realness.”

he seems to be passionate about creating a better world.

I feel that if I had more resources, I could help more people. I have ideas that can make the human race’s existence within our 100 years better. Period.

A television appearance–as well as any presentation–should be focused on conveying a clear message, the importance to your audience and a call to action. In our Los Angeles media coaching, we teach clients that audiences always  listen to station, WII-FM: What’s In It For Me.

Mr. West, who claims he never regrets what he tweets, also should consider what is appropriate for the context of a talk show, as he did in hindsight of his proposal to Mr. Zuckerberg: “I should have put it on Facebook,” he said. “Now I understand why he didn’t hit me back.”

 

Diversity is not a dirty word

Repetition creates reputation. For Hilary Clinton, her repetition of awkward conversations about racial diversity has given her a less than positive reputation in the Black community. For a female presidential candidate, it is ironic how diversity is a troublesome topic for Mrs. Clinton.

Photo Courtesy www.racismreview.com

Photo Courtesy www.racismreview.com

In our Los Angeles media training, we teach clients to address a question as a topic (diversity) of conversation. And to have some planned-ahead messages for bridging.

During a 2016 campaign stop in Minnesota, a Black Lives Matter activist challenged Mrs. Clinton about the lack of racial diversity in the Democratic Party. In our mock media training, we might have crafted a response like:

“You’re right, help me bring more diversity to the White House with your vote for the first woman President in U.S. history.”

Instead, a not Ready for Prime Time Mrs. Clinton fired back by saying,

“You know what, Dear, we have different opinions … why don’t you go run for something, then?”

And

              “Respectfully, if that is your position, then I will talk only to white people about how we are going to deal with this very real problem.”

In the book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People (and isn’t that what someone who is running for office is trying to do?) Dale Carnegie writes,

“If you argue and rankle and contradict, you may achieve a victory sometimes; but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent’s good will.

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.

“I have come to the conclusion that there is only one way under high heaven to get the best of an argument— and that is to avoid it. Avoid it as you would avoid rattlesnakes and earthquakes.”

As a former First Lady, Secretary of State and current presidential candidate, Mrs. Clinton should be wise to the ways of the media by now. It’s often said that the camera doesn’t lie, nor does it blink. And its memory chip lasts forever.

 

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Taking artistic license with Marshall McLuhan’s edict: the medium is the message, consider that the media is the messenger. Media coverage is designed to convey a subject’s agenda, thoughts and opinions. Donald Trump was unaware of how to use the media to his advantage when he took broadcast journalist Anderson Cooper to task after his questioning of Hilary Clinton during a recent Democratic Presidential debate.

AndersonCooperBlogPicture

Photo Courtesy www.bluemassgroup.com

He accused Mr. Cooper  of giving “all softballs” and not one tough question to Hilary Clinton. Mr. Cooper seemed baffled and defended himself by saying that the panel asked her not one tough question, but many:

  • Being inconsistent  on issues for political expediency
  • Representing the middle class from her perspective in the 1%
  • Underestimating the Russians

Instead of concentrating on promoting his own campaign, Mr. Trump wasted time and opportunity berating Mr. Cooper’s questions while creating potential alienation with a distinguished journalist. Further, the candidate focused on a competing presidential candidate, by name and on a debate in which Mr. Trump was not even involved. This off-topic dispute sabotaged Mr. Trump’s own campaign progress.

The interviewee’s job is not simply to answer questions or, as in Mr. Trump’s case to criticize the media for the questions asked, but to advance his or her agenda. This is the basis for our Los Angeles media training, as we coach clients not to merely answer; ignore (as most politicians do) or demean (as Mr. Trump did) the questions but address the question with a Ready answer. An excellent answer prompts the next question and the next. And the interview is following the interviewee’s direction.

Every interaction with the media is an opportunity to advance your agenda, by using the media as it is intended: the means not the end. There’s no win, but simply a lose-lose proposition if you shoot the messenger!