Category Archives: Event marketing

CEO Alert the courts want your Social Media Policy 2

Social media policy: Stern or lenient?

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here. 

It’s relentless. You find stories every day on Google that announce how someone got fired for posting senseless comments on social media. We call that getting “dooced”.

Sometimes, the comments are intended; other times, not. Who can forget the Royal Bank of Scotland Chairman Rory Cullinan who did not mean to go public when he sent Snapchat messages to his daughter saying he was bored at work. Cullinan lost his job after his daughter posted them on Instagram. It’s almost unbelievable that people will broadcast their most risky thoughts in a public forum.

And yet, they do.

This blog is not for those idiots. It’s for the vast majority of human beings who are sensible, generally respectful, and who appreciate guidelines to avoid the “lack of common sense” that occasionally befalls all of us.

You’ve probably already been alerted to potential disputes such as these:

  • Are you legally exposed when it comes to the rights of employees who want to freely post on social networks?
  • Who is liable when a disgruntled employee tweets about getting passed over for a promotion?
  • What about a customer who complained on Facebook about their restaurant meal to a reporter. Do you respond?
  • Should you just ban all employees from accessing their social media sites at work completely?
  • What exactly is the proper way to go about sensitive issues?

Your company—big or small—needs a social media policy advises social media pioneer Olivier Taupin of Next Dimension Media. He’s the guy who originated group rules for LinkedIn managers. The degree of leniency is up to you and your management team to decide based on the structure of your company. By the way, if you don’t have a policy, your lawyer’s hands are tied when it comes to an employee suing for wrongful dismissal because they dissed your company online. You will have a difficult time winning in court because you never told employees they couldn’t do what they did.

Examples of social media policies

Social media policies that are too broad may lose the chance to help employees develop good habits. You might even miss finding great “brand ambassadors” for your brand message.

Zappos is an example of a company that’s created a brilliant social media culture. Their policy is seven words long: “Be Real and Use Your Best Judgment.” It’s too brief for my taste and the Zappos policy is not for everyone.

Policy wonks generally refer to three approaches when making rules of engagement. The first is evolutionary to see which slip-ups—and opportunities—present themselves more frequently before scripting instructions. A second way is to establish a clear policy from the outset which leads to a third hybrid option. This method starts with composing a strategy based on your culture before determining what needs to be adopted over time.

For example, you may prefer this stern approach to social media:

  • Employees who develop and update social media postings will only do so with the approval of the president or his/her designate;
  • Only employees that have been chosen as “official” social media representatives are allowed to contribute to the brand’s social media;
  • Social media is not allowed in the workplace at all.

Oracle’s social media policy has evolved over the years. This global enterprise with 130,000 employees that designs and manufactures IT networks previously regarded social  media as a “hindrance to productivity because it could lead to too much personal use.” The company now encourages “…all employees to share official company social posts and content on their own social channels.”

There’s evidence this change-of-heart recognizes that employees with a greater voice are a happier workforce, says Eric Siu in The Globe & Mail.  He’s referring to research from the University of Warwick on how happiness makes people 12 per cent more productive.

Personally, I don’t think harsh policies are relevant today. It’s a switch-up from “Old Style PR” designed to focus on things that employees cannot do rather than what they can do.

Olivier adds that stern policies will not work in the context of social media since employees do have a life outside their workplace.These narrow-minded policies will not prevent some of the most damageable posts: Those made in the privacy of their home on personal social media accounts where they’re speaking with their friends and followers.

Don’t forget sites like Glassdoor, either, cautions Olivier. They encourage anonymous and identified authors to post reviews of current and former employers and company executives.

I like the IBM method which allows employees to comment on behalf of the company while retaining some of their personality. Here’s an example: “Lead Development Representative for #cloud at @IBM#Bluemix #Softlayer – I like fashion and news. Tweets are my own opinion.” 

IBM’s last item in their policy cheekily reminds employees: “Don’t forget your day job. You should make sure that your online activities do not interfere with performing your job responsibilities or commitments to customers.”

I also love this one from GAP when it comes to confidentiality: “Don’t even think about it. Talking about financial information, sales trends, strategies, forecasts, legal issues, future promotional activities.”

6 More Ideas for Your Social Media Policy 

When crafting guidelines, make are the 7 essential Must-Dos:

  1. Start Day One. Include briefing notes for new employees on policies in their employee handbook or however you hire a new person. Make sure that employees understand the policy is contractual and there are consequences for violating it. This early start sends the message that you’re serious about social media management.
  2. Update your Social Policy Regularly. Social Media is a fluid environment that reflects the laws governing the Internet. Expect your policies to change accordingly.You will need strategies in place as you learn this new marketing tool.
  3. Please use common sense. Yes, it seems everyone should know to resist sending a racial slur, demeaning or inflammatory comment. Yet, it’s a good idea to err on the side of caution and tell employees to be polite. Advise them to agree to disagree with others, especially on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, where things can go viral wrong very quickly.
  4. Create safe places. Have a genuine open-door policy. Organizational trainer David Meade says it’s the leader’s job to figure out how to help your workforce feel safe. Why? Because employees want to feel respected…listened to…and trained. So, if an employee has a grievance, encourage them to visit their supervisor before taking to social.
  5. Ask employees to amplify key messages. Social media more likely will pay dividends if employees are behind it. Give them access to content that framesss company positions and directions on key subjects. Ask them to share those messages. Also think about using social as a way to build buzz for upcoming products or services.
  6. Encourage Self-Monitoring. More and more HR departments are checking employee profiles and activities. Controversial? Yes, for good reasons. Informing employees they do not have reasonable expectation of privacy in their social media communication is often a good enough deterrent. But there is even a better one: Encourage employees to follow each other and invite managers to connect with them. The purpose is to create a team spirit, not a police state.
  7. Most important of all: Don’t stop training your employees after day one. Use the training sessions to update your workforce on policies and as strategies change.

Everyone wns.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program.

Social selling needs CEO Champions

Where’s the evidence for social selling? Look here!

By Sharon A.M. MacLean
Still not convinced that social enterprise adds to your bottom line? You’re not alone.
“Only 52% of companies say that executives are informed, engaged, and aligned with their company’s social strategy,” reports the Altimeter Group on the state of social enterprise. Altimeter was founded by New York Times best-selling author Charlene Li who penned Leadership and Groundswell. Her group says the path to social enterprise is being limited by a dearth of executive buy-in.
Too bad.
CEOs might take social action more seriously if they knew that modern marketers deliver on average 20 percent more revenue and 60 percent higher profit growth. McKinsey & Company—named in the top 10 of Fortune magazine’s World’s Best Companies for Leaders—adds to the fuel by noting that leaders must champion social change if it’s ever going to happen for an organization.
The bottom line on social selling, asks LinkedIn powerhouse Melonie Dodaro: Can you afford to be beaten by competitors?
Hubspot hands us these stats: 72.6% of salespeople who use social media outperform their colleagues who aren’t using it…that includes your competitors.  Dodaro asks business leaders if they can afford to be outperformed by their competitors by 70%. If you want to pick up speed, here’s a few steps to take.
From Nataly Kelly, MarketingProfs
1. Establish a social business program with goals that reflect the realistic value of building relationships online. Next, apply the social framework to departmental goals that include a number of new leads.
2. Take some training. This may include social media boot camps to get your leadership team on the same song page. You are going to need resources for training and tools to get employees on board with your social media strategy, new technology, and new social workflow. 
From Melonie Dodaro, Top Dog Social Media
3.  Optimize your online presence for the company and for sales reps. This means producing profiles with strong copy, including professional head shots, and ensuring that unique aspects of each social network are taken into account. 77% of B2B buyers do not speak with a salesperson until after they have performed independent research notes HubSpot. So, it’s important for prospects to be impressed when they look for you. There’s no point in losing a potential sale even before you get out of the starting gate.
4.  Current statistics show that 1 in 3 business professionals around the world are on LinkedIn. This makes LinkedIn an amazing tool that you can use to gain access to potential prospects in your target market. If you understand how to operate within the LinkedIn environment, social selling can be a powerful tool for your business and will only continue to get stronger with each passing year.
5. Therefore, take the initiative. Social selling combines the age-old skills of relationship selling with the modern practise of online engagement. Create (or find) high-quality content that is valuable to your prospects and relevant to the services you offer before using it as a way to open up dialogue via private messages.
6. Join relevant LinkedIn groups that attract your target market. Share valuable content daily through your LinkedIn status update to stay top-of-mind with your network. A common mistake, I see, is where LinkedIn professionals join their professional groups and spend time commenting in those groups instead of building relationships in their client  groups. I made this mistake during my early days on LinkedIn; the turn-a-round made a big difference in my own business. 
From Jesse Noyes, Kapost 
7. Marketers need to practise accountability and answer these questions:

  • Who are the key content players and what role will they play?
  • How will topics be prioritized?
  • What resources are needed to create content? What resources will need to be added?
  • How will tasks be tracked to get content out the door?
  • What can be done to ensure content gets seen externally and internally?
  • How is success measured?


From Nick Johnson, Incite Marketing and Communication

8. I have a lot of time for this global enterprise which  recently polled their network of big brand marketers on “The Future of Content”. They asked how much more total potential audience could content reach. They answered this way.

3% not much more
18% more than half
54% less than half
24% not sure

Only 21% of respondents felt they were even approaching audience saturation. There’s still a lot of room to grow.

9. The value of negative comments. Recently, a business owner asked for my recommendation on how to deal with a negative comment they’d experienced. The CEO felt it was completely unfair to his family-run business. The comment was bogus, yet, nonetheless it existed.

If  you can help an unhappy customer, you will benefit from the good will generated. Even better, others will see that you took the extra time to care for a slagger who took a swing at you.  Chris Krohn, CMO at, thinks it’s more valuable for your customer to leave a negative comment on social media than to leave no comment at all. He says to cherish every Tweet that says your brand “sux”, because at least now, you have the chance to prove that your brand does not, in fact, “sux”.

10.  Leave room for creativity. I like this story from Toni Jones, U-Haul International, not least because of experiences with my own client, Sharon Romank of Affordable Storage Sherwood Park. They are completely different businesses but come from a similar genre: moving and self-storage.

Jones came up with an innovative social media-based campaign for the iconic brand. Her social listening found that, while U-Haul was associated with a high amount of negative sentiment online around the stress of moving, lots of people were taking pictures of themselves posing inside or outside the trucks on moving day. In the case of Affordable Storage Sherwood Park, Romank thought self storage might not be interesting enough to warrant publication of a newsletter.

U-Haul invited their customers to send in pictures of themselves with their trucks. They did –-thousands of them. These pictures were  placed among a collage on the trucks themselves, creating another frenzy on social media as people tried to find themselves, then took pictures of themselves with themselves.

In the case of Affordable, the newsletter with stories from renters and ideas about self storage generated a 50% opening rate; typical opening rates that are considered good hover around 16%  to 18% .  Customers store their precious goods with Affordable and are very keen to stay connected with the company looking after their property long-term. The U-Haul campaign was a roaring success. What was the key, according to Jones?  The project let consumers be creative. Nothing crazy, nothing involved. Just the act of staging and taking a picture was enough to inspire connection.

Business owners will become convinced that social enterprise is good for their bottom line when they start to see similar irresistible evidence.  It won’t be long.


Need help with your strategic content? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: You can also pick up more ideas from my website:

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.


8 steps +1 more to navigating the media maze  

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

Most leaders of commerce and the community want media coverage for their organizations. They understand the power of journalistic exposure for their mission and recognize that space in traditional media is at a premium.  Invariably, these influencers also want reporting only under these conditions:

  • If it’s positive
  • If the message is controlled
  • If they look good

A veteran broadcaster who, as journalists are fond of saying, moved to the “dark side” of public affairs published a new book this summer on his perspective from both sides of the microphone.

The Honest Spin Doctor is a 93-page account by Grant Ainsley for people who want to pitch the media on covering their story. That’s his photo above this blog. It’s also for those who want to avoid deeper scrutiny by journalists and find themselves in a news maelstrom. Either way, he says it’s possible for CEOs, politicians, and spokespeople to be honest in their relationships with reporters.

What’s captivating is Ainsley’s recall of names and details throughout his career. He’s also candid about his fear of the unknown, especially when Ainsley decides to move out of the broadcast booth and into the world of corporate communications.

The award-winning journalist uses breezy story-telling to deliver his lessons. Yet, don’t underestimate the modest approach. Ainsley describes several real-world examples of how miscalculations by poorly prepared spokespeople went terribly wrong. Anyone remember former chairman of BP Tony Hayward and the blown-out well of Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico? Or Lululemon Athletica Founder Chip Wilson and the stupid comments he made about women’s thighs?

Edmontonian Grant Ainsley started his radio life in 1977 as a disc jockey at CKSA Lloydminster before moving that same year for a job in the newsroom at CFQC Saskatoon. He returned to Edmonton in ’78 for news posts at CHQT followed by 96 K-Lite as news and public affairs director for 10 years. The guy paid his dues.

The move in 1992 by the CRTC to allow radio stations to cut back on the spoken word prompted Ainsley to change his profession. He joined the City of Edmonton’s public works department in communications before taking on The Alberta Home Builder’s Association as CEO for 12 years.

The Internet was just starting to take hold in business life in those years and much change was afoot in the world of media.

This book comes at a time when employees also want to see their leaders become more vocal in sharing their perspectives about the future. They want their chief to alert them to what’s coming down the pike so they can prepare themselves, as well. Increasingly, employees want to know more about the values espoused by their executives and understand who they are as people and what really drives their thinking.

These precepts make a leader today and applying Ainsley’s ideas for getting along with the media make good sense, too.

Here’s some of his notions that stood out for me. But you can get this book for yourself at to find more.

1. Build a long trap-line

This is the foundation for any solid media plan—heck, any marketing plan. Ainsley encourages readers to build a database with these details:

  • Names of reporters and outlets
  • E-mail addresses for reporters as well as assignment editors in print, radio, and television
  • Contact details for relevant bloggers
  • Contact information for weekly newspapers
  • The B list of names for people who are not members of the media but who are relevant to the story.

2.  The media release is king

  • Develop an announcement in the way a reporter might tackle the story. Find out the W5: who, what, where, when and why. And how.
  • Learn the position of a reporter by following their by-lines or Twitter feed
  • Keep the media release to one page
  • Include a quote from a spokesperson

I would add that media names be organized into separate tiers, based on their social authority and influence.

There are many social tools to help you find influencers, including Followerwonk, Klout, Topsy,, and Group High.

3. Timing is everything

Ainsley likes Monday morning announcements at 11 am because reporters generally are thirsty for news at the start of the week. He also likes to schedule television news conferences at 11.30 am.

He doesn’t talk that much about the print media, so I recommend becoming aware of daily and weekly newspaper deadlines as well as magazine closing dates. Reporters and opinion columnists also have different writing styles and cut-off-dates.

4. Supply a variety of content formats

Develop a complete media kit with these contents:

  • Media release
  • Fact sheet
  • DVD with a memory stick
  • High resolution photo of key players

5. Embrace social media

There’s every opportunity today for organizers to cover their own special events, says Ainsley. If a reporter or assignment editor won’t respond, organizers can try doing it themselves by building up social media contact lists to receive messages and postings. Campaigns centres also can be set up during the event to distribute live content.

Yet, the latest social media industry report from Social Media Examiner tells us that a big concern for organizers in 2014 is figuring out how to find their online target audiences—journalists and reporters, in this case. How to connect also remains high on the list of questions.  More attention is required here.

6. Develop a communications policy

I like this one, a lot, and Ainsley includes a sample policy in his book. He recommends that company spokespeople be identified in advance, reveals how go-to people might conduct themselves, and explains the rules for non-spokespeople. A safe way to get started? Take them all for training.

7. Develop a social media policy

There is no escaping the increasing momentum that social media has on business every year. The same industry report from Social Media Examiner tell us that 92% of business indicates social media is important for their business, up from 86% in 2013.

Here, again, Ainsley addresses salient points that will keep organizations in front of any potential for a media crisis. His chapter 3 title says it well: “Companies need to deal with social media, or a lot of things will start crawling out.”

Ainsley gives his readers a sample policy in the book and suggests that companies explain what employees can and cannot say in social media when talking about the company.

He also recommends that someone be assigned to check to see if employees are following policies from time to time.  Don’t have a policy? Don’t count on the courts to see it your way if the company is slammed.

8. Grant’s 4 steps to a great interview

Readers will gain tremendous insights by scouring The Honest Spin Doctor and adapting ideas for their place of business. Here’s just a few tips in summary from a clear, crisp read:

  • Learn everything possible about the subject and the announcement
  • Develop key messages
  • Practice until every possible question and answer turns easily inside the head
  • Executive with confidence

9. Follow-ups are crucial, but don’t stalk

I’m adding this final point on follow ups with the media using email. Top influencers may not acknowledge every mention or tweet in social media but followers must respond when they do.

When making contact via email, be clear how the email address was obtained (if it’s not readily available to everyone) and also remind the person of the social media relationship. If the influencer replies, great. If not, do not keep sending emails. Continue the outreach via social media instead.

I liked this book.  If you want to navigate the media maze, you will, too.


Need help with your strategic content? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: You can also pick up more ideas from my website:

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.


PR interviews

Event promotions: New vs old ways

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

You have a big event planned seven months down the road. The inspiration for hosting the occasion is genius, hundreds of people are expected, and you have confidence the media will cover it like a blanket.

Oh, really?

Working with assignment editors, journalists, and bloggers today is considerably different compared to just a few years ago. These changes have escaped the attention of some traditional organizers and it’s heart-breaking when a good cause loses out on valuable coverage, especially in the social sphere.

Back in the day, a plan may have included a media conference to announce an event, phone calls to pitch stories to favoured reporters or columnists, and public service announcements (PSAs) to catch free time available on radio or TV.

I’ve been fortunate to see how media works from both sides of the fence: first, as a PR hack before joining my late husband–a hard newsman–to start up a magazine that covered the business community for  21 years. I discovered that publishing decisions were difficult to make because so many requests for coverage were valid. It’s even worse, today. Available space has been cut back further at the big dailies unless there’s cash attached while TV stations—often run from major hubs thousands of miles away—don’t appreciate local priorities.

Here’s how a campaign usually rolled out back in the day.

  1. Create a list of reporters to pitch stories in print, radio, and television with street address and phone number. Usually ignored the assignments editors and producers who assigned stories to reporters.
  2. Prepare a one-page advance media release for distribution about one month before the event. The pros attached photos and bios of key people associated with the event with hopes of scoring advance coverage.
  3. Place  -30- at the end of a release to convey they were in the know.
  4. Send out 25-word PSAs about 60 days in advance with hopes the radio stations would run them during air time not purchased by paying advertisers. The pros knew stations were governed by law to dedicate PSA time for non-profits.
  5. Host a media conference six weeks before the event, so media outlets had equal opportunity to hear and write about the announcement at the same time. Considered only fair by organizers; reporters didn’t care.
  6. Schedule a promotional lead-up event to announce the real event. See if any media would come out to write an advance for the story. Reporters usually knew it was a non-story and didn’t show, so the guests got all the free food and beer.
  7. Call the reporters to see if they had any interest in attending the real event because it was considered to be irresistible. Reporters preferred hearing stories about the birth of two-headed calves on farms.
  8. Hand deliver news releases to local media and couriered news releases to national media in hopes that media would cover their event 3,000 miles away. Paid big courier bill at the end of the month.
  9. Deliver cute gifts or food to on-air personalities on the day of the event with hopes that broadcasters might say something nice about their event, even score an interview.  Better food sometimes worked.
  10. Post a PR guard at the door to the event with prepared background materials for reporters, in case they had more than two inches of space to fill in print or air time on late, late news.

Compare the old ways to these new ways of getting out your story—including to the media.

  1.  Understand who you are speaking to and figure out the relevance.
  2. Think like a reporter and answer the important questions: who, what, when, where and why. Help the writers by connecting the dots for them; they often don’t have time to research the topic enough to see the angle.
  3. Formal is out. Be relaxed and genuine in your conversations; people call that being authentic today. This style helps differentiate you from distribution houses using a template email to blast hundreds of reporters.
  4.  Remember that most people read emails on mobile devices with smaller screens. Avoid attachments, including news releases. Reporters rarely open them.
  5.  Before you ask for something, ask and answer questions posed by the reporter or blogger on social media; retweet and share their content, and then finally share a unique spin on your own story. If you can distill your message down to an elevator pitch with 140 characters, you might have the heart of a good story.
  6.  Like all of us, journalists’ ears perk up around a well-known-name or if you’ve done something remarkable. If you can’t spark their interest immediately, this is where you spend time building a relationship with the journalists you’re trying to reach through social media.
  7.  Become your own publisher. Build up the special event’s database for an email marketing campaign to reach those who really care about the organization and its issue. Send them content such as your blog, short video series, podcast.
  8.  Build up the event organizations’ own fan bases on Twitter, Facebook and relevant networks. Do this several months in advance to allow for traction.
  9.  Follow the scribes in their respective social networks to determine their preferred medium for communication, the topics they relish writing about, and how they develop their story angles.
  10. Create a list of journalists, reporters and bloggers in all media with addresses for email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Calculate their social footprint meaning how many and what type of followers they have.
  11. In the case of a PR pitch, your audience is the reporter and her or his readers. Craft the message so that it matters to the particular writer and the topics they cover.
  12.  Have you got publishers on your list? This group of people differs from journalists as they are responsible for revenue streams. Think how the publisher might build a special edition with relevant advertisers around your proposed theme. They will become fans.
  13.  Did you secure a story, interview or media mention? Share it on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. If it makes sense, share it on Pinterest and Instagram, too. The inherent nature of social makes it easy to multiply the effects of great publicity. Make sure to @message the reporter’s handle or username when sharing on social. A recent survey from Vocus, a leading cloud-based PR software, found that sharing their work was the number one reason journalists are using social media.
  14.  Sure, it’s more work, but make each pitch a separate email and customize it to speak specifically to each journalist. Make them feel special.


Need help with your strategic content? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: You can also pick up more ideas from my website:

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.