Five steps to a good social mission

When a company has a social mission it simply means that they have an issue or issues they would like to address in order to make the world a better place. Do not mistake this with radical activists that hold up placard and demonstrate on the streets of Nairobi. A well thought out and executed social mission will cause increased employee morale and customer loyalty.

There are plenty things wrong with our country so finding a social mission shouldn’t be hard. The challenge however would be narrowing down the scope to something practical that your company can do. Here are five questions you need to ask yourself in order to achieve that.

1.      Does it make sense?
Your social mission should ideally not be tied to the product or service the company offers. It however should make sense to stakeholders.
For example, Safaricom in 2011 launched a phone recycling plan for sustainability purposes though they are not a phone company.

2.     Can you own it?
You need to focus your company’s passion and resources to a mission that can actually lead to change, not merely become one of many in a mission area.

3.     Does it have an unexpected angel?
Supermarkets produce a lot of plastic bags that more often than not end up clogging up sewer systems and littering our streets. Though unexpected, Nakumatt has labelled their plastics bags ‘Think green, Go blue’ to prompt people to ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ the bags.

4.     Is your mission global?
This is mainly applicable to multinationals. They are in a better position to set global missions that can be carried out locally. This creates permanent employee loyalty because their community missions cause a global impact. A good example is Coca Cola.

5.     Is it the CEO’s pet project?
This may not be a bad thing given that motivated leaders push for better results, but caution needs to be taken. The question should be whether most of the stakeholders agree with the mission. Putting a football in every child’s hand in a slum area works better than making sure all students in international schools get a chance to go for a Euro trip.

The belief systems that drive employees and their business decisions should govern the mission being set. If a company and its employees are passionate about the social mission, the mission will be a success and more customers will fall in love with the company.  

What Really is PR?

PR is the same as marketing!’

Nothing is harder than trying to explain this misconception about PR is especially to a person convinced they are right. This could easily turn into an essay explaining the distinction between the two but a simple Google search for anyone with this perception should convince them otherwise.

‘Public Relations is easy.’

Mem by Edelman Australia 
Now this is a conversation worth pursuing. One naturally assumes that having great writing and people skills automatically means you can do PR. This is false. It is worth noting that university degrees for this career run for 3-4 years, perhaps a strong indication that there is plenty to learn. Since PR is essentially centred on relationships, it is safe to call PR relationship experts in the industry/economic market as a whole. There are three types of relationships that need managing. The first is with persons within an organization, the second between the organization and their publics and lastly with the media.

There are a few other misconceptions that need pointing out. PR pros get news stations to run whatever story they want them to. What most forget is that news agencies are businesses that need viewership to thrive. This for them means more advertising. A journalist needs to be convinced by a pitch (which needs training and practice to write) what is in it for them. Your company came up with an amazing life changing product! So what? It takes PR pros to give a convincing answer worth reporting.

Also ‘PR is defined by the number of press releases a firm/ department churn out’. There are many more functions of PR than many know of. They are publicity, public affairs, lobbying, issues management, investor relations, development and fundraising, merchandising, community relations, counselling, employee/member relations, industry relations, media relations, marketing communication, special events and public participation, research, crisis management, CRS management, sponsorship management, brand building, reputation management and finally corporate identity and image management.

The sheer volume of what Public Relations entails makes it more complex than most make it out to be. There are many other misconceptions out there but it is the hope of the PR community that a paradigm shift occurs in light of this article explaining the main misconceptions about PR.

Role of Social Media on Westgate Mall siege

The siege at Westgate Mall made news not just on local and international news stations but on social media as well. Most people found out about the siege through social media and witnesses also confessed having doing the same thing while in hiding from the suspected Al Shabaab terrorists waiting to be rescued by the Kenya Defence Forces. For most people Twitter was the tool of choice and that included the Kenyan Defence Forces and the Harakat alShabaab al-Mujahideen.
Red Cross must be and should be commended for their use of social media to assist in all aspects of this tragedy that befell Kenya. It was through this platform that people were able to get help for the injured, locating missing members, donate blood and other materials to help those affected by this heinous act. Twitter proved to be the fastest way to send messages out to the public. Kenya Defence Forces also used twitter to both update and reassure Kenyans that they are in control of the situations amid scepticism.
The Cabinet Affairs account was also active during this dark hour for Kenyans along with the Disaster Operations Centre giving updates on what was happening on the ground to Kenyans and the international community.
Most notably however were the many blunders committed by Kenyan media houses, some going as far as to broadcast the locations of civilians in Westgate mall who had communicated their whereabouts in the hope of being rescue by the Kenyan Defence Force. It was in this time the security forces cautioned the media against airing sensitive information that may jeopardize the lives of those left trapped within the building. This is especially the case after a picture was aired of the armed terrorists holding what appeared to be mobile phones in their hands (see image above).
The media, both local and international, in some cases lacked of ability to differentiate between sensitive information and what was morally right to report. It is for this reason they were pushed back from Westgate to avoid more errors. After the first 24 hours little or no information was given to the media and by extension the public in the hope to keep the strategic plans of the Kenyan defence team from leaking to the terrorist. Such moments of vacuum left room for speculation and misinformation. This was the case for Henna who was mistaken for Samantha Lewthwaite ‘White Widow’, a British terrorist whose husband was responsible for the London train bombings.
It is in times like these where social media works against the truth. International news centres were also involved in the speculation bringing expert sources to comment on the matter.
Along with the freedom of expression, many other freedoms were violated during this time. The right of privacy and decency was specially ignored as horrifying and gory images circulated in the media and online platforms. The deceased and injured were featured, leaving family members and those who knew them shocked and grieved by finding out about their love ones state in such an insensitive manner.
Social media was also used as a ‘complaining’ tool as many stated they had to turn to international news agencies for information as the local media was not providing adequate information. This hunger for information pushed many to generate their own views about what was happening and many mistook this for the truth. The government was also giving contradicting information about those who died in the attacks as well as those injured through their social media page.
Twitter officials were also quick to act and suspend the Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (HSM) twitter accounts. A sixth was however opened hours later and gained more than 3700 followers in less than 15 hours. This is a typical case of empowering the wrong people. 
Social media took centre stage in keeping Kenyans informed during the four day siege that ended in victory for Kenyans. Most of all, the greatest thing that could ever have come out of this barbaric assault on innocent people was that it united Kenyans. Messages of hope, condolence and quick recovery were sent along with prayers of healing through social media. Even more it united people from all religions. Al Shabaab was even publicly disowned by their Muslim counterparts. In the coming months it is is worth waiting to see what new role social media will play against the war on terror. 
Glass House PR would like to send their condolences to those who lost loved ones in the Westgate Mall attack. For those who were injured and are in or out of hospital we wish you a quick recovery. Those with missing members may God comfort you in this time of distress. To our Kenyan Defence Forces and those who lost their lives to protect fellow citizens, we salute you. To everyone who helped a brother or sister in any way during this tragedy, may God bless you. Let us now work together to heal our nation. 

Learning from your choices

Every step taken away from the true path eventually comes round to harm a person. This may sound like a Sunday sermon but this principle holds true even in public relations. Many people make excuses when things go wrong instead of learning from their mistakes. Playing the blame game only takes everyone a step back. It takes courage and honesty to admit to a mistake. This accelerates progress. Mistakes should not be viewed as failure but rather a platform to learn. 
PR practitioners need to realize that wrong results are brought about by wrong choices. ‘I ran late because traffic was bad today.’ Why did you not leave earlier to compensate for unforeseeable traffic situations? If you’re on time, you’re late. But that is an entirely different post. 
For many Kenyans, African timing is the norm where running late could mean by an hour or a couple of months. When assigning a deadline to any PR plan, it is important to keep this in mind to avoid the excuse ‘They took long to approve.’ Did you let the client know how much time they had? Did you call to push them to act faster? Was there an alternative? Not acknowledging this in your PR plan is a choice that can and often does lead to greater harm not just for the company but the individual as well. These ‘small’ mistakes affect both credibility and reliability. 
When something goes wrong, it is important to look back and question the choices taken that led to this eventuality. Poor customer service is choice, and a wrong one at that. It could be the employee is not properly empowered or is deriving their decisions from emotional limitations. In both these case the problem has been pushed away and thus sacrificing the betterment of customer service. 
PR professionals should therefore avoid the blame game or entirely evading an issue and accept their mistakes. This way others can learn and take steps to better the area of concern. This is especially true in customer service because as the saying goes, ‘The customer is always right.’

Scoring that Entry-Level PR Job

Getting a job is the top priority for every graduate. What we forget is that we have an average of 40 years of toil ahead of us (assuming the retiring age is 60). While the West have adopted the concept of gap year and summers spent in foreign countries touring and doing charity work for leisure and personal growth, the Kenyan society leaves no room for such ‘time wasting’ activities. We are taught to hit the ground running.

In the market today it is almost impossible to get anything above an internship position in an organization without more than two years experience in your resume. That is not all; there are a few more accomplishments you should have in order to score that entry level PR job.

Internship experience
For many Communications courses, an internship is a graduation requirement. One needs to be able to gather a wealth of experience from these internships. Aim to work with large organizations with established PR departments or well known PR firms. Here you can gain adequate experience in campaign and account management, pitching and other PR functions.  In short, the employer wants to see ‘real work’ done.

Writing skills
This does not refer to your personal Facebook posts and tweets. To be hired in PR one should ideally have majored in Journalism, English, PR or any Communications course that leans heavily toward writing. For your first job interview you should be able to walk in with any (or all) of the following.
  • Research reports or public relations plans
  • Writing samples- articles on a variety of subjects, blog posts, press release, and part of or an entire media kit.
  • New media writing samples- Facebook updates, tweets and blog posts which you posted on behalf of an organization.
  • Sample articles- these could be online or print newspapers or magazine articles (especially if they were published) 

Don’t wait for the day after your graduation to find an internship or volunteer position to build your portfolio on the above requirements of an entry level public relations job. Aim to do most or all the above while you are still in campus. You could start small; helping out a family member or friend with their business or volunteering at a non-profit organization.

Social Media Experience
Though not as important, a large number of followers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and any other social media is an indication that you are proficient in the use of these tools. Individual clients and organizations are looking for people who can manage their brand through creating a unique voice across multiple communication channels. You many also want to get acquainted with Pinterest, Tumblr or Vine. The client is not interested in how funny or interesting your posts are but your efficiently in handling these tools. Make sure that during your internship you master the use of these mediums to increase audience traffic to the organization’s online sites. An added bonus is learning how to use the analytic tools on these platforms

Multimedia Experience
This is not to make yourself feel inadequate but in the future, or even as you seek employment, multimedia experience will make you irresistible to any potential employer. Below are a few skills that stand out from top resumes:
  •  Knowing about SEO and how to conduct keyword research to increase blog and  website visibility on search engines.
  •  If you have a blog, knowing how to generate revenue (through ads or use of AdWords). This shows ability to set up and customize a blog.
  • Knowing how to use Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign or a similar image editing software tools. These skills are relevant in public relations and content marketing.
  •  Knowing how to shoot, edit and post videos on YouTube, Vimeo etc. Carry a copy or send a link of work done.

Though you may not have all the above skills, there are a few added things you should do as you prepare for your public relations career. They include: networking, staying current on news stories, creating an online presence, joining a PR organization in school or a student newspaper and seeking out opportunities.   Employers are looking for employees who are experienced and have a wide range of skills and abilities to offer.

What do you have to offer for your entry level PR job?

Images courtesy of Google.

Danger of Firefighting using Social Media

Put out the fire while it is still dancing at the end of the match instead of waiting for the whole building to catch fire. On Monday PR Tips we found out the importance of social PR and how a positive or negative experience shared by a customer on social media can either increase or hurt  a company’s profits. On Social Media Wednesday we will look at how not to use social media especially when dealing with bad customer experiences.

Suggestion boxes are widely left unused in our rushed Kenyan economy but customers will voice their displeasure especially if they have experienced it more than once. As a company/organization, these complaints should be taken seriously and addressed immediately. The problem should be fixed before people complain about your brand on social media while they are still in the queue.

Here in Kenya, instead of working to fix the problem on the ground, many companies have opted to only address the issues that have been aired on social media to save the company’s image. A quick trip to Twitter will confirm this. A lot of time and money then goes into social media to fight fires instead of seeking other means. For example, spend money on Customer Service workshops and seminars at the beginning of each financial year to avoid mishaps that could cost your company its hard earned profits.

Customer service employees, and everyone who interacts with customers, need to be coached on how to handle the customer correctly. They need to go above and beyond the Kenyan norm of mediocrity and give those who seek their services/product an experience they do not expect.

If a customer complains online and you do manage to fix their problem, they will in many cases seek out competing brands in hope of a better customer experience. These online fixes are rarely seen as genuine but as a way to save the brand from a bad reputation. A worse of class of companies are those who send irrelevant responses to queries, post links to their site or even ignoring questions and complains from the public.

Social media should be used to give customers helpful information and updates that are relevant to them, not putting out fires created by laxity. Getting it right from the get go will save your company money used in social media fire fighting and crisis marketing caused by brand bashing. 

Aim to have positive posts from clients and this will in turn help your brand maintain a good reputation. Social media should not be your first line of defense  You can however use it to handle the one off mishap that is bound to happen in this less than perfect world. 

Images courtesy of Google.

Being nice increases profits

The world has stepped into a new era of openness, and by extension, and era where your profits are governed by how nice you are. Gone are the days when you had to step on people’s heads and withhold information to get to your goal. As the wisest man that ever walked the earth said, ‘Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in hight esteem is better than silver or gold’ (Proverbs 22:1). Being nice increases your profits much faster than using crude means. If clients, supplies and the public know you to be less than polite and even helpful, they now have the ability to burn you up on the Twitter Stake. 

PR is about creating right relationships between an organization and its main publics. Just like in our personal lives, organizations need to treat their publics nicely in order to maintain a good reputation as a brand. In order to set your company ahead of the competition, investing in your PR department will in the long run increase your profits. They will be able to teach the staff at all levels non-verbal communications, customer care, phone etiquette, proper client relations and crisis management. 

A quick way to get the media to feast on you is by being rude in the middle of a hard interview during a company crisis  

Ignoring customers is no longer an option. Whether they are happy or angry, with the increased access to online sites and social media, a customer will talk about their experience, positive or negative, and in turn influence the social PR of your company. Where possible, customers will then move a competing brand if the issue is not resolved and at this point a trip to an ad agency will not be able to undo the damage caused- case in point G4S and Kenya Power.

Customers do a high percentage of social PR for a company. Take for example a lady who likes the services she got at a new salon. It could be the amount of product used on her hair or as simple as the smile from the receptionist offering her a cup of tea; the lady will be both happy and impressed. She will then tell her growing network about it who will in turn tell theirs. The salon will get more clients for being nice which then equates to more profits. Same goes for men at the mechanic.

Social PR is therefore defined as the sharing of information via social media channels or word-of-mouth. It is not about creating news but rather, it is about seeding it and allowing it to spread through authentic personal referrals. With this in motion, a company needs little or no advertisement to increase its clients or customers.

Good men in this era do in fact finish first. Companies should teach their employees to be nice to increase profits, no matter the temperament, in order for the brand to grow and increase customer loyalty. The intention here is not to put ad agencies out of business but rather make companies efficient in the products or services they are providing to the public. The customer has more power in modern society to choose with whom they want to transact a business with. It is now the role of the company to employ correct PR strategies to keep their customers.
Images courtesy of Google.