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.

Three Strikes … You’re Out

In mid September, New York TIMES reporter Kenneth Vogel sat down at a Washington D.C. restaurant, BLT Steak, expecting a routine lunch meeting. However, a media mistake of not so rare proportions was about to fall in his lap.

Ty Cobb. Photo Courtesy of the Denver Post

Over a salad of tuna nicoise and iced tea, he overheard a public conversation between Ty Cobb, who is overseeing the White House response to the Russian probe and John Dowd, President Trump’s lead personal lawyer for the Russian investigation.

They thought their conversation was private because they were focused on each other, not the crowded restaurant around them. Mr. Cobb further forgot that his distinctive appearance shouted to everyone who he is, which of course is his purpose, but not this time. He and Mr. Dowd proceeded to discuss highly sensitive subjects regarding the investigation. In addition, the two blatantly expressed tensions within the legal team and production of documents. According to Reporter Vogel, they also discussed presidential privilege and their colleagues. Mr. Cobb suggested that White House counsel Don McGahn “has a couple documents locked in a safe” and one colleague who is not on the president’s good side. But, he added, “I’m trying to get the president not pick a fight with her.”

Their actions raise the question: how can these esteemed men who have become known in the realm of politics display such hubris and lack such basic common sense?

Interestingly, this is not the first media mistake for Mr. Cobb. As the Washington Post presents it, Mr. Cobb’s errors rival those of his distant relative, “the original Ty Cobb,” former major league baseball player who still has the title for the highest career batting average. But less well known, he also holds the record for most career errors by an American League outfielder.

Apparently, errors are common for the Cobbs. Luckily for America, the errors made on the baseball field don’t pose threats to national security.

A+ for Characteristic Candor

Personalizing a presentation with candor is one of the C’s of good communication. Other C’s include: Conversational, Convincing and Compassionate which help to create a speaker’s Charisma.  As Bloomberg News reported on a recent Chicago conference for the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care, Ben Bernanke was refreshingly and characteristically candid:

“I recently tried to refinance my mortgage and was unsuccessful in doing so.

I’m not making that up.”

Former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke (courtesy of LA Times)

Former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke (courtesy of the LA Times)

If the two-term, former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve can’t refinance his home, who can?

In the aftermath of the 2000’s housing bubble burst, lending institutions have become extremely cautious and, according to Mr. Bernanke, much too limiting on their lending standards.

” Tactful candor and simple honesty is very refreshing in today’s world of bluffing and hype,” our CEO Anne Ready writes in her latest book from Career Press, Off the Cuff/What to Say at a Moment’s Notice. But she cautions not waiting until you arrive and step to the podium or are asked a question, to decide what you can reveal.

“Ahead of time, explore with yourself and your company, what you/they are willing to share.

If you can’t give your audience or interviewers everything, which in most cases you shouldn’t,

know what you can give them to make a story or anecdote colorful,

interesting and worth listening to or writing about.”

No matter what your experience or level of presentation skills, use Candor and the C’s of Communication to deliver your message effectively… as evidenced by Mr. Bernanke’s candid constitution.

Apology Not Accepted

As a follow up to his racist ramblings, Donald Sterling appeared in an exclusive interview with journalist Anderson Cooper on CNN to “apologize.” During the interview, Mr. Sterling once again made general remarks about African Americans and even added Jews to his diatribe. He assured viewers that he is not a racist, but was rather tricked by his ex-girlfriend and a technology that men his age do not understand.

Additionally, he attacked Magic Johnson once more arguing that the sports legend is a terrible example to children for “making love to every girl in every city in America” and catching AIDS.

The Clippers owner ruined an excellent media opportunity to mend fences and begin regaining public support. Instead, he managed to dig a deeper hole for himself by reinforcing his beliefs with confusing responses.

Perhaps most surprising to journalist Anderson Cooper and us was that Mr. Sterling did not have a P.R. team with him during the interview nor did he exhibit any proper media training or messaging. As Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann commented, “it’s stunning that Sterling’s lawyers and public relations advisers would green light this interview; this was not a man who seemed ‘coached’ by his handlers at all.”

And as Mr. Sterling will clearly come to realize, his apology was not accepted.

Racist Rambling

Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, is subject to a lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine for racist remarks. The decision was applauded by NBA players, owners and others connected to the league. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also said that he would do everything in his power to force the sale of the team.

The scandal stems from the release of an audio tape that recorded Mr. Sterling making racist remarks to his girlfriend, Vanessa Stiviano. Mr. Sterling was scolding Ms. Stiviano for posting pictures of herself with black people to her Instagram account. He said that Ms. Stiviano can do whatever she wants in private, including have sex with black men, but she should not post photos of them to the internet or bring them to Clipper’s games.

readyformedia

President Obama also responded to the controversy:

“When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk. That’s what happened here.”

Mr. Sterling’s reputation is tarnished for his private comments made public. But in this electronic age, no one can afford to say what they should not. The audience is always listening!

Travoltifying!

More than pizza or a selfie, what deterred and distracted from the 86th annual Academy Awards was a Media Mistake heard round the world. John Travolta introduced Idina Menzel by the wrong name, Adele Dezeem!

Ms. Menzel, who played Maureen Johnson in Rent both onstage and on screen and Elphaba in Wicked, seemed unperturbed by the flub as she sang out Let It Go, from the animated film, Frozen.

But an estimated 43 million people who were watching did not let it go and have mocked Mr. Travolta relentlessly on social media. Taking on a life of its own, a new @handle was created for the faux-name: @AdeleDezeem. And an online tool was born so that others could find out how John Travolta would “travoltify” peoples’ names when introducing them.

travolta

Although Mr. Travolta accredited her “wicked” talent, he rushed his introduction and slurred her name.

Best known for his roles as Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever and Danny Zuko in Grease, Mr. Travolta did not publicly apologize to Ms. Menzel for the mistake he made. Instead, he joked that she would say, as she sang, “Let it go, let it go.”

At READY FOR MEDIA, he would have learned presentation skills by acknowledging the media mistake with an apology and bridging to a soundbite that the media could take away. This media training three-step process is short, sweet and will keep you in the right light in the media.

A Rose By Any Other Name

 

bach

ABC’s newest Bachelor,  Juan Pablo Galavis seemed to be homophobic with his remark that gay people are more “pervert in a sense.” And ABC did not give a rose to Mr. Galavis for his comment. Instead they stated that his,

comments were careless, thoughtless and insensitive, and in no way reflect the views of the network, the show’s producers or studio.”

During the interview, Bachelor Galavis said in response to there being a gay bachelor,

“I don’t think it is a good example for kids to watch that on TV. It would be too hard for TV.”

Since then,  Mr. Galavis has apologized on his own Facebook page saying that it was an issue of  the language barrier, that “pervert” was not the word that he meant to use. He also was in touch with a gay rights organization, GLAAD, where he expressed:

“I have heard from many gay Latinos today who are hurt because of what I said and I apologize. I know gay parents and I support them and their families. They are good parents and loving families. I am a father and I know the feel of being a father, why wouldn’t I want my gay friends to also be happy parents?

I also want gay and lesbian youth to know that it is fine to be who you are. Gay or straight, Black or White, Latin or American, what matters here is to respect who we are.

Gay and lesbian people, and the children they are raising, wrongfully face discrimination and I want them to know that I’m on their side.”

Although Mr. Galavis  blames his vocabulary and language barrier, his portrayal in the limelight could have been saved with a few media interview techniques. His struggle for a response shows he also did not receive media coaching in either English or Spanish in order to understand what he should or should not say.

In the media, as in sports, the best defense is a good offense. Having Ready answers to bridge to when the media blindsides you with difficult questions is the answer!

 

Action Speaks Louder than Words

 

chevron image

 

In mid-February, residents of Bobtown, Pennsylvania were awakened by the sound of a massive blast in the town’s Chevron-owned fracking well. The blast killed one worker and injured another. And although the fire is out, residents are still concerned about the gas and heat being emitted into the atmosphere.

In response, Chevron’s Community Outreach Team compensated residents by distributing some 100 coupons for a free pizza and a 2-liter bottle of soda, accompanied by a statement:

Chevron recognizes the effect this had on the community. We value being a responsible member of this community and will continue to strive to achieve incident-free operations. We are committed to taking action to safeguard our neighbors, our employees, our contractors, and the environment.

The letter also included a “toll-free community hotline” that led the caller to the voicemail of an unidentified person.

In making light of this very serious and tragic event, the oil giant turned it into a PR disaster, too. The apology was greeted with social media backlash from Bobtown residents and people around the country.

One blog even opined, “I see a possible new marketing campaign for Chevron: ‘We guarantee your fracking rig won’t explode, or your pizza is free!’”

Chevron would have benefitted more from their pledge striving “to achieve incident-free operations” with a more strategic and thoughtful plan, rather than seeming to buy off the community with pizza and pop.

Residents should have been addressed about the accident head on through a press conference held by Chevron executives and followed through with an investigation.

Moral: Every public relations response should be respectful and appropriate for the situation.

 

Behaving Badly

sherman

When Richard Sherman sealed the Seattle Seahawk’s spot in Super Bowl XLVIII in his game-saving play against the San Francisco 49ers, he also sealed his spot as the sports world’s latest “classless” wonder.

His adrenaline and aggression were at an all-time high in a post game interview with …

Well, I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you’re going to get. Don’t you ever talk about me.”

What is just as bad as being a sore loser, is being a sore winner. As Ato Boldon, four times Olympic medalist stated in his tweet, it was evident that there was no clear media training done for the opinionated and classless Rich Sherman.

 tweet boldon

Despite tweets on his arrogant stupidity, Mr. Sherman did graduate from Stanford with a degree in Communications. This may be the reason why in the passionate reaction to his game-winning play, he did not use curse words and turned to camera to make direct eye contact.

But he should have also known not to waste precious press time talking about his opponents and the other team! With Mr. Sherman’s spectacular play, he gave himself the opportunity to share his pride in being a “Seattle Seahawk,” give credit to both his own quaterback and receiver who scored the winning touchdown, etc, etc. …. In short, brand, brand, brand.

He became Twitter’s latest “trend,” not only for his commendable game, but his foolish response. And Mr. Sherman didn’t apologize, but said that he regrets the “storm afterwards” and how it was perceived in the media. He did admit that he probably should not have attacked Crabtree,

“Maybe I shouldn’t have said that.”

Although these antics garner media attention, always remember that bad press is not better than no press at all. Instead, it is important to portray yourself at your best and in Sherman’s case, win with composure.