Monday, April 30, 2012

Two Icons of Arkansas

If you are from there, you understand how central the Arkansas Razorbacks are to everything in The Natural State. Sort of the same way if you are an American, you know what the world's largest retailer means to you.

Now, two icons of Arkansas -- separated by only a 30 minute drive -- find themselves in deep PR crisis.

Arkansas football is emerging out the other end of the process, soiled and seeking to redeem itself. WalMart's time in the media cross hairs is just beginning. James Haggerty provides a recap of the bribery allegations broken by the New York Times and quick commentary on what WMT has done so far.

Shockingly like some of the early moves by Bobby Petrino's camp. Hunker down. Let the storm pass.

Haggerty wrote: There is no way this one is going to go quietly. . . . And while I have no direct link into the minds and hearts of Wal-Mart executives and their legal and public relations advisors, I suspect “minimize” is a big part of the initial game plan.

Haggerty explains his approach: Better to have gotten the story out on the right terms, in the right context, acknowledging mistakes and providing a complete description of the steps being taken to ensure it can never happen again.

The new game plan advocated by many PR pros is to break your own bad news. That is easier said than done, whether you are the Razorbacks or WalMart. Adam Hartung in Forbes was a little more dramatic invoking the Titanic. Perhaps a bit of on-line hype. More obviously to come on this front.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Video Killed the Writing Star?

More about that second most important person - the videographer. Oh, you don't have one? You will - it is a growing future. And you do - they just might not be trained to be that person. Why do need this?  Video is right there with a photo as a universal language.  Doing it well can be costly, but consider that  YouTube is the number two search engine, right after Google. Many people know that, but consider this other number fact. Everyone understands that Facebook is the largest social system in the world, and "if it was a country it would be . . . " is a standing meme. Right now, at estimated 800 million users Facebook is the third largest country. Guess who else is bigger than the United States? YouTube just crossed 500 million users. We've talked about ways to do video that don't kill you in time or budget, but look a today's meta event - a dad's commute video. I got that on my Facebook last night from dozens of friends.  What was I greeted with this morning on Good Morning America? That video. Not the presidential race.  Not the economy.  Kids gleefully singing along to Bohemian Rhaposdy. One of this morning's speakers, Amy Mengel from realMedia, put it best: "Can't remember the last time that awesome viral alumni magazine feature went viral" Are you putting your top efforts in the highest return? Or just on the things that make folks around you happy?

Who is Your Most Important Staffer?

Who is the most valuable member of your staff? The writers? The designers? The digital technologists? Nope.

Your photographer.

Second only to your videographer.

How does that work?

This is the intersection of a billion dollar purchase and the ultimate free distribution system.  For years, I've preached the line that we live in a fundamental mass communications change - that the barriers to mass communication have never been lower in human history.

Why? Because even with the revolutionary shift of creating movable type, the discovery of radio-based communication or the rapid spread of video via cable systems, never has the entry cost been zero.

Unlike all those means of communication, you don't have to own a printing press or a transmitter or a network. You just need a library card to get access to a computer. There was one last road block.  Language.

Panelist on This Week in Tech had line that since Gutenberg we have translated what we see into written language to translate it to a form that could be transmitted. Ancient man used pictographs and icons to communicate complex concepts. A picture is worth 1000 words again.

Perhaps better said, a billion dollars.

Zuckerburg knows this and that is why two things occur. First is Facebook's design and algorithm change. Timeline has two purposes - deeper data mining of your life (the immediate profit goal) and putting the photo right up front. That's why pictures stay in your news feed but links and text entries are scored down. That's why we have a new super panoramic Cover Photo.

Don't believe me? Zuckerburg laid down that billion dollar bet with the purchase of Instagram to make sure he was covered in the mobile photo space. Earlier said that video next wave, it is a universal language - and more on that in a coming post. Back to mobile - six years ago said text and writing because of bandwidth Mobile now bringing the bandwidth with new need - fast read. I skim along instead of sitting at my desk. Experience conveyed thru effective visual storytelling.

As Georgy Cohen said yesterday, good design important. But Facebook is about as minimalist as design can be, and deliberately clean to allow the content to take center stage. We find ourselves back at a key point. Are you focused on generating content? If not, better have a really pretty interface to mask your lack of  commitment to the concept.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Marine Finds Facebook Costly

Gary Stein kearned that the Marine Corps means its social media policy the hard way as he is discharged for comments on ha Facebook page. "I'm having a hard time seeing how 15 words on Facebook could have ruined my nine-year career," he told The Associated Press. Read more details from the AP story.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Friending Students

More on the teacher-student relationship from USATODAY. The story is more of a wrap-up of recent news and legislation, and if you haven't been following some of the cases a good starting point. We at Northwestern State addressed the use of social media for teachers in our social media guidelines. The essence of it: understand the power relationship. In a policy sense, we encourage all faculty to account for how they will employ social media in their syllabus and know they are not suppose to use open social media platforms for discussions or contact with students that may impact FERPA.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Dramatic Social Media Claims

Today's required reading is from All Twitter, and is an infographic touting the rise of the digital media as primary news source. No surprise here for believers, but the sourcing on the numbers is not exactly deep research. If you want to start an argument, it's a nice place to begin. As you'd expect, dramatic numbers. Over 50% of people get their breaking news via social media. Can I have a parse there? Look, I'm all about Arizona's AD breaking his hires on Twitter -- very empowering. How much of that received info via social media was a Facebook post of a traditional media outlet? This is the point where I have some concern -- if a reporter uses social tools to break a story then follows in the traditional format of the legacy media he works for, is that considered the "new" or the "old" in this presentation? A little j-school leavening might be needed on this graphic -- like burying the lead at the bottom of the graphic: almost 50% report breaking news was false on social media.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Do On-Line Student Sections Still Use Face Paint?

While you are worrying about how you are going to pay for that new football center or maintain your payrolls, take a little shuddering thought walk down an American academic future in which The Long Tail catches up with education. Two recent essays on a dystopian future.

First is Heather MacDonald looking at the Great Courses model of delivering courses on-line.

The next is from Wired magazine about The Stanford Experiment, and the immediate reality of free learning and classes of 100,000 students.

It begs the question - what happens to all the American local culture roles of the U.S. university when things go on-line. While the obvious is the athletic department disappears into best case scenario minor league or semi-pro sports based around the local community, the impacts are much broader. Who will provide the arts and entertainment? Who stocks the library and intellectual resources?

Most of all, what becomes of "college towns" when the local plant - the university with its hundreds or thousands of white collar high salary jobs - closes?

Happy Tax Day.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Revolution is Networked

For a glimpse on the political side of the impact of the networked media, I highly recommend Michael Moran's op-ed piece which ran in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today. I'm sure you can find it in other non-pay wall places like Slate. There the original title was Short Waves to Flash Mobs.

The gist of Moran's thesis is social media - to use his words - coupled with the cell phone created a revolution which allows the individual to organize and oppose state power in ways unimaginable in the past.  He sees it as a real change in the world.

A key passage to illustrate:

As a historical milestone, the digital revolution is profound. Even World War I, which spelled doom for absolute monarchies from Germany to Russia to the Ottoman Empire, did less to empower average citizens than Nokia, Motorola, Blackberry and Apple did—not to mention Facebook, Twitter, Google and the legions of young activists determined to put all that power to use. After all, those early 20th-century monarchies simply gave way to new elites—industrialists, military men and left-wing ideologues, most of whom employed the same levers to control their populations as their royal predecessors: police forces, censorship, assassinations of troublemakers, bans on political gatherings, and when useful, beatings, torture and death. Even shutting down the internet, which the security services in Syria, Libya and Egypt all tried at various stages of those uprisings, cannot prevent determined cyber-dissidents from organizing.

For a historian who likes to point out that we rarely have anything new in human history - that we do repeat ourselves or see things as unique and novel due to presentism or fashion amnesia - Moran makes a hard to digest point. Is this really a revolution, or just a new version of an old trend?

I've argued for some time that we stand at a fundamental change moment - that at no time in human history has the barriers to mass communication been lower.  Not even since movable type - you still need a significant capital outlay. All you need is a library card to borrow the infrastructure you need, you don't even need to have the computer anymore.

Moran takes a different step by saying that cell phones are that change agent rather and social media is the follow on.

I'll contend it is the networking of all rather than just the social media that is the key.  Moran points out when totalitarian regimes have tried to shut down the Internet to end dissident organizing, new alternatives pop up using the same kind of tools.

In other words, DARPA's original concept succeeded. You really can't shut down the Internet - it survives all sorts of levels of attack.

It's not Facebook or Twitter - it is the ability to create point to point and one to many communication on the fly by various means that is the heart of the change.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Yes They Can Get Your Texts

Among all the text content released yesterday evening by the University of Arkansas, this image is the one you need to take to your administrators, your coaches, your policy makers and to note for yourself.

In the exchange, Bobby Petrino is asking one of his staffers if the actual texts, not just the phone numbers contacted, can be retrieved or would be subject to Arkansas' FOIA law. In some ways, the answer given was correct, but as everyone learned, not completely accurate.

We know from previous cases that you can expose your personal email accounts to FOIA in certain states if they are being used to circumvent official email. Here we see a phone that got scrubbed for data when it was turned in, screen captures made of the text conversations and then they were released to the Arkansas media.

The questions you need to ask yourself on behalf of your agency/department:

What is the policy about stored data? Do state laws or institutional policy require maintaining records?

Whatever those policies are on email, there is the high likelihood they apply to text messages. If they don't, then unless you want to end up in this kind of pickle, keep your phones clean.

This especially applies to smart phones, which can store, as Bobby Petrino found out the hard way, lots of stuff.

It's obvious from some of the back and forth two things were going on. First, people who didn't want to talk to each other were using text to communicate. If you read the whole 30 pages worth you'll see things like are you in your office, etc.

Second, the same people put things in texts that they thought would be ephemeral, that knowing FOIA law would apply to an email they would never have sent in that manner.

Remember the first law of Facebook: Digital assets are extremely portable and once posted are always available.

That applies everywhere in a digital world.

After twice burned, can we hope that the next head football coach at Arkansas will understand that cell phone records are part of the public record?

To repeat my earlier #WordsOfTwisdom in the matter:

Things to remember: never use your office phone/computer/email for personal business. Never. Ever. Ever. Never.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Four Rules

As a reminder and a longer form answer to my tweet, the four rules broken or ignored that lead to the end of the Petrino Era.

Three from the earlier blog this week:

In social media, you are always outnumbered.

If more than two people know, you don't have a secret.

In a crisis, trust in God, verify everyone else. (Older blog gives an example of when it worked in a crisis.)

Plus the cardinal rule of Watergate: it's not about the crime, it's about the cover-up.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The End Will be Another Beginning

Jeff Long closed one chapter of the on-going saga at Arkansas tonight with an extremely well received press conference by the media.

A stark difference from other schools who dragged these kind of things out, or did what they could to salvage a bad situation.

With Detail Work Like This . . .

Following up the you don't have a lot of choice and you are surrounded, one Razorback follower took the time to work very detailed on the "sun was in my eyes" part of the Bobby Petrino story.

You need to skim it to appreciate it, but basically he uses the US Navy to prove the sun could not have been in his eyes. No. Seriously.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Petrino Was Set-Up

Now that I have your attention, on Tuesday, Bobby Petrino found himself surrounded and outmanned at this press conference.

While it is impossible to know for sure, it appears that Petrino still believed his version of events - that his passenger on the motorcycle was still a secret kept by himself, the good Samaritan couple who picked him up and likely his Arkansas State Police personal detail officer.

What is now obvious is the media - and dozens of other people - knew the truth. Another person who came upon the wreck called 911 to help out.

So when one TV station went out of its way to ask after the press conference if he was alone, and Petrino bit and replied "yeah" before walking off.

There is your smoking gun. Your 181/2 minute gap.

Aside from another reminder of the Watergate Rule (it's never about the crime, it's about the coverup) let's review some crisis management 101 and social media realities.

SM Reality #1: You are outnumbered.
Since the dawn of the networked media age, anyone in the arena is surrounded with individuals who at a moment's notice can become a reporter and at least a recorder of events. This is s Stazi dream come true. The hive will inform on you. Which leads to . . .

Management 101: If more than two people know, you no longer have a secret.
Let's see. At least three cars stopped at the accident. In the reports, the couple that drove Petrino away said another car had stopped. The 911 caller said the other car drove away, implying there may have been a third car - his - at the time. We know from the media as they got their first pictures of the wreck that another person drove up and snapped pictures. Maybe that's a containable group, but once the call is made, dispatch knows, everyone in Madison County law enforcement knows, that will be shared with Washington County and now we have a rumor R-naught of something like 16.

Hard Truth: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.
Been here and done that - the good Samaritans got a visit from "an officer" after the event sent by Petrino to thank them. And remind them of anything? The 911 caller will become the anti-Christ to the pro-Bobby faction of rabid Hog fans if this goes bad for their sainted BMFP. The state police captain who is trying to do his job to help Petrino is in for likely trouble as well. Really makes you want to stick your neck out, hmm?

PIO Rule #1: Trust in God, Verify Everyone Else.
That piece of wisdom was given to me by a former Arkansas State Trooper who was teaching the state-level FEMA Public Information Officer course. I heard a similar version at the National Fire Academy Advanced PIO and just a few weeks ago from the trainer of PIOs for the Louisiana State Police. Those were words I tried to live by, but from personal experience, nothing, NOTHING will piss your boss off more than you trying to do this kind of due diligence.

Those are words you can count on. Arkansas stands at the crossroads on this crisis, but they will recover no matter what. Don't think so? Baylor had players murdering each other and NCAA violations stacking up just over a decade ago. They were left for dead not once, but twice in the Big 12 formation then reformation. Who has the most powerful athletic department in the Big 12 right now? That's a hard fact - this year they have more wins in the big three sports, a Heisman, a national title and over the past several years more Big 12 team titles than I think any other school, if not just second.

So even Penn State with the right plan for addressing the issues can regain its stature.

However, better to avoid those kind of events when you can by remembering those important rules.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Watergate Rules

I've said it before. I've taught it in class. It was in my previous office manual.


It was never about the crime.

It was about the cover-up.

Similarly, the truth will out, especially in these days of more social media. You have nothing to gain by hiding.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Being First, Being Scared

Breaking news from the old home front regarding Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino involved in a motorcycle accident and requiring hospitalization.

Since it happens on April 1, obviously, some trepidation.

But it didn't get reported until April 2.

The way it gets into the media is through a morning radio talk show first, which was called out as a hoax by fans and other television media. Until an hour later, Arkansas State Police began to confirm.

The university issued a statement, but as one can expect, the media -- both legacy and new -- are actively pinging their sources. ASP is saying it may be two to three days before the police report is done. University is citing family desire for no info. Hospitals are standing by HIPPA.

And, in the absence of other details, expect this to fester for some time.

Nature -- and the internet -- abhors a vacuum. So instead of hard details on the coach's condition, was he wearing a helmet, etc., we'll have notes about his motorcycle ownership, his love of the hobby, gleaned from older stories.

@NWAAlex: "Petrino told me his wife bought him a Harley in an auction. He said he'd take casual rides around Beaver Lake."

@NWAAlex: "Petrino told me he had never gotten into a bad accident on a motorcycle, but he did fall as a kid on dirt bikes. #arpreps"

@5NEWS: "A gust of wind may have blown Coach Petrino's motorcycle off the road Sunday, police source says."

Why the quick rush to say false? No one wants to be on the wrong side of this story, and it was easy to bandwagon up on a morning talk show. The very active Razorback fan base ready with pitchforks and torches to have the FCC yank the radio station license for broadcasting "false information".

Reminds us again of the fluid nature of things, and at what risk being first?

You also begin to have the media quoting itself with no direct info out there:

@cbahn: "RT @schadjoe: Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino (cycle accident) is "pretty banged up" but "will recover" person close to coach says"

@TJCarpenterShow: "RT @TomMurphyADG: Source close said Petrino had multiple broken ribs, "all kind of cuts and bruises," neck sprain, but going to be OK."

@5NewsSports: "As of 9:30am, still no statement released from the University of Arkansas on the condition of Bobby Petrino"

All of which reveals the pressure that's on the official sources. Jump out ahead and you at least offend the employee; at worst legally violate HIPPA. Wait too long and the institution becomes the story.