Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Taking a slight detour from my typical posts for something on arguably my favorite holiday.

I really dig how this educator has a little fun, a good personality, an engaged audience, and uses a bit of a performance mentality and techniques all while being a math teacher.

The observational geometry quiz at 2:24 is pretty cool too. (The audio in the clip is a little low, so you may want to turn up your volume a bit.)

Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Keep conversations going by not showing-up empty handed

A couple of weeks ago while preparing for a speaking engagement, a few thoughts crossed my mind to share about social media integration.

I was preparing to participate on a panel entitled Creating Sustainable Conversations Online during the Dallas PRSA's Communications Summit. (Fellow panelists included Christi Day and Chad Sour and was moderated by Lauren Benson.)

Thankfully, we were provided with a few lead-in questions prior to coming to the panel to get the conversation going and topics flowing.

Three questions stood out for me as being particularly useful to ask yourself when thinking about how to effectively integrating social media strategies within a broader communication effort.

What do you hope to achieve through Social Media?
  • Clarity of message - Understanding that control of the message is a bit of an illusion, but since we are in the social web, we can provide clarity to it to bring it closer in line with our communication objectives.
  • Consistency in information - Make sure your organization's voice is one that can be replicated across communication channels.
  • Listen to (and for) issues - Be available for conversations. It may not always be comfortable, but is important for your community to 1.) know you are listening and 2.) understand that you care.
  • Provide assistance when and where possible.
Why were you there in the first place?
  • You must be present to win - We believed in the concept early on that conversations were occurring online with or without us. 
  • We wanted to be available for those conversations or miss out on opportunities.
The Annual All-Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck
How do you keep conversations going and keep them coming back for more?
What about you? How would you answer these questions?
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Facebook Fan Page Rules for a School District

For those of you looking for an example of a school district's Facebook policies, guidelines, rules, etc., I submit for your consideration the 'Mansfield ISD Facebook Fan Page Rules of Engagement.'

These rules were posted earlier today on the District's Facebook Fan Page as a 'Note' to help set the rules and community expectations for the fan page usage.

(It probably would have been better to have these posted before we acquired over 600 fans, but better late than never.)

The Mansfield ISD Facebook Fan Page is provided for the district community by the Mansfield ISD Department of Media & Communication Development. We will update this page as often as possible to share as much as we can about Mansfield ISD and the achievements of the students and staff as well as other relevant district community information.

All posting of comments on this page are at the discretion of the page administrators. The intent of this policy is not to keep any negative or critical information from being posted, but to protect the privacy and rights of Mansfield ISD staff and students. Naming specific employees or students in a negative way will not be allowed (and is just generally rude.) The page administrators will review all postings to make sure they do not run afoul of the rules nor of the district’s Acceptable Use Guidelines regarding Internet access and practices.

We welcome your thoughts and comments and look forward to what you have to say. However, we will not leave postings that:
  • Break the law or encourage others to do so. This includes respecting copyright and fair use laws. If you are talking about somebody else’s work, reference this or the person, and where possible include a link.
  • Contain abusive or inappropriate language or statements. This includes remarks that are racist, homophobic and sexist as well as those that contain obscenities or are sexually explicit.
  • Easily identify students and/or staff in defamatory, abusive, or generally negative terms.
  • Do not show proper consideration for others’ privacy or are considered likely to offend or provoke others – i.e. don’t pick fights or goad others into inflammatory debates. Nobody likes a bully.
  • Are spam – i.e. repeatedly posting the same comment or comments that are simply advertising/promoting a service or product. If you wouldn’t want to receive it yourself, don’t post it.
The page administrators reserve the right to not post or remove any comments at any time, for any reason…but we hope that won’t ever be necessary.

If you have a comment or would like to report an inappropriate comment for us to review, send an email to (Yes, it’s the same e-mail as our district blog.)

Please note, you can also receive e-mail and phone text messages of our updates as they are posted through the settings of your personal Facebook account.

Thank you for stopping by and/or being a fan of Mansfield ISD.

What do you think? Are these a decent set of fan page rules for a public school district? I'd appreciate any thoughts on these rules.
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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Going Green for Good and #BAD09

On Wednesday, October 14, the Greater Ft. Worth PRSA chapter held a program entitled The PR Impact of Being Environmentally Proactive, and had the following speakers:

Most people understand that being environmentally conscious is good for the environment, but the question remains is it good your company or client? Each panelist provided green and sustainability perspectives from their organizations and what it can mean for progress.

If not now, when?
One of the most interesting things about the program was just how much this theme seemed to resonate with attendees. From a public relations standpoint, we should always pay attention to how our organizations are perceived. The environmental impact view is just one more lens through which we need to monitor and help counsel leadership. Does this mean we need to be experts in environmental policy? Not necessarily, but it does mean we need to determine what our stakeholders expect from us in the areas of being green and sustainable meaning we look to meet business needs in ways that minimize environmental impacts.

The lessons went a bit beyond public relations since the speakers provided insight from global, national and city perspectives. The topic was also perfectly timed for the Blog Action Day 2009 theme of Climate Change.
(hence the #BAD09 in the post's title)

I appreciated what Chris Smith provided from the Environmental Defense Fund. Her organization seems to be taking the smart approach in targeting practical solutions based on science, business, and communities to find environmental ideas that work. She presented a short clip from a video of Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund that is worth a watch.

I found a related video on the EDF channel on Climate Change. (I loved the call to action at the 2:22 mark.)

Other interesting bits:
  • IBM has had a corporate policy on environmental affairs since 1971.
  • IBM was listed as #5 in Newsweek's 2009 Green Rankings List
  • Tom Burke, APR mentioned the Pecan Street Project (of which IBM and EDF are among the partnering organizations) 
  • The project has a goal of ensuring "Austin’s leadership in the creation of the next generation electrical system, including utility and community infrastructure, consumer systems, State and local policy and regulation, economic development opportunities, new venture creation, and community engagement." Think of it as Energy 2.0.
While I'm impressed with Austin, I am especially proud of Ft. Worth because according to Brian Boerner...
  • Ft. Worth was named #15 on Popular Science's 2008 'America's 50 Greenest Cities' list  
  • The water reuse program saved 3,667,137,480 gallons of water for the year.
  • They converted three city soccer/rugby fields to artificial turf and is saving 11.5 million gallons of water annually.
  • Over 22% (62,000 tons) of the residential waste stream was recycled and diverted from area landfills.
  • We have six USDA approved Farmers Markets in Ft. Worth.
Communication Carry-out: Start small, start where you can. Sustainability is a process not a product.  Look at the bigger picture beyond your organization. Change is required. How can we balance customer expectations as they relate to environmental issues with customer service? Yes, we need to be paying attention.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Who is keeping you from being a better communicator?

Here's Pointing at You KidImage by Looking Glass via Flickr
Answer: You

 "Whether you think you can or can't, you're right."
- Dr. Adolph Brown, III

With all of the tools, trainings, conferences and research at your fingertips to access, learn, and use, what is keeping you from taking steps to advance or achieve your professional goals?

I am an advocate for communication professionals having working knowledge of the tools of the social web. I also believe being a life-long learner through a variety of professional development is a central component to having any kind of success in your field.

Whether it's crisis communications or being a strategic business consultant, media relations or measurement, whatever it is you need to do to sharpen your skills and change, learn, and grow, do it.

Personal responsibility is 100x more important than personal branding.

What are you going to do to be a more effective communicator? What steps have you taken to improve your craft? The comments are yours.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Turning an adversary into an advocate: How 24 Hour Fitness customer #twervice got it right

About a week ago, I was informed by my wife that 24 Hour Fitness had erroneously been charging us for memberships we had assumed had been canceled a couple of months back.

After a few expletives about the situation I did what any rational and mature person with a variety of social media tools and networks at their disposal would do:

I complained about it on Twitter.

(Ok, so that may not have been fair, but it made me feel better.) Actually, I said aloud right before I posted my little note, "I wonder if anybody at 24 Hour is listening."

Sure enough, they were.

30 minutes later I received an e-mail from Randy Drake (Senior Vice President - Fitness & Business Development at 24 Hour Fitness) with the subject line: Issue with cancellation.

So they were listening, on a Friday evening, and more importantly they were willing to get the matter straightened out. I commended Randy for paying attention and "listening" on Twitter. It just shows how important the network is for engagement. Mr. Drake's e-mail correspondence was thoughtful, expressed concern about the situation for our family, and has offered to make things right. (Disclosure: We are still in the discussion portion of this situation on how to resolve the issue.)

Winning over an adversary
What I think is most interesting about this episode is the fact that 24 Hour Fitness did a great job of turning an otherwise tough situation for a disgruntled member (or former member) into something that more resembles fostering a brand advocate. Regardless of whether or not we continue using their organization for our family's fitness needs, the attention to details and response was excellent and had a positive impact.

Granted, not all customer service interactions are adversarial in nature. Sometimes they are informational or  transactional. Whatever the case, being open to listening to interactions, questions, and even silly rants is an important customer service step for companies and organizations to grasp.

Customer Twervice
For additional thoughts on the matter with research, make sure you dig into Jason Falls' report Customer Twervice: Exploring Case Studies & Best Practices In Customer Service efforts Using Twitter where he presents "10 companies, how they started their Twitter efforts, their strategic approach, how much time and resources they devote."

The report includes a list of Twitter Customer Service Best Practices:

1. Be Present
2.Walk Before You Run
3. Be Prepared For Scale, But Expect A Slow Growth
4. Have A Quarterback
5. Making Rules Is Prohibitive
6. Immediacy Is Imperative
7. Look For Buy-In Opportunity

Get the report for thoughts on each of the above points. The Customer Twervice report by Jason Falls is a great read for anyone considering or actively engaging in customer service via Twitter.
Do you have any examples of good customer service engagement in Twitter? What about other social networks?  Is your company using the social web for customer service? Why or why not?

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