Finding Your Old Media

Yesterday we talked about best practices for working with the media via social media. But the first step in being able to reach out to them is to know where they are. The problem is that there’s a lot of them and they can be tough to find. Just look at your existing media list. You’ve probably got hundreds of phones numbers and emails listed. And how much time do you take managing that list. Hours and hours.

And now I’m telling you that you need another field in that database, just for social media contact information. It’s a wonder you read my stuff at all.

But there are ways to streamline collecting that information. When I wrote about this last time, I recommended using the website MuckRack.com to collect information on local reporters that have signed up. While there is a subscription that you can sign up for, poor folks like me who aren’t lead media folks probably shouldn’t, as it doesn’t make sense to subscribe. But, with a bit of elbow grease and a few hours of copy/paste, you can put together a pretty good Twitter list. (Shoot me a message if you want to learn how I did it.)

But there might be an easier way. I just recently learned that one of our local newspapers, the Inquirer, has put together a page of all of their Twitter accounts. And it’s awesome. You want to know what the Inky is writing about these days? Want to know what scoop they’re looking for? You can see it all just by going through that page once and saving them all to a list.

Frankly, I wish more news organizations would do this. Frankly-ier (?), I wish more governments would do this. Have a list of all of your subject matter experts Twitter accounts. All of the different official agency accounts. Maybe a list of all of the official PIO accounts? I’d love to know if you know of any agency or government that’s got something like this. If you know of one, definitely reach out to me, or comment below, I’d love to get in touch with them.

Virtual Protesting

slackI’m willing to bet that you’ve engaged in some slacktivism. If you haven’t done it, and you’re on social media, you’ve definitely seen it. You know the ones: share this post to raise awareness of x, y and z. Add your signature to this virtual petition to save the whatevers. That’s the essence of slacktivism:

The word is usually considered a pejorative term that describes “feel-good” measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it feel some amount of satisfaction.

A lot of the slacktivism we see takes place on Twitter. Someone will establish a hashtag and attempt to get that hashtag to trend, or be mentioned enough times that Twitter’s algorithm will automatically push the hashtag to people’s Twitter accounts, thereby increasing the number of people aware of the ongoing action. Here in Philadelphia, we recently had an action day take place against our Health Department on Twitter. I’m not going to go into it because the topic it was attempting to spur action on is still ongoing, but it’s pertinent because this was the first time we’ve been virtually protested. And after seeing how easy it was to organize and pull off, I know it’ll happen again.

What happened, basically, was that someone posted to a website and asked their online friends to tweet at us and major media accounts using a hashtag in an effort to get us to change something we’re doing. This virtual protest was accompanied by a flood of phone calls, again, organized online.

This was kind of a traditional protest action, but it’s not the only kind, I learned. The folks at SocialMediaToday had a really interesting post on another type of protest action, a denial of hashtag event. The author described how he first accomplished a denial of hashtag event:

I quickly sent out a few emails to some lists I belong to asking folks to jump on the hashtag to tweet questions, challenges and alternative commitments to the Republican Representatives participating in the Twitter Day. I also tweeted out a calls to action and a few questions, challenges and alternative commitments of my own. Very quickly, we were able to take control of the conversation.

Now think about how your agency uses hashtags, can you imagine what you would do if the Internet started taking over the hashtag for your campaign? It’s not the same, but I experienced something similar during Delta flight 3163, which was quarantined. I tried to learn more about it as the situation unfolded, but couldn’t find anything relevant because coincidentally Lady Gaga had posted on Twitter that she was quarantining herself to work on a new album. The word quarantine was useless, and this wasn’t even a coordinated event!

Now, I wasn’t sure about even publishing this post because I like to talk about a solution or something you can do to avert or minimize the potential problem I’m describing. I couldn’t do that for this one because, well, there is no solution that I know of.

The reason I bring it up, though, is for exactly that reason. Not only will this happen more and more; as it starts happening more and more, you’re more likely to be the target of one of these attacks. Start thinking today about what you’ll do when it happens to your agency or organization. Do you inform your executive? What if they freak out and threaten to call the media? What if they tell you they don’t care about internet yahoos? What if you ignore it and the campaign makes the local–or national–news?

(Also, if you work in a traditionally government-supporting advocacy organization, think about how you could do something like this. It’s a tool and one that’s growing in utility, scope and acceptance. I always say we should be better advocates, online protesting may just be another way to do it.)

Irrelevance

earsWhen I imagined the future of government communications, I would envision morning meetings, where the comms team (ha!) gets together, each over their own personal blend of Starbucks or locally-sourced coffee (double ha!), discusses what news is breaking, reviews where the competitors are and what their goals might be, then the team lead blesses the talking points for the day and everyone dashes off to their well-appointed, yet obviously industriously worked-in offices (triple ha!).

Aside from the fact that I obviously dream about some fantasy-land, there’s more wrong with that statement than is obvious. You see, I talked about our competitors and how my fantasy comms team would defeat them gloriously, just in time for happy hour. While it’s obvious that very few folks in government communications are concerned with our competition, and it’s even more obvious that our competitors number more than most of us can count to, that’s not the problem. You see, our biggest problem isn’t losing the battle of our public’s minds and action to some nefarious industry or trade group, it’s losing that battle because no one’s heard us. It’s losing because we’ve become irrelevant. It’s that we’re not number three or four on our public’s priority list, it’s that we’re number 100, or 1,000.

A consultant that I follow on Twitter, Steve Woodruff, had a brilliant post on exactly this topic a couple of weeks ago, and I just couldn’t shake how his message, while crafted very explicitly for the consulting world rang just as true–maybe more so–for government communicators.

[Y]our biggest competition isn’t the competition. It’s the noise in your client or prospect’s mind. It’s the boss – the kids – the schedule – the office politics – the latest health problem – the job search – the fantasy football league – tomorrow’s big presentation – the upcoming vacation – the overloaded e-mail inbox.

Don’t believe me? Monitor what’s coursing through you brain for the next 2 minutes. See what people who are fighting for your attention are up against?

Now I know I just said that we don’t care about the competition, so you’re thinking, “how does this relate to us?” It relates because we’re worse than those consultants that are so concerned with what other consultants are doing. We’re worse because we (to a large degree) still think that our messaging is the only game in town. That we speak and, as we’re the government, people should listen. We shout into that ether with full faith and belief that our message resonates above all other messages. But it doesn’t work like that.

Want to know how I know? Go back to that little two-minute exercise Steve had you do. Now think about the last message you published for work. Where did the action that message implored you to undertake rank in your two-minute ordering of life? Was it one or two? Three or four? Or more like 100 or 1,000?

And the cacophony of life is only increasing. More social networks, both in meat-space and cyberspace, more responsibilities, more deadlines, higher productivity, fewer financial cushions. You know what we need to be concerned with?

The signal-to-noise ratio. How do we put forth such a clear signal that we stand out in the minds of our clients?

So, how do YOU do it?