Want your employees to do things differently at work? Try the chocolate cake…..

Today while showing Yammer to a client and talking to them about the benefits of using closed social networks instead of allstaff emails, I was asked the question of how to engage staff in using new technologies in the office.

The answer to this was simple- use the office cake to entice employees into doing things a little bit differently, then turn it into the norm.

In 2013 we live in the social age, and interacting with our colleagues, our peers, our friends and our family has become one of the primary motivators in our daily lives. Keeping abreast of our social lives and making sure that we are not ‘missing out’ is key to our social behaviour, and it has driven the rise of social media platforms.

So lets get back to our chocolate cake example.

When I asked my client about some of the communications they send out that everyone always reads, the office manager tells me that they know everyone reads the email saying there’s cake in the kitchen, because everyone is in there soon after. So use this to your advantage.

Move these emails to Yammer along with all of the other information that you want to be housed there. Granted, not everyone will read them right from the start, and a number of people with resist the move- you have to expect that.

Pretty soon, however, someone will be walking back to their desk with a piece of yummy chocolate cake and someone will say “i didn’t know there was cake in the kitchen?” and the response will be “it was on Yammer”. And that’s where it starts. That’s when your employees will start to realise that by ignoring the new channel they are missing out on important information, not just being told about chocolate cake, but information that is essential to being part of the community at work.

So what is your version of the chocolate cake at work?

The things I have learnt from parenting blogs

As most communication and public relations professionals would be well-aware, in our industry you need to keep up to date with the happenings in a range of different offline and online mediums that are relevant to your clients. This is compounded when working in an agency environment where you need to keep up to date with a number of industries at the same time.

This element of agency work is attractive to my easily bored Gemini personality, as my work at Fentons has seen me get into the world of emergency management, deal with government at all levels, get my head around the professional services industry, become an expert on water and electricity supply (there was a point where I could name all the major connecting powerlines in Victoria as we drove past them) and meet a number of wonderful people in my work in the community sector.

Lately, I have been continuing my focus into the world of parenting. While I don’t have kids myself yet, I am the proud uncle to four little ones, including a nephew who is now five days old.

Part of my focus into the world of parenting is keeping up with Australia’s mummy and daddy bloggers, which helps to keep abreast of what is happening in the home. What I have found, however, is that the musings from parenting bloggers are quite relevant to those of us without kids as well – which explains their popularity in Australia.

Here’s some examples:

  • On Tahlia’s The Parenting Files you will find a funny story about surprises that parents find in the bathroom. Not that indifferent to some of the surprises that you find living with housemates. Except its cuter when kids do it.
  • You’re never too old to have a Spiderman birthday cake
  • There are some great tips for the kitchen. Thanks to One Crafty Mama for a great post on spice storage. The number of spices in my kitchen has been doing my head in for a while now.
  • As Rhianna on A Parenting Life‘s recent post shows, there are always distinct advantages to leaving things to the last minute…..

Thank you for some great posts (there are too many to mention!).

Integration- the key to social PR

At Fentons we have been working with our clients to help them integrate social media into broader marketing communications plans, rather than looking at online activity as a stand-alone activity.

This integration is essential in ensuring that you are ‘singing from the same song-sheet’ to your target audience, regardless of whether they are viewing information on your website, reading a brochure or talking to one of your staff.

Read the rest of this post at the Fenton Digital blog.

Would you rather have a cheap or a great holiday?

I have just returned from a weekend in Lakes Entrance, Victoria where I have spent some time with my friend who runs a motel and is about to open a restaurant.

Having lived their previously, and knowing the dependence that the town has on the tourism dollar, it constantly amazes me how businesses in smaller markets can sometimes be their own enemies.

The shrinking domestic market and the dwindling lure for international travellers because of the rising dollar has made tourism a competitive field. Many businesses, however, don’t look beyond the boundaries of their own local area to realise that the person next door to them is not competition, but potentially an ally in business.

Cheap accommodation signs, discounts from group buying sites and battles to win the off-road dollar don’t do well to promote a destination as a whole or attract a market, they cannibalise the market that is already there.

My friend has told me that he refuses to play the cut-price accommodation game. While he will provide offers on accommodation sites like Wotif.com, he will not market his accommodation for less than its worth, believing that if you provide a great product and good service at a fair price it does well not just for the business but for the local economy.

Instead of playing the cut-price game wouldn’t tourism-reliant economies serve well to band together to increase the exposure of their market to their target audience?

While local tourism bodies do this job for the market as a whole, tourism businesses can also support (and benefit) through directing their marketing, public relations and social media strategies towards promoting the benefits of visiting a local area and ensuring that visitors have a great experience and keep in contact with the area long after they’ve gone.

This way, rather remembering the cheap price that they paid for a holiday (and forgetting about it when the next good deal comes along) tourists will remember the experience, tell their friends about it and come back again.

What would you rather have, a cheap holiday or a great holiday?

And I wouldn’t be a good friend if I didn’t give my friend’s motel a plug. If you are down that way, visit the Comfort Inn and Suites Emmanuel in Lakes Entrance.

….,” says David

Ensuring our students are prepared for the PR of now

Great post in social media today about the need for universities to ensure that PR students have the business acumen to place strategy behind the social media that they are increasingly native to.

It is scary to think that there are still courses out there who are only looking at social media as the big thing of the future, when in reality it is here and now. Read the post at the link below


Using Twitter for issues and crisis management

If you are creating a social media strategy to handle issues or a crisis that your organisation (or you) may be facing, knowing how to use Twitter in these situations can be a powerful tool.

Twitter has grown to be one of the largest social media platforms. Unlike Facebook, which links people based primarily on their personal relationships, Twitter is built around its content. People follow others not because they know them, but because they like or are interested in what they are talking about, or just because they happen to be in the same locality. This means that information can be distributed to large amounts of people very quickly.

Think about the following tips for monitoring and responding to the chatter on Twitter the next time you are faced with an issue:

Set up geographical searches
While not the most accurate of searches, there are a number of tools available to let you see tweets based around a specific geographical location. If your organisation has specific geographical locations (think of your areas of operation, headquarters or any part of your business that is likely to attract a number of people) think about setting up specific geographical searches to monitor Twitter chatter coming out of those areas.

Monitor and build relationships in peacetime
One of the lines that is always used during media training at http://www.fenton.com.au is that pro-active media is like ‘money in the bank of public perception’. This is never more true than in social media.

If you spend time building and cultivating your relationship with followers on Twitter, they will be more receptive to communication during a time of crisis. Take time to understand those that interact regularly with your brand online. Build the relationships based on trust and mutual communication, not selling.

Monitor online / respond offline

Just because you have a social media strategy doesn’t mean that your response strategy always has to be online. Sometimes, the best solution to a problem is picking up the phone and talking to someone. Make sure your response strategy includes offline as well as online.

Know your Twitter language

Anyone who has spent time online knows that sometimes Twitter users can sound like they are speaking their own foreign language. Cutting things to 140 characters can sometimes bring about some weird spellings. Make sure you know how your brand/sector/industry is being talked about online.

Give someone the role of online monitoring and communication- and the appropriate authority and training

Make sure that online monitoring, information dissemination and response is a dedicated role during the handling of an issue or a crisis. And no, this can’t be just ‘the team that update the website can do that’. Social media during crisis requires a dedicated position to continually monitor chatter and develop and issue responses.

The people earmarked for this role should be natural users of Twitter that are give adequate training to ensure they can handle this medium as part of your crisis/issues management plan – crisis time is not a time for learning social media.


In the aftermath of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires, geographical and keyword searches were set up to cover specific towns and areas that had been hit by the tragedy. The monitoring was used to review all of the chatter that was coming out of the locations.

The role of this monitoring was not to create a vehicle for direct communication and information via social media- there were more appropriate and personal methods to do this on the ground. Instead, the information gleaned by reviewing information informed the issues management and communications processes. Monitoring the online chatter allowed an overview of some of the public sentiments that was being felt around these towns, allowing the communication strategy to adapt and respond.

Do you have any other tips?


Festival iPhone apps – this year’s Melbourne line-up

L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival app hits the mark for its audience

Melbourne is in the middle of festival season, so it got me thinking about looking at the availability and the use of iPhone apps for the number of festivals and events that his Australia over the summer.

Many of these events have multiple venues, multiple attractions that cover a whole area, or sometimes a whole city. Ticket sales and attendance rely heavily on marketing but crucially on word of mouth, an aspect that social media can help fill.

Despite the key role of social media in promotion, some of them have only touched the edges of connecting with their audience.

The St Kilda Festival 2011 this year released an iPhone app. While beautifully designed, it was not made for smart phones. The app played more like an online brochure, there was no interactivity with the schedule, and you had to keep flicking between a map and the schedule to figure out where you needed to be. The map used a graphically drawn map with a legend that had to be zoomed to be viewed on an iPhone screen – it’s lack of usability made it seem like nothing more than a well designed PDF split into separate screens for an iPhone.

Melbourne’s 2011 Midsumma Festival did better, with a What’s On screen that showed festival news, yet six items of news over 2 weeks of a festival left much to be desired. The program was interactive, giving details about each of the shows, links direct to ticket sales and the ability to pick favourite activities. The venue page linked directly with the map application on the iPhone, however, there were no links between the program and the venue pages – making it difficult to find out where an event was actually being held.

The L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival app is so far the best of 2011 so far. Designed in a style that will befit anyone interested in the fashion festival, the app includes background into each of the designers, an interactive program with ticket information and maps, and integration of the @LMFF twitter feed and #LMFF community tweets, blog and facebook page. In case this wasn’t enough, the app also includes a photo gallery featuring last year’s event and an integrated fashion festival TV channel.

So if you are organising a festival, event, show and thinking of including an iPhone app, what should you consider? Try these tips:

  • Plan – who are you talking to? Think about the audience that you want to visit your event. What phones are they using or online sites, where should your biggest presence be.
  • Integrate into your communication – Your iPhone app should not work outside of your marketing or online strategy. It should integrate seamlessly to your website and follow the branding strategy.
  • Give a little bit extra – Reward those that download apps. Give them information, behind the scenes news and videos, updates to keep them interested.
  • Don’t be afraid to sell – If your event relies on ticket sales, integrate ticket sales into your iPhone app to help you settle a sale immediately. Adding additional steps in the process will only annoy the user, and cost you seats.
  • Don’t just give your audience a map, help them get there – Use the power of the GPS on the iPhone to make it easy for your audience. Give them directions and show them events that are near them.
  • Talk with your audience and let them talk to each other – Give your audience news, regularly, and give them an opportunity to share it and talk with their own friends. Create twitter links in your application that automatically append you hashtag, and make it easy for them to share.

Got any other tips on iPhone apps that you want to share?

….,” says David

The role of online and social media in natural disasters

As the cleanup continues from the tragic floods in Queensland, I thought it would be appropriate to write about the role that social media increasingly plays in both the immediate response to a disaster, and the long-term recovery.

Having worked through the Victorian Bushfires of February 2009, the preceding heatwave and an ongoing role in recovery, it has amazed me at how social media has become an ingrown part in major scale events – just as social media has become an integral role in day to day lives.

Here are just some observations that I have made both from the Queensland floods and the Victorian Bushfires – I’d appreciate hearing the thoughts of others on these topics.

People use social and online mediums to get information as it is happening  – Mobile phones are often the major means of two-way communication available to people in disaster situations. While radio is a universal source of emergency information, the increasing use of smart phones means that those caught in these circumstances are searching the web, or using tools such as twitter to get location based information.

Social media users try to do their part by forwarding information – Disaster information is one of the most highly forwarded or retweeted information in social media. Many users, who are often removed from the situation at hand, lend their support by forwarding information to ensure it reaches as wide of an audience as possible. This has its advantages, but also its dangers- as discussed below.

Incorrect information can spread like wildfire – Information on social media sites is placed on the good faith that the poster has the correct information at hand. In disaster situations, however, this good faith can sometimes be incorrect. This is not done through malicious intent by the poster, but can come about because emergency situations can often change faster than the speed of social media, or the heightened state of pressure present during a crisis can often lead to the misreading of a situation.

Social media can help monitor and address issues in disaster situations and recovery – The immediacy of social media makes it invaluable in the live monitoring of situations. Victims of natural disasters, often taken out of their comfort zones and regular modes of interaction with services, will often vent any frustrations through many outlets. Monitoring online mediums can help find issues that may not be being raised through offline means.

Online information and social media conversations needs to be a part of a multiple mix of tools for recovery – Talk to anyone who works in recovery and they will tell you that one of the hardest things about communicating with those affected by disaster trauma is the low levels of retention of information. Essential information impacting victims of recovery needs to be given using multiple mediums and repeated a number of times to ensure that it has reached and been understood by your audience. Online plays an essential role in this, as the displacement of large numbers of people during disaster recovery, means that online information is the one central point of information.

So what would I advise to organisations who are either dealing with the aftermath of disasters or ensuring they are prepared for them?

  1. Plan and test your social media strategy – Know how you will utilise social media if a disaster was to impact your organisation and make a plan for its monitoring and its use.
  2. Keep information up to date – It is essential that information is updated and updated quickly in disaster situations. Ensure that you have plans in place to get content up quickly. Are your web team accessible 24 hours a day or will essential information end up waiting till them come back at 9am on Monday??
  3. Monitor social media – Set up your means for monitoring social media. If you are working in a disaster area, set up searches to monitor discussion on the disaster. If the disaster is impacting a specific region, location based monitoring of a geographic area can be invaluable in seeing the online chatter coming out of that area.
  4. Respond to issues, no matter how small they may seem – It is important to remember that what can often seem like a small issue to those outside of a disaster can often be a 100 times worse to those going through trauma.
  5. Be vigilant about the accuracy of information and correct mistakes – Mistakes in disaster situations can often be the meaning between life and death, make sure that mistakes are corrected quickly.
  6. Don’t assume that just because something is online, that everybody has seen it or understood it – Don’t just rely on social media, your communications plan must try to reach people using a number of different tools and tactics.
  7. Remember that sometimes the best way to help someone is offline not online – While in this post I have been heralding the importance of social media, we cannot forget that human contact is one of the best ways of helping someone. Take things offline where possible.