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TODD SMITH: Crisis management at your fingertips – new app launched

Crisis management is coming to a smartphone near you.
Ketchum – a leading global PR agency – has launched Mobile RepProtect, an iOS and Android app that the firm hopes will give sweaty-palmed clients the ability to conquer any would-be PR nightmare from the comfort of their own smart phone or tablet.

The idea, says Ketchum senior vice president James Donnelly, is that clients will have their customized crisis plan at their fingertips, should corporate catastrophe strike. That would mean better coordination when it comes to managing reputation.

Take a hotel chain, for instance. The company’s executives could be holed up in a different city, but if disaster happens in a particular hotel, the general manager there could act on the early steps right from his phone — alerting the company higher-ups, dealing with guests, and even dispersing legal department-approved statements to inquiring reporters. So, it allows for companies to take an even more proactive approach to reputation management.

Our agency – Deane | Smith – has at least a dozen clients that could benefit from an app like this, but it’s just an initial step, no substitute for a full-fledged crisis communications campaign. Nothing replaces a well-planned, comprehensive, strategic approach to help put your best face forward when disaster strikes. This kind of technology, while an innovative tool to add to the crisis management toolbox, isn’t an answer for crisis-prone brands or people, without consulting an agency to guide you through complex action plans. Sorry, Donald Sterling, this probably can’t help you!

And “apping” a company’s crisis plan is just a natural progression, according to Donnelly. Clients would be better off using a streamlined app than furiously scrolling through a 70-page PDF on their phone. And because many people use their personal phones for work, the password-protected app could quickly revoke access should an individual leave the company.

“Five years ago we used to say you shouldn’t just have your plan in a binder because nobody carries around binders. You should have it in your laptop,” Mr. Donnelly said. “Well guess what? Nobody is carrying around laptops anymore.”

So the app – or crisis management plans – on your smart phone or tablet, can always be with you if, and when, disaster strikes.

How Journalists Use Social Media to Report the News
A new report from the Indiana University School of Journalism shows how U.S. journalists are increasingly using social media to report the news. Based on online interviews with 1,080 U.S. journalists conducted during the fall of 2013, the new report updates previous findings and adds new ones concerning the role of social media in journalism.

Key Findings:
» 78 percent of U.S. journalists check social media for breaking news.
» 56.2 percent use it to find additional information about a topic.
» 54.1 percent use social media to find sources for stories.
» 40 percent of U.S. journalists said that social media are very important to their work.
» 34.6 percent spent between 30 to 60 minutes every day on social networking sites.
» 53.8 percent regularly use microblogs such as Twitter for gathering information and reporting their stories.
» 23.6 percent visit blogs maintained by other journalists.
» 22.2 percent use Wikipedia.
» 20.2 percent use YouTube.

More than 80 percent say that social media does help to promote their work. Almost 70 percent say because of social media they are more engaged with their audiences. Sixty two percent say that social media allows them to do faster reporting of news.

The Need for Digital and Visual Media Training
Many U.S. journalists (68.1 percent) said that they would like additional training to cope with new job expectations. The largest group (30.5 percent) sought video shooting and editing skills, followed by 28.4 percent who wanted skills to improve social media engagement. The Spin Cycle thinks PR practitioners should follow suit! This lack of skill in the newsroom opens the door to providing visual content with your news stories. Digital skills and visual content training are some of the most valuable skills to master, whether you are a journalist or a PR pro.

Clients would be better off using a streamlined app than furiously scrolling through a 70-page PDF on their phone.

Associated Press Editor Issues Edict To Shorten Stories
One of the pillars of journalism – the Associated Press – is shorting its stories for a rapidly changing digital audience that craves brevity as much as getting the scoop on breaking news.

Citing a “sea of bloated mid-level copy,” AP Managing Editor for U.S. News Brian Carovillano has instructed fellow editors at the wire service to limit most “daily, bylined digest stories” to a length of between 300 and 500 words. Top stories from each state, Carovillano directed, should hit the 500 to 700-word range, and the “top global stories” may exceed 700 words but must still be “tightly written and edited.”

Carovillano’s memo itself references the driving force behind the limits: “Our members do not have the resources to trim the excess to fit shrinking news holes,” notes the editor.

Paul Colford, a spokesman for AP, notes that a “common concern” among AP members and subscribers is that stories are too long. In recent months, says Colford, the wire service has been trimming stories in Europe and the outcome has been “successful.”

For context, consider the AP produces 2,000 stories per day on average. The stories affected by the Carovillano memo cover the majority of pieces produced for both state and global audiences, says Colford. However, those constraints don’t apply to the royalty in AP’s investigative division, who aren’t bound by the directive.

There are 1,400 daily U.S. newspapers that make up the AP cooperative, not to mention a number of radio stations, TV stations and web-based news properties such as Yahoo and MSN.

Carovillano urged AP staff to take the following steps to implement brevity in our digital world:
» The reporter and editor should have a discussion about the appropriate length of stories at the outset of reporting — and stick to it.
» Consider using alternative story forms either to break out details from longer stories, or in lieu of a traditional text story.

There are pitfalls to this new journalistic edict, however. Sticking to a predetermined story length short shrifts the whole idea of reporting — namely, that you discover various wrinkles that a full and comprehensive report demands.

Pleas for extra space, though, may not find a receptive audience: “We will be closely monitoring story lengths across state and national lines to make sure we are all living up to this commitment,” writes Carovillano in his memo.

Golden Mic | Barbara Walters Signs Off After 50 Years
Barbara Walters – revered by generations as THE interviewer of the popular, political, presidential and iconic – has signed off after 50 years on camera. Through five decades in television, the woman who started her career on camera as a hawker for Alpo dog food and went on to cross the Bay of Pigs with Fidel Castro and to interview every American president (and first lady) since Richard M. Nixon is retiring.

As the sun sets on Ms. Walters’s career, it is also setting on the form of television news she perfected and personified: the intimate sit-down with a world leader, the weepy celebrity confessional, the jailhouse interview — the “big get.” In her final weeks on the air, when the disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was the man of the hour, Walters interviewed his friend V. Stiviano. About seven million people tuned in. Stiviano is no Monica Lewinsky (who drew an audience of 50 million when her interview ran during the Clinton presidency), but the disparity in ratings says as much about the changed media landscape as it does about the interviewees’ star power.

Walters didn’t invent TV’s celebrity interview. That distinction belongs to Edward R. Murrow and his 1950s show, “Person to Person.” But Walters turned the celebrity profile into a kind of art form. She was unthreatening enough to land the big names, but probing enough to retain her journalistic credibility. For that, and everything you brought into our living rooms across the airwaves and throughout the ages, you take the Golden mic – although we all know, and hope, not for the last time.

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.



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