Should every company have a social media editorial policy after Daytona?

The controversy over the supposed censorship of fan videos taken at the Daytona International Speedway has raised some important questions that organizations using social platforms to build networks of loyal fans need to consider.  If you don’t know what happened you can read my post here that provides more details.

As somebody that has worked as a journalist, in the broadcast rights department of a major network and a PR person, there are five questions raised by the NASCAR debacle:

  • Who owns rights of videos shot at event venues when they don’t show content covered by broadcast rights agreements or a sport’s governing body?
  • Does anybody with a smartphone become a citizen journalist when something like this happens – and content becomes reporting, rather than an attempt to capture copyrighted content for commercial sharing.
  • At what point do videos cross the line from journalism to being content that breaches third-party copyrights?
  • What is a brand’s social editorial policy on fan videos shared on social platforms?  Should they have a proactive moderation process to ensure quality, but also give them control over the timing that certain content is posted? Should an organization employ a social media editor to make decisions when things like this happen?
  • Should social platforms add an additional message to explain that some videos are being held back temporarily in situations such as the one in Daytona?

The problem for brands is that consumers have become used to sharing content [photographs, audio and video] via social platforms with friends, associates and others with a shared interest.  The perceive any attempt to stop it as censorship and this often reflects negatively on the organization.  When it’s content owned by the user perhaps they have a point – but when it’s content that impacts the perception of a brand shouldn’t the organization have a say in what is, and isn’t posted?  And, when something like Daytona happens, shouldn’t organizations should have a plan to ensure that the dignity of those involved?

The realities are that brands, NASCAR included, will generally encourage fans to share content that helps promote their brand; accidents, such as the one over the weekend, are – thankfully – rare; and most brands are social savvy enough to know that blocking content is not a good idea.  Personally I think NASCAR got it right – albeit the message visitors to YouTube received gave them the wrong impression.

After the weekend I’m guessing a few more brands will be reviewing their social content policies and start to look at what their social editorial policy should be in similar circumstances.  What’s your take on how NASCAR handled the situation?  Does your business have a social editorial policy?

Who owns online video?

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while and now seems an appropriate time to do so.  It’s unfortunate that the stimulus is a horrendous crash at the Daytona Speedway in Florida on the day before the famous 500, and my thoughts are with all those involved.

Video is without doubt the hottest properties in social media.  It’s growing exponentially and will continue to do so in the coming years, whether it is so-called ‘citizen journalism’ aired by news organizations to break stories or add colour, videos created by brands or their fans and posted online via sites like YouTube, MetaCafe or DailyMotion, or short videos shot on cell phones using apps like Vine.  If, as we’re told, a picture tells a thousand words then video is worth… well, you get the point.  One of the biggest challenges – as highlighted today by video shot by fans at the Daytona Raceway of a crash involving around 12 cars and which resulted in debris landing in the grandstand – is who owns the rights to that video.

Reports on twitter suggest that video posted to YouTube by fans has been removed on copyright grounds.  It’s unclear whether this is part of an ongoing agreement between the channel and NASCAR that automatically removes anything relating to the sport’s governing body or as a direct request.  [Note: at the time of writing I checked YouTube and some videos of Daytona – both of previous years’ races and today’s crash remain on the site.  I did not find any of the debris in the grandstand after a brief search but there may be some.  Mainstream media is showing some video of the accident and photographs of the debris at this time].  Whatever the specifics it raises issues that every PR, marketing and social media team needs to consider.

Brands are encouraging fans to share videos that support its products and services but what do they do when something like this happens.  Where does a brand draw the line when it comes to events that are being broadcast on mainstream media channels or streamed online to paying subscribers?  What constitutes brand fanning and what impinges on the rights of mainstream media?  What happens when a tragedy like today’s crash at Daytona happens?

I don’t have the answers – there is no one-size-fits all solution that can be applied to every  organization or situation.  Each organization needs, however, to have a policy – and a plan for crisis management – and apply it uniformly.  It’s a conversation that involves PR, marketing and social media teams, commercial broadcast partners, event partners – like the Daytona Motor Speedway – and their respective lawyers.

My biggest concern with events like those at Daytona is that video – and reports – collected from members of the public needs to be treated with caution because, while it tells a story of what the individual experienced, it may not necessarily tell the whole story.  Context is a critical in cases of citizen journalism – but that’s a whole other conversation for another day.

Update: 8pm ET

ESPN is sharing, via Twitter, a statement issued by NASCAR and attributed to SVP and  Chief Marketing Officer Steve Phelps explaining that the organization took steps to block fan videos on YouTube because the severity of the situation was unknown and out of respect to those involved.  It has been met with mixed reactions from some on Twitter.

As a marketeer and PR guy I can understand why NASCAR would adopt this position.  I have not seen the censored videos, but would have had somebody monitoring anything uploaded to social channels so that a decision could be taken on each one individually.  No doubt NASCAR has a crisis communications plan, but this demonstrates how even the best laid plans can be tested in an era of real-time communications.  We’re all learning as we go and anybody that tells you otherwise should be treated with caution.

Update: 9am Sunday 24th

The videos have, it would appear, now been published by YouTube.

Slowly Slowly, Catchy Monkey

When I was growing up there was a saying I heard time and time again. First from my parents, then from my grandparents and finally my teachers, I would repeatedly hear the phrase, “slowly slowly catchy monkey” when I got frustrated that things weren’t progressing as fast as I would have liked. The phrase was supposed to tell me that by playing a long game, rather than looking for instant gratification – whether saving my pocket money for something I’d seen in a store, or making progress at one a sport or another. I was told repeatedly that with patience and putting in the requisite work I would succeed in whatever endeavour it was I was invested in.

In the era of the real-time internet this strategy can, often, be forgotten. People expect that because communication is instantaneous – whether communicating with customers via email, or journalists via Twitter or LinkedIn – that objectives will be achieved in similar timescales. In many – actually, in most – cases, this is not the case. This is particularly true when it comes to marketing and public relations. You launch a product – you expect to have customers lining up to buy it.

You tweet a link to a blog post and you expect there to be a flurry of activity on your website. You “engage” with an influencer on a social platform and you expect their followers/friends/fans to be instantly gain their trust. You position yourself as an expert and, within weeks, you’re expecting people to be waiting with baited breath. That’s how social media marketing works, right?

Wrong! Imagine if you applied the same principle to other areas of your life. You start a new job and expect to be appointed CEO within a couple of months because you demonstrate you can do your job well. You earn a good salary for your work, so expect to be able to command six figures within months because you build relationships with senior members of the executive team. You pass your driving test, so expect to be able to compete in IndyCart or Formula One… I’m not saying it never happens, but it’s unlikely.

Credibility, influence and trust take time. Persuading somebody that they should buy your product rather than a competitors doesn’t happen overnight unless you have a really disruptive product or service – and even then, the fact that it is disruptive often means the market takes time to adjust. But that’s not a bad thing. Instant successes often aren’t sustained – just think of all the “one-hit wonders” that litter the annuls of the music industry… all the artists that had a top 10 hit and were never heard of again.

As you build a marketing and public relations plan for the coming year the key is to be able to sustain the successes. Build measurement in to a plan to show that you’re making progress and identify key milestones that will be key to achieving your overall goals come the end of the year. A journalist that writes for one of the leading technology startup websites, TechCrunch, summed it up best at an event I attended before Christmas when he said, ‘Do something cool. Talk about it. Then do it again!”.

Marketing success – as with anything else – takes time, so when you’re building your marketing and PR plan for 2013 remember what my grandmother told me… “slowly slowly catchy monkey”.

*this post was originally written for SBCN Canada

UnMarketing is actually… er, Marketing?!

Last year I was given a tongue-lashing by the publisher of a video feature because I suggested that a comment about Scott Stratten was unfair and unjustified. Rather than me re-hashing the post, you can read it – and the ensuing exchanges – here.

The response did, however, get me thinking.  Had I judged Scott prematurely? I wanted to read his book “UnMarketing. Stop Marketing. Start Engaging.” to see whether I’d been unfair to Scott in my assessment.  I took copious notes as I read the book – I admit I skimmed a few pages – and I intended to write a detailed review pointing out what I agreed and disagreed with. But, I realized nobody wants to read an almost page-by-page critique – they can read the book and draw their own conclusions.

So, I’ve decided to distil my take on the book with these two observations:

The title is wrong.  What it should, in my opinion, have been sub-titled is ‘Stop Selling. Start Marketing.’

Everything described in the book is essentially marketing.  Un Marketing is, it would appear, otherwise known as marketing!

But ‘Stop Marketing. Start Marketing’ doesn’t work, does it?!

When did a media blackout become censorship

Watching the Christopher Dorner manhunt come to an end this evening with an eye over twitter, I saw people claiming that a request for a media blackout was censorship.  Having worked as a journalist for a number of years, I wanted to explain what it is, why it’s used and how unusual it is.

A media blackout is actually a very rare event and it’s not an attempt to censor the press.   It is a way of protecting the safety of  public, investigating officers, or to ensure that an ongoing operation can be executed without alerting suspects to operational details that may aid them in evading capture.  A media blackout is also something that can be enforced by a judge in a court case until the end of a trial, or to protect the identity of witnesses and juveniles.

In many occasions it’s actually not something that is publicized – it’s usually a conversation between the media liaison officer at the relevant agency and local editors/correspondents.  The press doesn’t publicize that they’ve been asked not to report certain information – it would make the blackout pointless – because they understand that agencies make it rarely and with good reason.  They also realize the potential potential backdraft if they publish information that results in the injury of death of the general public or police and EMS workers.

In today’s real-time media world, where tweets are as common a media outlet as more traditional broadcast and internet platforms for breaking stories, it is necessary for the police to make a public request for the media to respect a blackout.

THINK DIFFERENT[LY] | My marketing plan for #BlackBerry10

I’ve been pretty hard on BlackBerry in recent months.  I’ve criticized their marketing and suggested that it will result in the eventual demise of the company.  I’ve said the launch of  the company’s make-or-break new operating system, BlackBerry 10, was an unmitigated failure and poured scorn on their Super Bowl advert.  So, it’s only fair that now BlackBerry 10 has launched, I share what I would have done differently to try to turn around the ailing company.

Re-brand. While Research In Motion announced it was to become BlackBerry last week at the launch of BlackBerry10, it should have done it when current CEO Thorsten Heins took over at the helm of the company from founders Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie last January.  It would have given the company a full year in which to reposition and rebuild the brand.

Re-message.  BlackBerry has been, the company claims, been “redesigned, re-engineered and reinvented”.  I quite like the message, but the company should have re-launched its message in Q1 or, at latest, Q2 last year.  It would have sent a message to customers and prospects that the company was relevant and encouraged those that were considering Apple’s iPhone 5 or one of the many Android devices a reason to put off their purchase decision.

Focus.  The company needed to define who its target audience was – in detail.  BlackBerry still describes its target audience as ‘hyper-connected’ individuals.  This is everybody… and nobody.  It makes developing a product and marketing it incredibly difficult.  It also makes it difficult for people to identify with the brand – especially given that fewer people identify themselves as BlackBerry users than in the past.

Become the entrepreneurs friend.  Hyper-connected people, and with a real need for a phone that helps them manage their business lives.  They have a finely balanced work-life balance and need a smartphone that helps them to put business first, but also serve their personal lifestyle outside of the office.  There are also, my design or circumstance, more entrepreneurs than at any time in the smartphone era because of the global economic downturn.  The President of The United States of America is a BlackBerry user – and helping Americans and the US economy at a time of need would have been a great PR opportunity.

Find brand ambassadors.  One for each customer demographic would be good.  The company announced Alicia Keys as the company’s Global Creative Director at the BlackBerry10 launch, but it didn’t go far enough.  How about an Enterprise brand ambassador, a sports ambassador, somebody that entrepreneurs can relate to… I don’t know the specific names of the ambassadors, but I’m pretty sure that Alicia Keys won’t help the company sell to retain Enterprise business.

Establish ‘Entrepreneur Bars’.  OK, so the name is not right, but why not establish business centres that can be used, much as Apple has Genius bars, by business customers to get advice on technology, as well as finance, legal, patent, sales and operations experts. Make a friend of an entrepreneur by helping them to build a successful business and, I suspect, they’ll remain loyal.

Establish partnerships.  Incubators and accelerators would be a great opportunity for BlackBerry.  Grants, bursaries, competitions for developers to create apps for the new OS would have been a great way to get the next generation of entrepreneurs on side and talking positively about the new handsets/operating system.  

Free upgrades for existing customers.  If not free, then subsidized.  No matter how long remains on existing contracts I’d suggest all BlackBerry users were given the opportunity to upgrade to a new BlackBerry10 device.  It’d get handsets into the market in bulk and make a brand ambassador of every exiting customer.

Stop Thorsten Heins from doing interviews.  I don’t mean any disrespect, but he’s not able to connect with the company’s major target demographics.  BlackBerry would really shake things up – and set an example for the industry – if it found somebody in their 20s or 30s to do interviews, launches and consumer-focused [I include both B2B and B2C in this] PR.  Thorsten is perfect for investor and partner relations activities so I’d focus his energies on these activities.

One launch.  The launch was effectively one event, from New York City, streamed to viewing parties around the world.  Make it big – think Google I/O skydivers or Apple iPhone the first time around.  If this is the OS on which the fortunes of the business rests then it needed to be memorable – the BlackBerry10 launch wasn’t memorable.

This is just a start – there needs to be a tactical BlackBerry10 launch plan, but I believe the company missed significant opportunities to score easy victories in the run up to the January 30 launch.  Missed opportunities that, I believe, will cost it dear in the coming weeks and months.  Tell me I’m wrong.  I’d love to hear your ideas on what BlackBerry should have done to improve its chances of making 10 a success and saving itself from oblivion.

BlackBerry Is Dead

You’re a company on its knees. Your future depends on selling significant volumes of a new product in one particular territory. You have an opportunity to tell your target audience why they should buy your new product.

You spend millions buying air time. And then you develop this 30 second spot…

BlackBerry called it an ‘execution’. I’m calling it suicide. It’ll be studied by marketing students for generations to come. As a marketer I can’t even begin to understand why somebody at the company thought this was a good idea!

I’ve been saying that it would be the marketing that killed RIM [now rebranded BlackBerry] and it’s new BlackBerry10 operating system. If this doesn’t convince those that told me I was wrong, I don’t know what will. I didn’t think it could get any worse than the ponytail cutting that preceded the launch of BlackBerry10 last week. I was wrong.

BlackBerry’s Marketing Director, Frank Boulben, should be fired. Whoever developed the creative for the advert should never be allowed to practice again. Anybody who saw the advert before it ran and didn’t say anything deserves everything they get!

I’m calling it now. BlackBerry. Is. Dead. #RIPBlackBerry

You can read my previous posts about RIM/BlackBerry/BlackBerry10 here


BlackBerry [$BBRY] stock rose more than 15% on the first day of trading under its new ticker symbol and is up 5% in pre-market activity at the time of writing this.  This does not change my fundamental view that BlackBerry will fail as a result of an inability to market its products and differentiate against its competition.

Was the #BlackBerry10 launch was a success or a failure?

Sadly, after a long wait, it was an unmitigated failure.  RIM… sorry, BlackBerry, needed something a little special as it launched the product that it believes will see it through the next decade – but what we got was more of the same.  While we won’t know for sure what impact the launch of #BlackBerry10 will have on sales – my prediction is that it won’t be positive – here are some specifics about why the launch was a car crash for RIM.

It started late.  The event was scheduled for a 10am ET start, but didn’t get going until 10.15.  The video stream started at 10, but it was a series of interviews with the product development team and a haircut for Kevin Michaluk – otherwise known as Crackberry Kevin.

It was preluded by somebody having their ponytail cut off!  I’ve done a few product launches in my time – and I’ve studied more than I can count – but it’s the first I’ve see where the main event involve somebody getting a hair cut!  I’m guessing it will also be the last one I see.

It was presented by Thorsten Heins.  It shouldn’t have been.  Given the company announced Alicia Keys as Global Creative Director why not make the announcement  before the main product announcements and have Ms. Keys do the launch?

It was held on the wrong date.  Given the company has invested in an expensive Superbowl advert why hold the launch four days before?  Especially when the US marketing effort doesn’t start until Sunday.  BlackBerry should have held the event on Monday February 4th.

It was two-speed.  Pedestrian and clunky presentation on stage, interspersed with high tempo video promos – there was no rhythm to the launch.

The products rose from the stage on a music stand.  What was that all about?  They’re pocket-sized… could Thorsten not have taken them out of his pocket?  What was the music stand all about?

The livestream was a tight one shot. Which meant those not at the event missed what was on the screen behind.

The demos were too long and tried to show too many things.  You also felt like you were eavesdropping on a private conversation between Thorsten and Vivek Bhardwaj.

The response in the room at the New York City launch was muted.  BlackBerry clearly underestimated the lack of enthusiasm they’d get from attendees.  They should have called Rent-A-Crowd in order to ensure a rapturous welcome for each announcement at the BlackBerry10 launch event.

No carrier support.  There were a few carrier contributions in the preamble, but none on stage to support the launch.  With US Carriers being critical to a BlackBerry revival, their absence was worrying.

No app developer support.  They may not have been asked, but if they weren’t… why not?!

No hint at the marketing effort.  RIM has invested in a commercial advert for this weekend’s Superbowl, but there was no hint of what we might expect.  This was the perfect opportunity to get people buzzing about the spot BlackBerry will run.  The marketing, according to reports, starts on Sunday – FOUR DAYS after the official #BlackBerry10 launch.

Alicia Keys.  The way they built it up, I expected to hear that BlackBerry had poached Jonny Ive… or persuaded somebody like Norman Foster or James Dyson to come on board to help their product design efforts as Global Creative Director.  Aside from the why… why announce it at the end?  Why not have Ms. Keys do the presentation – she knows how to command an audience and there would have been hundreds of press images of her with the new devices.  Sure, there were some taken after the event, but she didn’t touch one of the handsets during the launch.  A huge mistake.

Keep Moving.  Less than 30 seconds was spent on this.  It sounded interesting and, presumably, will be a large part of the company’s marketing efforts.  Why not at least show a preview or name some of the athletes involved.  Could this be the Superbowl spot?  [I had to Google ‘BB10 Keep Moving’ to find the video]

It just kind of fizzled out.  There was no summary that told viewers they’d reached the end of the launch.  The screen on the webcast just faded to black [or blue].

Based on the #BlackBerry10 launch, if the company avoids oblivion it’ll be more luck than judgement.