It’s been over a year since I last wrote a blog post. I took the decision to take a step back from blogging to asses how I presented my thoughts on the changing communications landscape. The vacation from blogging has been for longer than planned, but it has been worth it.

While I decided to not pen long-form posts here, what I din’t do is stop curating, sharing and giving my opining on the influence of technology and digital platforms on reputation and brands. I shared my thoughts on Twitter and developed my lists for people to follow insights from those that I respect.

A lot has changed since my last post. My work has also moved into areas including development of Customer Experience (CX). Areas that have a direct impact on the reputation of companies and brands.

Blogging is not dead and the time is right for me to return to it.

Over the coming months my site is going to undergo some changes, so stay with us. And with regards to the subjects that I will be once again writing about, these will continue to include matters relating to reputation and social and digital. But I will also be focusing on #SocialBusiness, Customer Experience, Technology and Start-Ups and Innovation.

It’s good to be back!

 

Twitter
Twitter

I am a huge fan of Twitter. Since it was founded in March 2006, this social network has transformed how people communicate and how news is shared. It has connected and empowered people and has created communities around a multitude of subjects around the world. Twitter has become a primary source of news, as well a centre point for reaction to news. But in the last fortnight, Twitter has failed at what it encourages others to do. Twitter has failed to listen. And as a result Twitter has developed a reputation problem.

Twitter is no longer a start-up, though it appears to retain that culture. It is a a channel from where people get their everyday news, from worlds affairs, and consumer and sports, to gossip from friends, family and business colleagues. Twitter forms part of people’s everyday communications channels. And it isn’t just used by the media and creative ‘intelligentsia’, but by people who want to connect and want to be heard. It has become a fantastic tool for campaigners.

Today, Twitter has a reported 200 million active monthly users, over 70% of whom are based in international markets and jurisdictions outside the US. As a result, Twitter needs to show that it cares about the rest of the world, about the different cultures and legal issues.

A few weeks back here in the UK Caroline Criado-Perez, a campaigner who fought to have British novelist Jane Austen on the back of the new £10, was subjected to a barrage of rape threats from people who hid their identity. The attacks against Criado-Perez started after she appeared in the media discussing her campaign to have Jane Austen recognised on the back of this banknote. What followed was, as she describes, a barrage of “about 50 abusive tweets an hour for about 12 hours” threatening rape and violence.

The campaigner decided to contact the social network’s manager of journalism and news Mark Luckie. He though ignored her Tweets and locked his accounts to stop her contacting him. With the threats in the public domain, Caroline reported the matter to the London’s Metropolitan Police who opened an investigation.

Of course because of her campaigning Caroline had the support from well known politicians and journalists, including Stella Creasy MP and Caitlin Moran. And it was these high-profile individuals who helped amplify her call for Twitter to do something about the threats that she was receiving. Twitter stayed quiet and initially refused to engage with the campaigner or journalists who sought clarification on what the network was doing to manage reports of threats. I have to ask the question, what if you are not followed by high-profile people who can help you gain headlines and public discussion? What then, is Twitter working to help the average Joe or Jane?

Twitter’s unwillingness to engage really did them no good with the media. Politicians here in the UK threatened to call Twitter’s senior management to a Select Committee.

It appeared that they were behaving like a junior start-up with little understanding of public relations or reputation management. They certainly did not show any understanding of how the world works outside of Silicon Valley.

A few days later Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge Mary Beard was the subject of similar threats following a programme she led on the BBC. She decide to stand up to the trolls and eventually got an apology, but again not before the media and the police intervened.

Twitter wrote a blog post entailed, ‘We Hear You’. The post tried to resolve the issue, but from a PR perspective did more damage than their strategy of keeping quiet. If this was a press release, and we can treat it as one given that they were responding to criticism, rather than starting the post by accepting the issue, they start by promoting the great services that they are developing.

Here is their opening paragraph:

At Twitter, we work every day to create products that can reach every person on the planet. To do that, we must take a wide range of use cases into consideration when designing interfaces or developing user tools. We want Twitter to work whether you are trying to follow your favourite musician, talk to others about shared interests, or raise the visibility of a human rights issue.’

Fact is, when trying to fight fire you never bring out your marketing speak. A big Twitter #Fail.

Twitter were forced to put somebody forward to talk to the media. That person was Twitter’s own Senior Director of Trust & Safety Del Harvey. On the BBC, Channel 4 and Sky News, the interviews were pure car-crash. There was little sign of media training, little understanding of how the media works in markets outside the US and little insight on solutions to deal with a growing problem for a company that is in the process of going through an IPO. And reputation management experts is what you need at such a critical time.

In separate statements they also kept pushing the line that they need to look to see if people have broken their terms and conditions. So let’s look at these Twitter Rules:

  1. You are responsible for your use of the Services, for any Content you post to the Services, and for any consequences thereof
  2. All Content, whether publicly posted or privately transmitted, is the sole responsibility of the person who originated such Content … Any use or reliance on any Content or materials posted via the Services or obtained by you through the Services is at your own risk
  3. You understand that by using the Services, you may be exposed to Content that might be offensive, harmful, inaccurate or otherwise inappropriate, or in some cases, postings that have been mislabeled or are otherwise deceptive
  4. Under no circumstances will Twitter be liable in any way for any Content, including, but not limited to, any errors or omissions in any Content, or any loss or damage of any kind incurred as a result of the use of any Content posted, emailed, transmitted or otherwise made available via the Services or broadcast elsewhere
  5. Violence and Threats: You may not publish or post direct, specific threats of violence against others
  6. Unlawful Use: You may not use our service for any unlawful purposes or in furtherance of illegal activities. International users agree to comply with all local laws regarding online conduct and acceptable content
  7. Twitter strives to protect its users from abuse and spam. User abuse and technical abuse are not tolerated on Twitter.com, and may result in permanent suspension
  8. These Terms and any action related thereto will be governed by the laws of the State of California without regard to or application of its conflict of law provisions or your state or country of residence. All claims, legal proceedings or litigation arising in connection with the Services will be brought solely in the federal or state courts located in San Francisco County, California, United States, and you consent to the jurisdiction of and venue in such courts and waive any objection as to inconvenient forum

What do you think? Did they? It’s clear that they have, but for some reason Twitter is just not wanting to face the issue. And let me say this, free speech as defined by the US Constitution’s First Amendment does not apply in legal jurisdictions outside the US. Free speech in England and Wales is protected by laws in this jurisdiction.

Fact is, from a reputational perspective Twitter finds itself in a mess, especially given that Twitter is hard at work for the up-coming IPO.

They failed to engage in a professional manner when they are the conduit of abusive communications, something that is against the law in many international markets.

They say that they do not want to censure what people say on Twitter, something that I argue is fair enough so long as they enable others to tackle the trolls. They haven’t.

It really is time for Twitter to grow-up and start acting as the great information network that it is. It needs to:

  • Understand the world outside of not just Silicon Valley but the U.S.
  • Have experience PR and repetitional management professionals that can deliver counsel at guidance in the different global markets in which Twitter has a presence
  • Understand that not taking responsibility is just not an option.

CIPRThe UK’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations ((CIPR) @CIPR_UK) this week released it’s best practice guidelines for social media monitoring and listening. The document, which is free to download and was prepared by the institute’s own Social Media Advisory Board (#CIPRSM), gives details on what is social media monitoring, the paid-for and free tools that are available and the how to create monitoring workflows.

Of course you would expect public, private or not-for-profit (NGO) organisations to be good at listening, but in fact it is a skill that is having to be re-learnt.

Until the rise of online and social networking, most public relations professionals relied on traditional broadcast media – print, radio or TV, to engage and accordingly shape perception amongst the client’s target audiences. That meant engaging primarily with journalists.

For many PRs the only weapon that they had in the armoury – primarily because PR was exclusively seen as media relations, was the press release. Weather it was in-house or agency-side the press release was the only tool that others in our organisations saw us use. And success was defined by the coverage secured, always measured by that awful Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) standard that the CIPR has recently disowned.

The rise of the internet changed all that. Very much like mobile is changing everything again.

Today people flock to forums and social networks to share positive or negative thoughts and experiences, to connect with one another, to create communities about anything and everything. As a result the web has changed the news and publishing industries as much as it has changed public relations profession. A issue can become a crisis in the amount of time that it takes an influencer to share a story with his or her followers.

All the data that is being shared has created an opportunity for organisations to improve how they listen and how they use that information to meet the expectations from their respective audience groups. But listening is not just an art-form, but a science that can give competitive advantage to companies that know what to listen for and how to use that data.

As a result the CIPR decided to produce a document that would give best practice advice to members and non-members alike. It is not designed just for PRs or social media consultants. It is a document that aims to highlight to management and c-suite staff the value of knowledge and how to gain that from conversations taking place online. As Sir Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is Power.”

If you do have any questions then do reach out to me (@twofourseven) or members of the #CIPRSM panel. We are here to help.

A copy of the document can be viewed and downloaded below.