Thursday, December 29, 2011

The new Facebook Timeline. It’s our new “permanent record”

By: Susan Finco, President, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

Remember in grade school or high school, when you were faced with the threat of something going into your “permanent record?” We always wondered who kept those permanent records and how long would they follow us through life. Then, as adults, the thought of a permanent record became a bit of a joke (maybe with the exception of our personnel files at work – never a joke).

But now it looks like your permanent record has become a reality. Facebook’s Timeline is very much like a permanent record of your life. As with all things Facebook, any major changes to the existing format are met with skepticism, criticism and eventually, acceptance (after all, who has a choice in the matter?)

The Facebook Timeline is a new kind of profile; one that literally turns everything you’ve ever posted on Facebook into a personal history. I would highly recommend you not simply accept whatever Facebook gives you for your Timeline. The Timeline can be changed and edited, and you’ll want to do that so it reflects who you are right now. Eliminate those college beer party pictures, comments by your ex partners/spouses/boyfriends/girlfriends, etc. Do you really want future employers or associates to see all of that?

There’s plenty of help available online to help you sort through the new feature. A couple of stories I found useful include:
Love it or hate it, the Timeline will be implemented on all Facebook accounts, so now’s the time to learn about it and figure out what you want included in your personal history, or I should say permanent record. It’ll be there…until the next Facebook change comes along.

Have you tried out Timeline…do you love it? Hate it? What tips do you have for customizing the Timeline?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2012 PR trends…what’s on your radar?

By: Angela Raleigh, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

With only days left in 2011 it’s that time of year when the PR pros are looking ahead to the opportunities and challenge that 2012 will bring. Here are five trends to keep in mind.

1. Relationships remain critical. PR has always been about creating and enhancing relationships and connections with others. But in the social media world, this also couldn’t be more true. Look for new people and organizations to connect with, but don’t forget to say connected with the people who you already have relationships established with.

2. Crises will continue. Whether a crisis hits the news media or social media channels, crises will continue to occur in 2012. Some will flare up quick and die out just as fast, while others might lag around. In either case, knowing how to handle the situation properly will help mitigate the crisis.

3. Social media integration. With social media platforms continuing to expand and develop, concentrate your efforts on the channels that offer your organization the greatest ROI and compliment current PR strategies. It might be Google+ Business page for one organization and a Facebook Fan page for another. Remember to not get overwhelmed. Pick your channels, keep it simple, listen to what others in your industry are saying and engage in the conversation.

4. Traditional media is not dead. Traditional PR tactics will be enhanced with new and innovative ways for engaging audiences through social media. For instance, you may choose to pitch a reporter via Twitter instead of email. The brief nature of social media makes it the perfect place for reporters to get information quickly.

5. Continued Improvement. The one thing constant in PR is change. As PR professionals we must embrace change because it is a part of our daily working environment. One of the most important aspects of effectively implementing change is ensuring that everyone involved clearly understand the reasons for the change, the likely impacts, as well as the methods used to create the change and the expected benefits.

What’s on your PR radar for the New Year? Will any of the above be a factor in your PR success in 2012? I’d welcome hearing your predictions.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2012: Time for a PR refresher

By: Kristen Paquet, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

The holidays make many of us think about the future and the inevitable list of resolutions: lose weight, read more, be more community minded. The New Year is a great time to renew yourself and your lifestyle. But it’s also a good time to renew the company PR plan.

Just as people can fall into a mundane routine or a rut, so can the actions you take with your PR plan. Taking time now to review your plan (or develop a plan if you don’t have one) and making just a few updates can help ensure success throughout the year.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Do you have a big event coming up? Launching a new product? Working on a special project? Determine if anything your company is doing is newsworthy well in advance so you have time to plan ways to attract local media. 
  • Take a look at your website and social media accounts like Facebook. Can any of these tools use an upgrade or be refreshed in any way? Make sure the content is current and that all links work properly.
  •  Start a photo archive of activities and events and make it a point to include photos with any news releases that go out. 
  • Scan national headlines on a regular basis and contact area media outlets to offer a local perspective when appropriate. 
  • Develop or update the company media kit and send it to local media outlets so they know they can tap into your expertise for any stories. Make hard and electronic copies.
You took the right step to develop a PR plan for your company – now make sure you use it! Making simple updates can yield a big benefit in the long run. Who else has ideas to help renew a PR plan for the New Year? Please share!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Can You Keep a Secret?

By: Susan Finco, President, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

Can you keep a secret? From childhood on, all of us are asked from time to time to keep a secret, or maybe we’re the one telling a secret. You hopefully learn which secrets really should be kept, which ones have little meaning and which ones should definitely be brought out in the open.

One of the great secrets of modern times was “Deep Throat,” the name Bob Woodward of the Washington Post gave to the informant who provided him with information about the Watergate scandal. The secret lasted for 31 years and was only revealed when the family of the informant, former FBI associate director Mark Felt, went public.

I sincerely doubt that kind of secret would hold that long today. The world of instant media means everything is pretty much fair game to inquiring minds. That’s today’s reality. In fact, I am amazed when people or organizations are surprised that their secrets – recent or long held – come to light and are subject to public scrutiny. There are so many examples, be it Herman Cain, Penn State, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Kim Kardashian, to name just a few. In the case of something that’s illegal, immoral or unethical, it’s a good thing these situations are exposed. But really, do the private details of Kim Kardashian’s divorce warrant all this media coverage? (Can you tell I’m not a fan?)

But it isn’t just public figures and institutions that are subject to today’s wide world of secret-busting, instant media. All of us would do well to stop and think about what we’re posting online as well as how we live our lives. It is an open book where secrets don’t last for long.

Have you thought about how today’s media world impacts your personal life or, perhaps more importantly, how it could impact your life in the future if you are keeping any secrets? Have you, or will you, change what you post or how you live?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Crisis Management 101: Understand the magnitude of the problem and get PR help quickly

By: Cole Buergi, Senior Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

The sexual abuse accusations against assistant coach Jerry Sandusky at PENN State University has destroyed a once pristine image of a college steeped in rich history, championship athletics and an educational experience second to none.

The school is now reeling from backlash as more details surface about the extent of the alleged abuse and who knew what and when.

Examining this from a pure public relations perspective, the university’s leadership has failed in the handling of this crisis. The incredibly slow response by the college to even acknowledge there was a crisis shows me just how much the school believed in its own infallibility.

The leadership appears to have completely ignored the magnitude of the problem and to get outside PR help immediately to make efforts to stay out in front of the story. Only recently has the school hired an outside PR firm, skilled in crisis management, more than a week after the first news story appeared about the abuse.

During that time, the university’s famed head coach Joe Paterno was forcibly retired, students have protested in the streets, more victims are coming to light and the depth of who knew what and when is starting to become known.

Hindsight is 20/20, but all PR experts know that when in a crisis mode, the first thing to do is assess the situation to determine its magnitude and then immediately assemble the resources to address the issue. In this case, hire outside PR experts! The goal is to get out in front of the story, working to shape the message and minimize the damage to your brand.

The university did none of this and now the story is out of their control. In fact, their lack of reaction is only adding to the appearance of complacency with the happenings around them.

If brought on board immediately, could a crisis management team have saved the university’s reputation? That answer can never be known, but a swift, proactive response would have definitely helped give the impression the school was working to find out the truth instead of cover it up.

Only time will tell if the PR team can salvage or rebuild the image of this famed college.

I’m curious to know what our readers think about it. If the university’s leadership had reacted more quickly, could the story have taken a different direction and not done as much damage to the college’s image? What do you think they should do now moving forward?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Looking to Increase Your Search? Turn to Google+ Pages

By: Angela Raleigh, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

For businesses and brands, increasing your Google search results just got a little easier. Google recently launched its Google+ Pages, which helps businesses and brands set up an online presence and acts as another avenue to connect with customers and fans.

You may be wondering, how is this any different than Facebook or Twitter pages? It’s a question that crossed my mind as well and from my research I found that it’s similar in respect to companies being able to set up an online identity. But Google offers something extra with Google+ Pages, higher ranking in Google search results. Google+ Pages are added to Google search results, making it quick and easy to come across pages with a simple “+” sign.

Now, you could do a search for “Fox News Facebook” or “Fox News Twitter” and the pages will appear at the top of the search results. But by simply typing a “+” in front of the company name or brand, for instance “+Fox News,” the Google+ Page appears. Or, to make things even simpler you could type “+F” and get a listing of all the Google+ Pages for businesses and brands that start with the letter F. The lists of pages are small right now, but I am sure the lists will grow in the coming weeks and into the future.

Google+ Pages offer another option for any company looking to establish a presence on the Internet. People can add the pages to their Google Circles in order to follow the business or brand and select a “+1” to publicly recommend the page on Google. Google+ Pages might not be right for every company, but it’s definitely something you’ll want to check out.

What do you think of Google’s newest launch? What type of an impact do you think Google+ Pages will have?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Remember a Veteran on 11-11-11!

By: Scott Stein, Sr. Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

A week or so ago I was visiting my favorite store, Festival Foods in De Pere. I normally don’t go down the aisle with the greeting cards, but for some reason I did on this day (probably to avoid another congested aisle). As I strolled past the greeting cards I noticed a new section of cards commemorating Veterans Day.

I don’t ever remember seeing cards for Veterans Day, even though the greeting card industry seems to create many new holidays or observances just to sell more of their product. But the small display of Veterans Day cards really hit me. Maybe it’s because my 89-year-old dad is a Navy veteran who served during World War II and in Korea and I’m not sure how many more Veterans Days he’ll have to celebrate.

So I checked out the different cards. There were cards for dads who are veterans, as well as cards for specific branches of the Armed Forces. It was actually a tough decision, but I settled on a card that I liked and now I just have to remember to get it in the mail so it arrives at the right time.

I don’t send or give cards very often, usually just birthdays for special people in my life. Of course, each Christmas I also vow that I will consider sending Christmas cards next year. But sending a card to the very special veteran in my life just feels right; it’s an opportunity to say thanks for everything he’s done for me and for our country.

I’d encourage you to join me this Veterans Day. Send a card to the special veteran in your life. Even if you don’t have a close relative who is a veteran, surely you know someone who has bravely served his or her country and would appreciate being remembered on 11-11-11.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Christmas is only 58 days away! Are you ready yet?

By: Kristen Paquet, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

Holiday visions of a beautifully decorated house, the aroma of cookies baking in the oven and gifts wrapped and placed under the tree are meant to portray the perfect holiday setting. But let’s face it, for many of us, the holidays can quickly become one big ball of stress. Between the shopping, visiting family, parties, wrapping and baking, there is just a lot to do.

So I have decided to create my own holiday tradition: Do as much activity and holiday prep as I can using technology. This will include:
  • I’ll get my holiday shopping started while sitting on the couch and visiting my favorite websites. Don’t you just love Cyber Monday?
  • No worries about a holiday card this year! I’ll just pick a photo of the kids from one of the many dozens I have stored on my computer (who prints out pictures?) and make my own e-card to send to everyone in my email contact list. 
  • My husband is impossible to shop for. Instead of wandering around the mall, I’ll just send out a quick tweet asking anyone following me for suggestions. Or maybe it should be a Facebook poll…
  • Kid’s holiday concerts are at two different schools at the same time. Not a problem. My husband and I will divide and conquer. He’ll Skype me in via his cell phone while at my son’s concert and I’ll do the same for my husband while I’m at our daughter’s concert. Multi-tasking at its very best. 
  • Cookie baking will be a breeze this year. I’ll just whip up as many cyber-cookies as I can with my new Cookie Maker app. I can “mix” the batter and even decorate my cookies and send them to friends. It’s just as good as the real thing and no calories to count!
Actually, I’m just kidding. I might do a few things using a bit of help from technology, but for the most part, I plan on taking a few photos (which will still probably never get printed) and then plan to put the electronics away to enjoy the time “live and in person.” The holidays may be a crazy time, but can you really picture it any other way? I mean, really… a cyber-cookie?

What I’m wondering, though is if there are any good apps or websites that other people use to help make holiday prep a bit easier. Please share!
Oops… our countdown lost a few minutes… better get started!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Link Up with LinkedIn

By Kristin Rabas, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

This past week, I gave a presentation for a Green Bay Chamber of Commerce event about LinkedIn and how to use it for networking, a job hunt, recruiting and to grow your business. There were a number of great questions and it got me to thinking that a little refresher on the basics of LinkedIn might be helpful. 
  • Networking. Search for people you’ve recently met at business or networking events, former and current co-workers, professional friends and industry leaders.
  • Adding connections. When adding connections, mention how you know the person in your invitation. For instance, “It was great meeting you at the Chamber breakfast yesterday and chatting about social media. I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn.”
  • Groups. Search for and join groups that will benefit you professionally. Look for groups that are specific to your industry, alumni associations or groups that interest you. Groups offer forums for discussions on a variety of topics.
  • Job Search. There are a number of ways to search for jobs on LinkedIn. Job opportunities can be posted in any group, on a company’s home page or you can search for positions right from your profile page.
  • Profile. Make sure your profile looks professional. LinkedIn is not as casual as Facebook. Start by making sure you have a nice headshot as your profile picture, not one of you on the beach during your last vacation. In addition, keep your work experience, education and specialties up-to-date. You never know when the right person might be looking at your page.
  • Complete your profile. Make sure your profile is 100 percent complete. LinkedIn will make automatic recommendations on people you should connect with and jobs you may be interested in based on your profile. The more complete your profile is, the more accurate your recommendations will be.
  • Accepting connections. Remember that one of the main purposes of LinkedIn is to network and connect with others. If you don’t know a person that asks to connect with you, don’t be afraid to reach out to them and say you would like to know more about them before you connect.

LinkedIn can be an extremely useful tool when it comes to networking, looking for a job and growing your business.
What aspects of LinkedIn do you utilize the most? 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Tribute to a Visionary

By: Cole Buergi, Senior Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

The world lost an icon and visionary when Apple co-founder Steve Jobs lost his battle with cancer. I consider Jobs to be the Ben Franklin of our time, pioneering some of the greatest technological advances in computers and portable technology which has forever changed the world.

It seems almost impossible now, but try to imagine our world without smart phone technology; lightweight, portable music players; or powerful, tablets designed for ease of use and portability. For many, the world would seem to stop if we couldn’t text, share a post on Facebook or Tweet an update from our phone.

Add in the ever expanding world of apps that was created to fuel this technology and you would be hard pressed to find anyone in the world that hasn’t been impacted in some way by Jobs’ vision.

I was in grade school when Apple first competed head to head for the public’s growing appetite for personal computers, ultimately losing out to the PC in much of the business world yet managing to secure a stable following in the school systems.

Reflecting back on his life, I wonder how things would have been different had Apple computers become the standard for the business world in the 80s and 90s. Instead of playing catch up for much of those two decades, what kinds of wonderful technologies could have Apple, with Jobs’ leadership, created?

We’ll never know but I thank Jobs and Apple for the technology they did create. I currently own an iPod and iPhone 3 and I’m looking forward to getting the iPhone 4s when it’s available locally. These are just two of the many technologies that have bettered my personal and professional life.

Thinking about your own life, how has Jobs’ vision impacted your daily activities?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Read all about it…on WSJ Social

By: Angela Raleigh, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

The world of social media continues to evolve and this time the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) launched “WSJ Social.” The app allows users to access WSJ content within a platform on Facebook without requiring users to visit the newspaper's website.

It makes sense. With an increasing number of people spending more time on social networking sites, they have less time to spend on news websites. And with social networks being a primary source for information, why not have news available where people are already obtaining a good amount of information.

You may be asking yourself, how is this any different than an online newspaper? Well, after granting the app permission to access your Facebook information, you have the ability to read and subscribe to streams of content. The app helps create news that is personalized to each user and provides an easy way to read and share news with friends.

The downside is that with all new things there are limitations. Users of “WSJ Social” are not able to search for specific news stories. Instead you can read stories that are featured on the pages you’ve subscribed to or if someone you’ve subscribed to “likes” a story, it will appear on your page. So if you are looking for a specific news story, you might have more luck going directly to the newspaper’s website. Ultimately this could help increase WSJ website traffic, which I am sure was a thought of the team who created the platform.

It’s not surprising that newspapers are starting to extend their services and offer news via social networks to increase engagement with subscribers. “WSJ Social” is just another easy way to share and get news from others. Do you think this platform will be a success? Will you be one to try out “WSJ Social”? Thoughts or reactions about the new news platform?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Should news be convenient?

By: Scott Stein, Senior Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.
A new survey of high school students recently caught my attention. The survey by the Knight Foundation found that more and more high school age kids are getting their news from social networking. In fact, 56 percent indicate they look to social networks as a daily source of news and information.

If you’ve spent any amount of time around any high school students, that survey finding is probably not a surprise. Most kids seem to be glued to their smartphones or computers these days.

But a few of the other survey results were what really caught my eye.

While more than half of the students said they were daily users of social media for news and information, it wasn’t the only source that they cited.
  • 77 percent say they watch TV for news at least once a day
  • 54 percent report they read an article online at least once a day 
  • 48 percent watch video news online at least once a day
  • 42 percent say they read an article in print at least once a day
Again, not a real surprise. Few people remain as adamant as I am about reading a printed newspaper on a daily basis.
What I really found interesting is the way the students felt about the truthfulness of the news sources. While only 42 percent said they read an article in print at least once a day, 88 percent of the respondents felt that newspapers were very or somewhat truthful. Television news came in next with 78 percent believing TV was very or somewhat truthful.
When it comes to social networks, just 34 percent of the high schoolers felt they were very or somewhat truthful. Which begs the question…If you’re skeptical about the truthfulness of the news and information on social networks, why are more kids seeking news from that source?

Like so many things today, the answer is probably convenience. If you’re already hooked up to the social media to communicate with your friends, why not use it as a news and information source. It’s easier than taking the time to sit down and read the daily newspaper.
What do you think? Is convenience driving the way you get your news?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Would social media have made a difference?

By: Kristin Rabas, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

This week marks the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. From television programming, special ceremonies, dedications and more, it seemed like the whole world was remembering the day in one way or another.

Personally, I took an interest in the documentary, “102 minutes that changed America,” which aired on multiple channels the morning of the 10th anniversary. The documentary contained many never before seen clips of the attacks from residents and tourists of New York City who shot video on their cell phones or video cameras.

One thing about this documentary that intrigued me was the amount of confusion that surrounded that morning. Obviously, nobody ever expected something like this to happen, but it seemed like it took a relatively long time before anyone had any idea what was going on.

For many of us, 10 years ago might not seem all that long ago, but keep in mind Facebook wasn’t launched until early 2004, YouTube wasn’t created until 2005 and Twitter didn’t launch until 2006.

If Facebook, Twitter or YouTube would have been around on September 11, 2001, what do you think would have been different? Would the ease of sharing information have made the morning less or more confusing for the world?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Inspiring Dale

By Kristen Paquet, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

You know how every once in a while you can feel down about yourself? Like nothing in your world is going right and if you have one more thing put on your list of things to do you think you will actually crack? I was feeling that way a few short weeks ago.

Then I saw Dale on TV.

Dale is a 12 year-old boy who took a trip to the beach off the shores of Washington with his church group on August 5th. Dale waded a few feet into the water only to be swept up by a riptide that took him farther and farther out from the shore. Several people tried to save him, but the current was just too strong, the waves too high. One minute Dale was yelling for help, the next he was gone.

When emergency personnel arrived and went into the water to find Dale, they weren’t very optimistic about the outcome. But after several minutes of searching, they found Dale and brought him to shore, not breathing and with no pulse. Dale had been underwater for 20 minutes.

Call it luck, a miracle, faith, effective CPR, whatever. The emergency responders didn’t give up and after minutes of treating Dale, they felt a pulse. He had survived. After four days in a medically induced coma, he opened his eyes.

It isn’t the story about Dale’s unbelievable brush with death that day that made me take notice, it was the story about his recovery. There I was, complaining about having too much to do while this young boy was in the hospital, learning how to walk and talk all over again. Dale continues to go through hours of intense therapy in order to do the simple tasks we all take for granted.

This story gave me a great thing: perspective. It made me take pause for a moment and remember how lucky I really am. When you look at what this 12 year-old boy has had to go through and how strong he is, I realize that I really have no reason to complain about my daily tasks. In fact, bring them on.

Has there been a story you’ve heard about that has given you a bit of perspective? Please feel free to share!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Want to build trust, be transparent

By: Cole Buergi, Sr. Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

There aren’t many rules when it comes to social media. People can pretty much say whatever they want, whenever they want. Sometimes comments spark heated debates and, at other times, what you might consider to be a comment that would start a vigorous debate, goes unnoticed.

But one thing almost every social media user agrees on is being transparent with your comments. A misstep in this forum, purposeful or not, will almost assuredly create serious backlash against you and whatever item, activity or business your promoting.

What does it mean to be transparent? It means acknowledging that you have a personal stake, directly or indirectly, in what you’re promoting on social media.

A positive example of transparency I recently saw on Facebook was that of a well known and respected Green Bay area TV news anchor who promoted that an area store was having a sale. She also noted in her post that the store was owned by her husband. That’s a great example of showing transparency and she received positive responses from her friends including me.

I’ve also witnessed other scenarios on social media where someone had posted a glowing review about a service or product only to find out later that the person posting the comment didn’t acknowledge that it was a client of theirs. I felt my trust was betrayed and so did many others judging by the number of people calling that person out on the carpet for not acknowledging the client relationship.

If you plan to promote a product or service and you have a client relationship or personal stake in that product or service, be forthright and mention it. Doing so will strengthen your relationship with the people that feel you have something important enough to say that they chose to want to read about it.

Have you ever felt misled by a social media review? What did you do about it?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Should you tie PR efforts to the 9/11 anniversary?

By: Susan Finco, President, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

In the PR world, we often recommend clients tie some of their PR efforts to seasonal events, activities, holidays and even anniversaries. But 9/11 is another story. When this terrible tragedy occurred, and in the subsequent years following the terrorist attacks, no one would have even considered promoting their company or organization by linking it to the 9/11 anniversary date (at least you hope not). Now, ten years have gone by and there are indications that the “off- limits” approach is starting to change.

Advertising Age® recently ran an article “Marketers Tread Carefully into Sept. 11 Anniversary” explaining that many of the major broadcast and cable networks are going to air programming relating to the anniversary and there will be paid sponsorships of these programs. The feeling now seems to be is that it’s OK to pay tribute to the anniversary date rather than avoiding it. But, the programmers are being very careful as to what those sponsorships and commercials look like and where they’re placed.

What does that mean for PR; especially on a more local level? At Leonard & Finco, we’re advising our clients to be careful. If your firm or organization has always recognized the day by volunteering, holding a memorial or doing something to mark the anniversary, you should be OK letting the media know about it. Likewise, if you’re sponsoring a memorial event, that’s OK too. I wouldn’t recommend sending out a news release announcing it to the world; rather, call or email a journalist you know and fill them in. Approach it from a “If you’re looking for a local story relating to 9/11” perspective. Keep in mind the seriousness and meaning of the anniversary.

We do not recommend you hold an event or activity related to 9/11 simply to generate publicity or in the hopes you’ll receive coverage. Not only is it inappropriate, you could face serious backlash. If you do something, do it for the right reasons.

I realize this may be a very conservative approach and viewpoint. Is your company or organization commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11? If so, how are you handling the PR? Love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The only constant is change

By: Angela Raleigh, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

Any person who has worked in the PR industry would agree that one of the only constants is change. Target markets are constantly subject to change; consumer tastes and preference can be unpredictable; and the platforms in which we receive information continue to change with new developments in technology. But most people dislike change for the fear of the unknown.

However, change is essential to your survival and the survival of your company. Every day we deal with change. The change that happens to us as individuals and the change that happens to the environment in which we work. Today we have competitor “x”, tomorrow it will be competitor “y”. Today we have a front page feature story and tomorrow we have a small mention on page 13.

For years print, radio and television were the main avenues for receiving information. Today we still have print, radio and television, but we’ve added the internet and hundreds of social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

How you handle change from a PR perspective should be determined on a case by case basis since most situations can vary. Be sure to consider the following:
  • Does the change benefit the business or client goals?
  • Will key messages change? If so, how will you communicate the changes to those involved?
  • What strategies need to be developed to implement the change?
  • Based on the strategies, are there new work practices and protocols that need to be implemented?
  • Will employee responsibilities change? If so, what training will be required?
  • Review the pros and cons of implementing vs. not implementing the change.
As PR professionals we must embrace change because it is a part of our daily working environment. One of the most important aspects of effectively implementing change is ensuring that everyone involved clearly understand the reasons for the change, the likely impacts, as well as the methods used to create the change and the expected benefits. How do you best address and manage change in your organization?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It may be their right, but is it the right setting?

By: Scott Stein, Senior Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

Having spent many years as a news reporter, it’ll come as no surprise that I feel strongly about the important rights included in the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights…freedom of the press and freedom of speech among them. So when it comes to those who protest every move that Gov. Scott Walker makes, or those who choose to picket outside military funerals, I won’t argue that they don’t have that right.

In fact, I’ve been to a couple of events where protesters were present. At one location the protesters were picketing outside of the event I was attending. At the other, the protesters made it rather difficult to hear what the governor was saying. Nonetheless, they were certainly within their rights to be there and take those actions.

But at some events, I feel the protests are simply out of place, including the protest against the governor at a ceremony honoring the Special Olympics. Granted, it was a silent protest, but those participating still disrupted a program that should have been all about and for the Special Olympians here in Wisconsin.

The most recent event was the opening ceremony for the Wisconsin State Fair. Reports indicate that about 60 protesters disrupted the ceremony, trying to shout down the governor during his brief speech. The State Fair has a long history of being a family-friendly event with a strong emphasis on Wisconsin’s farm heritage. It’s a tremendous honor for the kids who win the right to exhibit their animals or other projects at the fair. And some of them were among those attending the opening ceremony and witnessing the protests last week.

Then there are those who protest outside the funerals of military personnel killed in action. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that “such speech cannot be restricted simply because it is upsetting or arouses contempt.”

I have to wonder if these are appropriate settings to protest and picket. Certainly there are many other venues where protesters can carry their message to the public without intruding on a special event for kids or causing further pain for a grieving family. Yes, I will continue to argue for people’s rights to protest, but I will also argue that there are times and places that are more appropriate than others to carry on those protests.

Let me know what you think.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Foursquare – More than a game

By Kristin Rabas, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

The growing popularity of social media globally is also leading to a boom in social media tools. The most popular are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Another tool that is quickly growing in popularity is foursquare. It hit the social media scene about two years ago and since its launch has gained more than 6.5 million users worldwide.

Foursquare is a location-based application that encourages users to “check-in” from wherever they are using their smartphone. Users can see where their friends have checked-in, write reviews and receive tips about businesses, find nearby businesses, receive special deals and more.

At first, businesses were slow to embrace this application because of its “game-like” features. As a game, the user collects virtual badges and points for checking-in at different locations. If you check-in to the same location more than any other person, you become the “mayor” of that location. What does being mayor mean? Nothing really, it’s just a game.

However, foursquare is more than a game. It can be a useful tool to attract new customers, offer promotions and discounts to consumers and for businesses to monitor what is being said about their products or services.

Similar to a rewards card that you punch every visit, businesses can attract customers by offering them special discounts when they check in. It’s a great way to build customer loyalty. For example, the following foursquare promotion took place in the Green Bay area; Check in at Aerie in Bay Park Square and unlock a 15% discount toward your next merchandise purchase.

Monitoring what is being said about your business or product is another benefit. Every time you check-in, you have the option to review tips about that business or write your own review. As social media grows and people become more and more dependent on peer reviews and word of mouth marketing, these types of reviews and tips can serve as a great marketing tool or a way to learn how to improve your business or product. From getting comments about weekly specials to learning about bad service, foursquare has endless potential for connecting with customers. It’s almost like a virtual comment box!

Personally, I use foursquare and I love it. Do you currently use foursquare? What advantages or disadvantages do you see?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Feelin’ Happy?

By: Kristen Paquet, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.
So, has the recent announcement of the change in McDonald’s Happy Meals made you, well, happy?

In case you haven’t heard, Mickey D’s is cutting calories by adding apple slices and taking away about half of the fries inside each beloved red box in an effort to make the meal more health conscious (original Happy Meal: 590 calories, new and improved version: 470 calories).

But will this change make a difference? Will the trimmed down version of the Happy Meal make a dent in the more than 12.5 million obese children in America? Is it meant to?

A quick scan of online articles and message boards shows the sides are somewhat divided. Some feel the change is a start in paving the way for healthier food options at fast food restaurants while some say that fast food is bad food, no matter how many apples you throw at it.

My concern is that this latest McDonald’s update will result in the same reaction that many Americans tend to have to a change like this: that a “healthier” Happy Meal option translates to the Happy Meal now being “healthy,” or good for you. And because a Happy Meal is perceived as good for you, many more will be ordered, thus continuing the cycle of unhealthy eating habits. Let’s face it; the lower-cal options aren’t created because a restaurant cares about a person’s overall health. They do it because they want to sell more products.

But like most people commenting about the Happy Meal, I find myself in the moderation camp. A trip to McDonald’s (or to any other fast food establishment) should be limited to every once in a great while. All the packing and marketing claims aside, in the end, it’s about our own personal choices. We are ultimately responsible for our own health and the well being of our children.

How about you? Do you think McDonald’s is on the right track or is the cycle continuing?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Accomplishing Unthinkable Feats Because of Technology

By: Beth Kneisler, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

I recently read a news story about a woman who is planning to swim 103 miles this summer from Cuba to Key West, Florida. The woman is 61-year-old Diana Nyad. What I found most interesting about this story is that one of the reasons Diana is so confident in meeting her goal is because of the technologies that will be utilized during her journey.

Diana first tried attempting this brave feat in 1978 when she was just 29 years old, but she was forced to abandon the effort due to weather conditions. Despite her age now, the technologies that she’ll be using may just help her meet her goal! Diana and her team will be using satellites, global positioning systems, advanced navigation software and special electronic “shields” to help deter ocean predators. Because of the technologies available now, just 33 years after her first attempt, her
team will be able to accurately forecast when weather conditions will be ideal for her journey.

This story is extremely amazing and inspiring and it got me thinking about how I take technology for granted. I used to view technology as something that makes things simpler in our day-to-day-lives. And while this is certainly true, advances in technology are allowing people to achieve amazing things! Take a minute to think about how much more you can accomplish during any given day. Thanks to the Internet and smart phones, we can research, respond to emails, schedule meetings and appointments and pay our bills all while accomplishing other tasks at the same time! Think beyond that to how technology has allowed us to develop the land rovers on Mars and help amputees with a technologically advanced arm or leg. Diana Nyad’s story is a great example and reminder of how much else we can achieve through today’s technologies.

Do you have any examples in your life that technologies have allowed you to do something amazing? What about examples of how technologies help you achieve things on a daily basis, whether it’s personally or professionally? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Summer Disconnect – Not a bad thing

By: Susan Finco, President, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

For the first time in several years, I know of people taking a summer break or vacation and actually going “off line.” They don’t take their Blackberry, iPad or laptop or, if they do, they don’t check in more often than once a day. The amazing thing is, when they return, they’ve all remarked “it was the best (most refreshing, most fun, take your pick) time off I’ve had in a long time.” The world didn’t end, their deals didn’t fall through and their co-workers stepped up to help out. They actually had a break and it was a good thing.

We have all become instant communication addicts (me included) and we’re hooked on knowing everything and answering everything RIGHT NOW. We laugh about being “addicted” to technology, but there is some truth in that word. It begins to take over your life. Raise your hand if you’ve had lunch or dinner with a good friend, only to do a quick check of your messages / Facebook / Twitter and then return a call, email or post in the middle of a one hour lunch? Think about that. Was it necessary? Really? (And I’m a guilty party.)

I’ve come to realize that you don’t have to be connected every single day or even every single hour. In fact, there are some big advantages to disconnecting. What are we missing by not paying attention to the world around us? Are you really listening to what your friend is saying? Are you enjoying the sunset in front of you? Are you learning from what that conference speaker has to say? You certainly won’t have that refreshed feeling after returning from a few days off if you’ve spent most of the time checking in.

So, how and when do you disconnect? Or don’t you. Love to hear your thoughts on the topic.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Is technology making our lives better or is it taking over

By: Cole Buergi, Sr. Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

Skynet, an artificially intelligent system designed to safeguard America’s nuclear weapons, becomes self-aware and revolts against mankind in the blockbuster movie Terminator and its sequels. I can remember watching Terminator when it premiered in 1984 and thinking how scary it would be if that could really happen.

Flash forward to 2011 and take a look around. Technology is everywhere, becoming an entrenched part of most people’s daily lives. Whether it’s a smart phone, iPad, laptop or some other technology gadget, like it or not, we are becoming very dependent upon them.

Are we getting close to creating a real life Skynet situation where technology rules our lives or tries to take over?

No, that seems a bit extreme to me but it is amazing to see how technology has changed our lives, much of it for the better and, arguably, some of it for the worse. Today you have apps that can start your car from anywhere, turn lights on and off in your home, find the music you like or monitor your health. You can Skype with people around the world or post photographs for the entire world to see in mere seconds. Convenient technologies for most and, if you can think of it, there is probably an app for it.

On the flip side, technology allows you to be tracked just about everywhere you go, you can be reached 24 hours a day by anyone and it’s almost impossible to get away no matter where you go. Even worse from my perspective is seeing teen’s texting each other while sitting only a few feet apart. I’m not exaggerating.

I, for one, would struggle without technology. I rely on it heavily for work and for my personal life. Could you “survive” a week or even a day without technology? Imagine what that would be like. What would you miss the most? Do you ever fear we are too dependent upon our little devices?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Celebrate Independence Day with Social Media

By: Angela Raleigh, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.:
This coming weekend, individuals and families will celebrate Americas’ independence. It’s a day full of parades, picnics, barbeques and watching fireworks. But it’s also a day of reflection on why we celebrate this holiday and it’s a great opportunity to remember our troops that fight for our country.

Fortunately, social media networks provide individuals and families the opportunity to communicate with loved ones who are not able to make it home for the holiday. But as you may know social media networks also act as a gathering place for information and sharing about common topics or subjects. Three social media outlets in particular are most commonly used by individuals wanting to share messages, photos, in-depth information and videos with those who are close and far from home during this time of year.

• Twitter, love it or hate it, is a powerful tool when it comes to holiday news. A number of Twitter hash tags are already in use to celebrate the 4th of July and to remember our troops including #July4th, #IndependenceDay and #WhyWeCelebrate.

• Facebook allows for more in-depth sharing of information. Groups of people come together and follow something they believe, or want information about, by “liking” a page. There are many pages that have been created dedicated to the Fourth of July.

• And of course there is YouTube, which provides the power of visuals. Expect to see video sharing of parades and firework shows throughout the weekend.

We have the freedom to network via digital technology and we are free to choose how we integrate our digital world with our daily lives. If you choose to tweet on Twitter or post on Facebook or YouTube, consider using one of the above hash tags to let those in your social network know how and why you are celebrating this Fourth of July.

Why is it that you celebrate Independence Day? Is it a family tradition or maybe you have a family member or friend that is serving our country? Also, how do you celebrate Independence Day? Do you participate in a local parade, have a barbeque or watch the sky light up with fireworks?

I wish everyone a Happy Fourth of July weekend.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Do You Have Time for Local News?

By: Scott Stein, Senior Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.
I came across an interesting article just the other day on the website Mediaite, which describes itself as the site for news, information and smart opinions about print, online and broadcast media. Columnist Philip Bump posed the question…“Where does local news fit if national and social media take up all your time?” As a recovering local news junkie (20+ years as a radio and newspaper reporter in La Crosse and Green Bay) I was intrigued.

Bump quickly points that “once upon a time there were two main ways that people learned about what was happening in the world; newspapers and the six o’clock news.” (I’ll forgive Mr. Bump for ignoring the important role the radio news used to play. Of course, while I was working in radio news I was far less forgiving of those who didn’t realize how much information came via radio.)

His point, however, is that we now have so many other sources for learning what is happing around us and around the world. Bump writes…“people can get any information they want on anything at any time. They can follow a thousand different Twitter accounts and have five hundred Facebook friends and Flipbook their way to the things that interest them. The odds that the City Council’s negotiations on a sewer contract makes the cut are small.”

Yes, I am among the legions of fans of Twitter and Facebook and do get a lot of information that way, including local news from the myriad of reporters tweeting and posting on social media (although it can be frustrating wading through all the drivel that is posted as I search for some real news.) While I do find some news via social media, it’s just not right if I don’t start my morning with a newspaper in my hand and close my day flipping among the local TV newscasts.

The bottom line is that I want to know what the city council and county board and other local governments are up to. These are the folks that are making the decisions that most directly impact my life. I, personally, don’t want to reach that day when I don’t have time for local news.

How about you? Is local news important to you? Has the shift in how we get news had an impact on what news you pay attention to?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Social Media Trends in Northeast Wisconsin

By: Kristin Rabas, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

If you’re reading this blog, it’s a safe assumption that you use social media and are at least somewhat familiar with how it works. It’s also safe to assume that at one point, you questioned what impact social media was actually having in Northeast Wisconsin and how many people where actually jumping on the social media bandwagon.

To help answer some of those questions, Leonard & Finco Public Relations surveyed media and business professionals in Northeast Wisconsin in each of the last three years regarding their use of social media.

The most recent survey found that Facebook, at 80.7% of respondents, was the most popular social network used by the media, followed by Twitter (73%), YouTube (61.5%) and LinkedIn (46.1%).

As far as the reason media uses social media, two reponses tied for the top spot at 62.9%. They were to share news stores with others and to find contacts for interviews. Other popular responses included identifying story ideas and socializing/personal friendships.

The survey also identified that business professionals are using social media a little differently than the media when it comes to work. For business professionals in Northeast Wisconsin, LinkedIn was first at 63.9%. Not far behind was Facebook with 58.8%, Twitter at 41.1 % and YouTube at 27.9%.

While at work, business professionals indicated that they use social media the most for connecting/communicating with others in the community or their industry (56.8%). Other reasons that ranked high included promoting company news and information (48.2%), connecting/communicating with clients (47.4%) and directing others to a website (44.6%).

Of those who felt that social media has had a positive impact for their companies, the top reasons included networking (64.1%), improved client/customer relations (59.7%) and increased marketing opportunities (49.2%).

Overall the use of social media networks in Northeast Wisconsin has increased since Leonard & Finco’s first survey three years ago. Are you at all surprised about these results? If so, what did you think would be different?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Big Oops

By: Kristen Paquet, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

Here we go again. Yet another high profile case of a big Twitter oops. By now you have heard of Congressman Anthony Weiner and the compromising photos he sent of himself to several women via Twitter. Oops. Apparently, Weiner thought he was sending direct messages to these women when he was really sending the photos to his entire feed. Oops again.

When the story first broke, Weiner gave more than nine hours worth of interviews denying the photos were sent by him, at times getting upset with members of the media and accusing his Twitter account of being hacked. One more oops.

Then on Monday of this week, Weiner finally came out and admitted what many already suspected. That he had in fact been the one to send the photos of himself to those women.

Why is it that these seemingly smart and intelligent people make such basic and stupid mistakes? Hello? Rule #1 of the Internet: once you put something out in cyberspace it is impossible to completely remove it. Knowing this, why would you risk your career, reputation and your personal relationships over something so stupid? There is even a national public service campaign directed to teens on the staying power of the Internet. Perhaps we need to direct the same campaign to members of congress.

Maybe Weiner really did think he was sending direct messages to those women and not his Twitter feed. But there is yet another issue. Sending an inappropriate photo of yourself electronically is no different because now someone has that image of you to do with what they want. And with networks like Twitter, Facebook and blogs, once it is out, it will only take a matter of moments to go viral.

This is a great reminder of the fact that social media levels the playing field for everyone. It’s kind of like the DMV. No matter who you are – Oprah, Lady Gaga, or Kristen Paquet – everyone has to wait in the long line and deal with grumpy staff at the DMV to renew our driver’s license. To me, social media is the same deal. We all have the same access, the same tools and the same power. A high profile congressman is no different from me when it comes to communicating on social media. It’s all about how smart you are when using it.

What do you think? Can Weiner’s very public oops serve as a lesson to other high profile people – and even those who aren’t – on thinking before we act? Will it make a difference?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Make Your Social Media Communications Effective

By: Beth Kneisler, Account Executive – Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

Every business or organization has its own reasons for joining in the social media movement, but there is one common reason to use social media: to effectively communicate with your key audiences. June is Effective Communications Month, the perfect time to assess how effective you are at communicating with your key audiences through social media.

Whatever your main purpose or goal is with social media, the real trick is to communicate in a way that is timely, appropriate and concise; all while not taking up your entire work day. Ask yourself, “Is this something my followers or Facebook ‘likers’ would be interested in, or need to know?” (…and no, your followers will not care what you just had for lunch). Does it get them engaged with our brand? Will this be something they’ll share with others? Once your information passes this test, there are a few rules of thumb to follow to effectively communicate with your social media followers:

• Monitor pages frequently – Log in to your pages a couple times each day to see your activity. There are several services that help people monitor pages and post information efficiently and simultaneously. One service I’ve found helpful is HootSuite.

• Post often but don’t get too carried away – A good rule of thumb is to post three or four times a week. Generally, site activity is slower in the afternoon for sites like Twitter or blogs, so this may be a good time to post. Don’t forget to post on other “off” times such as in the evening and on the weekends.

• Provide a wide variety of content - Make your page content unique. In addition to posting information your audience needs to know such a special sale, post non-commercial advice related to your industry, links to interesting articles, take polls, run contests and share relevant photos. Don’t forget to direct them to unique content on your website or other pages.

• Designate a couple of different page administrators – Elect a couple people that will have access to the page log in information. If you have a Facebook page, consider making them “admins” for your page. But, if you do this, remember, their personal profiles will be representing your business page. An alternative solution is to create a “ghost” profile, which is an empty page giving a staff member the ability to post on your page without having their personal page linked to your business’s page.

• Finally, measure your results. This should go beyond the number of followers or fans (although that’s a good basic measurement). How often are people sharing posts or “re-tweeting?” Is there a dialogue taking place on your page? What are sales like for the product you’ve been promoting? Also, check out how your company website traffic has been. It can be a bit overwhelming, but there are reliable, free online measurement tools that can track stats about your social media accounts.

Social media is an important tool for your on-going PR and communications strategies. If used in a strategic way, these tools can help you grow your brand and business while also generating some great PR!

How effectively have you been communicating with your followers and "likers?" Do you have other ideas about ways to communicate effectively on social media sites? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

New Grad, New Job, 20 Pieces of Good Advice

By: Susan Finco, President, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.
A couple of times in recent weeks I’ve been asked for advice by new grads who have been fortunate enough to land a job. Just as they were very nervous about finding a job, now that they’ve actually landed a job, they’re nervous about what to do; fitting in and making the most of the opportunity. I put the question out to my tweeps and fellow Facebookers and got some great responses – which are credited below and combined with some of my thoughts.

So what’s a new grad with a new job to do?

1. Be prepared to work in the trenches and earn your stripes. (Jim Reck).

2. Be on time or be early. Buy a watch and pay attention to it.

3. Be flexible both with your time and ideas. Great futures are always being redefined. (Linda Hansen)

4. Say good morning when you arrive and hello when you see people in the halls. Don’t wait for someone to address you first.

5. Be nice to everyone; support staff, maintenance, temp help. It will pay off one day. (Kathy Andreska Scaffidi)

6. Volunteer to help with company social activities and events. You’ll meet new people and learn new things.

7. Seek out a person who has been in the business for twenty or thirty years and pick their brain! Ask them, "How did you get to where you are?" "What did you do right?" "What did you do wrong?" "What would you do over again?" "What would you do if you knew then what you know now?" Cut the time it will take to climb the ladder of success by talking to someone who has already done it. Learn from their successes as well as their mistakes. (Tom Zalaski)

8. Be enthusiastic. Stay excited! (Bob Borger)

9. Show great respect for senior workers and elders who may not be fresh out of school, may not be technologically savvy, but know life. (Molly Miller).

10. Be open to new experiences and opportunities at work.

11. Continue learning. There is never a day that I don’t learn something from someone that I find interesting, valuable or trivia worthy. (Mary Andreska Dess)

12. Like what you do because you’ll never make as much money as you think you will. (Joe Smrekar)

13. Dress appropriately. Better to dress up than down. How does your boss dress? How does management dress? Take your cues from them.

14. Always have a goal ahead of you, even if it’s going to take years to achieve. (Patti Ritchay)

15. Give credit where credit is due. Don’t take the credit for something you didn’t do.

16. Listen and learn, but don’t be afraid to speak up, ask questions and add your opinion; but do so with respect.

17. Keep confidences. Don’t gossip. Know what business activities are confidential.

18. Ask an experienced person to critique you honestly. Am I dressing properly? Am I communicating with co-workers properly? Do you see areas I could improve my performance? The experienced person will be flattered that you think highly enough of them to seek their advice. (Tom Zalaski)

19. Be able to work on your own, but also learn to work as part of a team.
20. In addition to making a living, leave bandwidth for making a life (Maggie O’Hara Swanke)

And here’s one more bonus piece of advice: Four words you should never say: “It’s not my job.”

What strikes me about all of these pieces of advice is that they really are common sense – at least to those of us who have been in the working world for a while. We need to remember that these things aren’t so obvious to the new grad. Take the time to talk with and mentor new workers at your place of business. You will help them and probably learn a few new things in the process!

So what advice do you have for a new grad with a new job?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

At What Point is Public Curiosity too Much?

By Cole Buergi, Senior Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

Several “breaking news” stories of late have me asking how much is too much information? Coupled with that question is, “When is enough, enough?”

I’m specifically referring to the killing of Osama bin Laden by United States Navy Seals and the revelation that former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a child with his housekeeper while married to Maria Shriver.

Although completely unrelated in both scale of importance and impact to humanity, both have one thing in common, curiosity seekers wanting to know every last detail and to see photos. Whether it’s a photo of bin Laden’s body or the most recent clamoring by many in the public wanting to see a picture of Schwarzenegger’s child, people are becoming very demanding for wanting every last detail. Equally troubling is the demand for the information immediately and what seems to be a preference for “as it happens.”

There are some strong arguments on both sides of the coin for releasing or keeping private the photos of bin Laden, but now many in the public eagerly want to see Schwarzenegger’s child. Why? He’s a minor that has a right to his privacy and not be hounded by curiosity seekers.

I’m left wondering - is the information frenzy the result of the Internet and social media? Have today’s technologies created a global society that is unsettled unless they get instant and complete gratification for their every desire? Has social media provided too strong a voice for small, fringe groups that are curiosity seekers?

Yes, curiosity seekers have been around since the dawn of time, but has social media allowed them to band together to create a strong enough voice that people are listening?

It’s important to note that I’m a huge fan and active user of social media. It offers useful tools for business as well as staying in touch with friends and family. But like almost every technology, there can be a downside.

Do you agree or disagree? I’m “curious” to know your thoughts.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Could Your Cell Phone Save Your Life?

By: Angela Raleigh, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

I’m sure we’ve all seen emergency alerts on TV or heard one on the radio. But with the recent string of devastating weather, including tornadoes and flooding, it’s not surprising that the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is expanding its emergency alert notification system to reach more people faster.

The system, developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), will allow government officials to pass along alerts concerning emergencies via cell phone. The new system, called PLAN, or Personal Localized Alerting Network, is a free service that allows customers with enabled cell phones to receive local text messages about threats in their area. Officials at PLAN verify the alerts and relay the messages to wireless providers, who will then push the information as text messages to cell phone users in the affected area.The service will initially launch in New York and Washington, D.C. by the end of this year and is expected to roll out nationwide in 2012. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile are all on board to assist and help push the information to their cell phone users when a threat exists.

When I first heard about this, I thought it makes perfect sense. With the number of people who rely on mobile devices for just about everything, having a cell phone warning system that sends an alert to cell phone users in advance of a disaster could potentially prevent casualties and save lives.

This is a step in the right direction of getting pertinent information out quickly about natural disasters. While I think it makes perfect sense, some questions do come to mind: will consumers take advantage of the free information or will they opt out to decrease the amount of information that is sent to their cell phones? Or what about cell phone customers of wireless carriers who aren’t part of the system? I’m sure there will be some bugs to work out, but with time this should be a useful system. Thoughts, comments or other questions that come to mind?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The New World of Breaking News

By: Scott Stein, Senior Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

What was your first reaction when you heard the President was going to make a major announcement Sunday night? If you’re like me – and I’m guessing a lot of you are – you immediately turned to Twitter and Facebook to see if you could learn more. And when the first reports came of the demise of Osama bin Laden, the new news world fired up.

With today’s social media tools we want it fast, we want it from several sources and we want it interactive. Reports are that Twitter hit 4,000 TWEETS PER SECOND after President Obama’s speech on Sunday night.

Stacey Higginbotham posted an interesting take on GigaOM late Sunday night discussing the “Seven Stages of News in a Twitter and Facebook Era.” The seven stages – Excitement; Uncertainty; Searching for Validation; Confirmation; Jokes, Profits and Platitudes; Action; and Real Analysis.

No longer do we just sit back and wait for the news to come into our living rooms. We seek it out and it comes at rapid pace from traditional and not-so-traditional sources. Even now, several days after the news broke; we still witness activity in several of the above categories as the story continues to unfold.

On Sunday night, as I watched TV and monitored social media, one of the newspeople made the comment that this is one of the news events that people would remember where they were when the first reports came across. I’m not so sure that I buy that. But I think it’s certainly an event that many American’s will look back on and think about the new world of breaking news and how they learned details of this major story and maybe even added their two cents to the dialogue on Facebook or Twitter.

How did you first learn of bin Laden’s death? What do you think of the way the story unfolded through traditional and social media?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Can You Silence Social Media?

By: Kristin Rabas, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

A good portion of the world has had all eyes on Prince William and his soon-to-be-wife Kate Middleton since their engagement last year. While the wedding is sure to be filled with tradition and history, so will the way the world has to view it. According to the article “Sorry, Social Media Addicts: Tweeting Ban In Effect For The Royal Wedding” released by TIME on April 27, Westminster Abbey will be a “tweet-free zone” during Friday’s ceremony.

According to TIME, it has been arranged that signal-blocking technology will be used to prevent guests of the wedding from tweeting during the ceremony. Personally, I am bummed out! Since I am typically not around a television during the day, I was looking forward to the comments, photos and who knows what else that would be popping up on Twitter during and after the ceremony.

Besides my personal disappointment, I think this “signal-blocking” technology brings up a larger issue. During the riots in Egypt, the earthquake in Japan and many other major events that have taken place throughout the world in the last couple of years, social media has played a huge role in communicating to news sources, family members and more.

With the use of this technology at the Royal Wedding, do you think this could lead to other organizations or even possibly world leaders using the same technology to block instantaneous information from getting out about rebellions, strikes, protests, etc.?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Inevitable Question from My 9 Year Old

By Kristen Paquet, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

Last night my 9-year-old son said “Mom, Logan wants me to be his friend on Facebook. Can I join Facebook, too?”

It was a question that I knew would eventually come as he got older and more into being with his friends. Even knowing this, I still wasn’t prepared for the question. It’s just like when I got the “Where do babies come from?” question. I had no idea what to say. My mind went racing in a thousand different directions: Okay, Kristen, think. Some of his friends are on Facebook, would it be that bad? I can monitor what he is saying and doing, right? If I show him how to use Facebook, would it be safe? Why doesn’t my husband ever get these questions!??

Hundreds of experts have weighed in on the subject of kids and Facebook and there are even more websites that have parents talking to other parents about what the right age and maturity level is. I’ve read advice that says age 10 is okay while others said not until 17. But all the expert documentation and parent advice in the world is difficult to remember when you are in that moment, just you and your child, with that question.

It’s an important decision to make, really. At this point in my son’s life, is Facebook even necessary? Don’t get me wrong, I like Facebook. I have an account of my own (which I allow my son to view with me and make comments to grandparents and cousins) and it has been a great way to reconnect with old friends. But the only “friends” my 9-year-old needs to keep in touch with are the ones on the playground every day. And, quite frankly, I’d rather he first learn to communicate in person with these friends instead of through a computer screen.

So as I was searching my brain for an answer to my son’s question, it was clear that I knew it all along. “Sorry, buddy. But your dad and I both agree that nine is too young for a Facebook account.” And it was as simple as that. Not that my son was happy with my answer, but after a longer discussion, he understood where I was coming from.

Do you think there is a “right” age for kids to be on Facebook? Or does it depend on the maturity level of the child? The decision I made is what was best for my family. What works best for yours?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Think Social Media isn’t a Big Deal? Some Would Literally be Lost Without it!

By: Beth Kneisler, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

While many people jumped on the social media bandwagon right away, others have been slower to join the movement. Some have been hesitant due to privacy concerns, some don’t know how they’d squeeze one more thing into their days and others simply don’t see its value.

Social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were primarily created for socializing and information sharing. So, here in fact lies the reason why some don’t find it necessary. If it’s just for chatting with friends and co-workers, pick up the phone or go to their office, right?! While social media were viewed at first as socializing websites, they now have a new purpose that no one could have ever dreamed about less than half a decade ago.

These social media sites have become important communication tools during disasters and are actually helping to save lives! A recent article in the USA Today outlined the different ways social media helped during Japan’s crisis. One example the article highlighted was when a U.S. ambassador “Tweeted” about several patients needing to be transferred out of a hospital that was near a troubled nuclear power plant. After only an hour of dialogue via the social media site, the ambassador was told the patients would be evacuated by Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Forces.

This is just one of the many examples how social media has literally saved lives. Social media sites have also been instrumental in other disasters such as the BP oil spill and after the earthquakes in Haiti, Chili and New Zealand.

While some remain hesitant about social media sites, the Marine Corps and Coast Guard are now using the platforms during relief efforts. The USA Today article did point out that one of the biggest challenges, however, is to get officials acting on information from non-official sources, a.k.a us! But, I have no doubt this too will come with time.

So, for all you non-“tweeters” and “Facebookers,” hopefully this article helped to shine some light on the possibilities of social media.

Can you think of other situations, either in your own life or during a large natural disaster, where social media was a key player in helping to make a positive difference? What do you think social media has the potential to do for us in the future?