Emily Post Would Be Horrified

Networking is serious business. It’s also a serious business of etiquette. The kind about which Emily Post, had she lived in the age of LinkedIn, would have written volumes.

Sadly, Mrs. Post isn’t here to guide us. In her absence I offer the following Rules of Etiquette for LinkedIn:


  1. When to Link-In: Wait until you’ve at least had substantive conversations or cause to connect with someone. These are your professional associates. You should be judicious and not rush to connect with everyone simply because they are there. This will ensure the network you create online is strong and ultimately beneficial for all parties.
  2. With Whom To Link-In: You wouldn’t walk into a strange building and start introducing yourself at random. Don’t do so on LinkedIn. This doesn’t mean you have to know everyone personally with whom you connect, but you should have some commonality. Look for that commonality: perhaps you are in the same industry, you’ve met at or attend the same conferences or events, or someone suggested you connect. Which leads to the next point …
  3. How to Link-In: If individuals are important enough to connect with, show them this is the case by writing a short, personal note. Far too many people just click the “Connect” button and use the generic email message LinkedIn provides. That’s spam, and reaching out that way lets your prospective network partner know you had neither the time nor inclination to make a meaningful connection. What does that say about the type of contact you’ll be for his or her network?
  4. What to Link-In: LinkedIn isn’t Facebook. Pictures of the kids, funny memes, jokes and any non-professional content are all inappropriate. Period. We’re on LinkedIn to grow our networks, learn from one another, share our professional insights and expertise and, sometimes, to find clients and/or employment. Awkward selfies, videos of kittens and hysterical GIFs should (and do) live elsewhere.
  5. Why Less is More on LinkedIn: Posting to share an industry-specific article is good. Periodic updates about your professional world are helpful. Promoting your blog is certainly expected. Posting every article, status update and stray thought you come across throughout the day is not helpful. It’s unwelcome, it turns people off, it floods newsfeed of your network contacts with information that smacks of attention getting behavior and, I’m sure Mrs. Post would agree it’s simply gauche.
Photo credit: Someecards.com
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Marketing on the 9/11 Anniversary? Don’t

This post originally appeared on Kimball Communications’ blog, Hits and Misses 

“When in doubt, leave it out.”

This was the sage advice of one of my first journalism professors in college. It served me well in everything from sussing out facts for news stories to drawing up guest lists for family parties. It’s also good advice for brands and organizations to consider as part of their social media policies, and their approach to anniversaries of remembrance like Sept. 11.

This week – 12 years from the attacks of Sept. 11 – we saw far too many businesses using social media to remember the fallen while also making sure you remember their products.

On The Crisis Show, which aired on the anniversary of 9/11, I joined Shel Holtz and host Rich Klein to discuss these efforts. We highlighted some of the more thoughtless attempts to newsjack the 9/11 anniversary, as well as the reactions those efforts engendered. It’s a cautionary tale of how even the best intentions on social media can fail without sound strategy, planning and a crisis response plan.

What we saw on social media on this anniversary was how tone deaf some brands can be, and how few plan for all potential outcomes. The list of offending brands – both exploitative in their efforts and those just trying to mark the day as best they could while failing in the attempt – is too long to include here.

The best advice I can share is beautifully summarized in a short online article in The Atlantic. The writer, Derek Thompson, took a page from my journalism professor’s book and offered one simple rule for advertising on 9/11: Don’t. This rule applies equally well to marketers, social media practitioners and PR pros.

The events of that day still haunt us as a nation. So brands should consider honoring the day with a moment of silence, time off for employees to participate in the National Day of Service Congress called for in 2009 or by making a charitable donation. But don’t market such efforts or your products and services. Those who mourn don’t need to hear from brands on this day.

Next year, when we mark the 13th anniversary of our national loss, I encourage brand managers everywhere to follow the prescient advice of my old professor: When in doubt, leave it out.

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A Life Lesson In Social Media Mistakes

Dr. Phil JumbleTo err is human, to delete-tweet is a mortal sin.

This is the latest lesson from Oprah’s TV psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw, known simply to millions of fans as “Dr. Phil.”

According to USA Today, 0n Aug. 20, a tweet went out from Dr. Phil’s Twitter account that read: “If a girl is drunk, is it OK to have sex with her? Reply yes or no to @drphil #teensaccused.”

The twitter-verse quickly exploded in online outrage at the question. Shortly thereafter, someone in Dr. Phil’s organization deleted the tweet.

In the religion that is social media, deleting a post – especially one sparking controversy – is a mortal sin. The dust up from the deletion has caused more outrage and media attention then the original issue, which was the public debate over the appropriateness of the question.

For public-facing individuals and organizations, the best social media crisis management advice is to have a plan before your very first tweet or post. And if you didn’t start with a crisis plan, make it a priority to develop one right away.

Your public relations team should work with you to develop mock scenarios with proposed concepts for responses (not necessarily verbatim responses, but a basic concept or idea with a list of accompanying “Do Not Do” items).

There should be protocols for who is informed and how quickly, and from where the ultimate decision on a response needs to come. Remember: social media is an environment of immediacy, so a social media crisis requires swift but thoughtful action. If you have a plan in place, a timely response isn’t as big a problem as trying to respond without a plan or guidance.

Often, as should have been the case with Dr. Phil’s team, a simple apology is best. Arguing your intent – however well intended – via social media almost always exacerbates the situation. Apologize – sincerely and while avoiding “corporate speak” – and move on.

And as not enough brands and celebrities have learned, once the error is out there and has gained any level of attention, deleting your post only makes you look that much more … well, evil, at least in the eyes of avid social media followers. You won’t appear honest. You won’t appear trustworthy. You won’t appear to worth following.

The damage to your reputation in trying to hide your social media transgression is always infinitely worse than just acknowledging the error responsibly and working your plan to move past it responsibly.

Crisis management – online and off – is a centerpiece of our practice at Kimball Communications. We’ve prevented crises, and we’ve managed them. However, the best plan is always to have a plan. It’s obvious Dr. Phil’s team didn’t have a crisis communications plan in place, and the resulting controversy shows what can happen in that scenario.

If it can happen to celebrities like Dr. Phil who has a team managing his social media presences, it can happen to less high-profile individuals and business as well. Are you prepared?

Ask any doctor – psychologist or otherwise – an ounce of prevention (or sound social media planning in this case) is worth a pound of cure.

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My Biggest Fear

When I decided to transition from journalism to public relations more than 10 years ago, my biggest fear was I would have to become “a sales guy.” We all know the stereotype I’m talking about. It’s the guy who pushes by saying, “What’s it gonna take to get you to drive this car home today?”

used_car_salesmanAs in all things in life, there are options to choose. You can become an advocate or you can sell.

When you advocate, either for clients, your kids, ideas, a noble cause or for an action movie on date night, you are trying get others to acknowledge the benefit of what you propose. On recognition of the benefit, the decision becomes theirs and theirs alone.

When you sell, you aren’t trying to get someone to simply see a benefit to your proposal so much as you are trying to get them to buy it.

Subtle? Perhaps.

I was recently reminded of my fear when a determined “sales” guy called my office late one afternoon. He was purposefully vague, but ultimately revealed he was selling a credit card payment system.

When I explained we didn’t accept solicitation calls he became incredulous.

“How did you start your company?” he asked, with aggravation more than evident in his voice. He proceeded to bluntly explain he was building his business “just like you” and demanded an appointment.

Dale Carnegie he was not.

From my perspective, he failed from the outset because he was too busy selling and not trying hard enough to be an advocate. He didn’t know what we did, and therefore couldn’t advocate an idea for making our business run better. He just needed a meeting, and hopefully a sale.

He chose to try to sell me. And despite his frustrated tone, his sales approach failed because, in my experience, anyone who has to be “sold” almost always develops buyer’s remorse. But if you advocate a solution to a problem, often there is no sales effort necessary. That solution might not be embraced with the immediacy you would prefer, but I’d rather have a committed partner to work a year from now than a reluctant customer today who felt pressured to buy.

I’m grateful, as a solutions advocate, I’ve never had to ask a client “What’s it gonna take to get you into a press release today?” I’m confident the entrepreneurs and managers with whom I work appreciate this as well.

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Hack of a Whopper

**REPOSTED from Kimball Communications “Hits and Misses” Blog

Burger King's Twitter account was hacked on Monday, Feb. 18, 2013. The result was national news coverage and annoyed followers of the @BurgerKing handle.

Burger King’s Twitter account was hacked on Monday, Feb. 18, 2013. The result was national news coverage and annoyed followers of the @BurgerKing handle.

Crisis happens. When the crisis involves social media, it can have one heck of an impact on brand.

When Burger King’s Twitter handle was hacked today, the brand’s logo was changed to that of McDonald’s. The hackers also posted crude language, @ messages to questionable accounts, and video and photographs that had little to do with the brand and no doubt annoyed followers. Oddly, they boosted Burger King’s followers by more than 20,000 before the account was suspended.

Twitter followers noticed, as did CNN, ABC News and Fast Company’s Teressa Lezzi who published stories about the hacking within minutes.

If you manage a Twitter account for a brand and that account is hacked, what steps should your crisis plan include?

At the first indication of trouble, immediately log in and change the password. If you are able to log in and change the password, go into your settings and review all of the third-party apps connected to your account. Revoke access to all third-party apps until you can better assess the situation. (Be sure to revisit these apps once the situation is under control to ensure all brand account functionality.)

If you are not able to access the account and change the password, go to the Support Request section of Twitter and under Account Access select the “Hacked account” option. This will give Twitter the necessary “heads up” to suspend your account and avoid endless amounts of spam being sent to your followers. It will also allow you to reset your password.

While you work to regain control of your Twitter account, post a notification to your brand’s blog, website and other social platforms. This notification should simply state:

  • Your Twitter account has been compromised
  • You are working to remedy the situation, and
  • Your Followers should not click on any posted links until otherwise notified.

Such action lets your followers know you are aware of the situation. It can even foster good will among followers irritated by the hacking event.

As a precaution, make sure you use a secure password including letters, numbers and capitalization that cannot be easily determined. This password – especially if multiple people have access to the account – should be changed regularly.

Using dashboards like SproutSocial or HootSuite can also help minimize risk. We also suggest you follow @Safety or @Spam to stay alert to the latest spammer activity or malware.

Some crises can’t be avoided. But they can be mitigated through close monitoring, training and ensuring a workable plan is in place.

Interested in training your team to handle a social media crisis? Email us at info@kimballpr.com for information.

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Dear Comcast – We’re Done

Dear Comcast,

Ever since our shotgun wedding in 2003, I’ve put up with your $@^# and suffered along silently. (Well, not so silent that we didn’t talk every three months to review my bill line-by-line. By the way, “Additional Fee” was almost vague enough that I could have missed it, but I didn’t.)

I always knew you were cheating me. But I thought it didn’t matter. You let me surf the web, and I could still get SciFi Channel (before they changed the spelling and demonstrated how far we had strayed as a society). I thought we had an understanding.

The real depth of your deprativy wasn’t apparent to me until I moved in 2010. First you failed to “remember” to connect service at my new home but didn’t “forget” to bill me for it. In the course of this little Comcastic spat, you accused me of having two additional “secret” Comcast accounts. Somehow, you believed I had three Comcast service accounts (cable & Internet no less) going on at the same address. Scandal!

You also had no problem finding balances on all three accounts, and combined them for one big Jerry Springer “Who’s Your Cable-Daddy”-style surprise. Epic!

This digital kerfuffle took me three months and more than half a dozen long phone calls to straighten out. You were wrong, and you gave me HBO for six months as a consolation prize. That didn’t take away the sting of the accusation or the hours lost trying to prove my innocence.

Comcast, if you want to know what finally killed our hostage-style relationship, it was that you stopped caring … and your Enron-esque billing practices.

When I wrapped up the final bills on the townhouse before making the move to the new house this summer, you told me I over paid you. You said there was a $200 credit that would be applied at the new house. Wow. I was finally feeling the love.

After a lot of unpacking I thought we’d have a quiet night together. We’d get a movie On Demand and spend some quality time together. But Comcast, you rejected my advances with an error code I’d never seen. I wanted to work it out. I was ready to chalk the whole thing up to never having “Demanded” anything before in the new house. Then you dropped a bomb on me, Comcast.

You said I owed you just shy of $700 after less than 30 days in the new place together. After all those years of supporting you and putting aside the petty billing slights and service glitches – and let’s not forget the major attitude – you wanted me to pay you $700? It felt so dirty, Comcast. So wrong.

You claimed I never returned any of your stuff from the last place. In fact, you even added a few things to the list you and I never shared together at the townhouse (how many DVRs do you give someone anyway?).

We fought it out for weeks. On my umteenth call to you, you casually mentioned you found your stuff (where is “processing” that it took so long to find? Is it like Reno, where you hear about it but no one ever really goes unless they have no choice?). Not only did you find the stuff you insisted for weeks I was keeping from you, but it wasn’t until I called that you decided to take them off my bill. Clearly, we were in crisis.

Instead of working it out, you doubled down to see how much more money you could get from me. After clearing up the “Gimme back my stuff” argument, you lost that $200 credit from the move. Comcast, not only did you try to extort several pieces of expensive electronics from me, you were conveniently “forgetting” you were paid.

After waiting a month for you to make us OK again, I had to call you to get a status update. You were cold, Comcast. You said I never paid you $200. In fact, you said I walked out of the last place owing you $33. But you did note, several times in fact, that you credited me for the stuff you said I had kept. Comcast, telling me you fixed a problem you created and that I should be glad isn’t what makes a healthy relationship. You don’t create huge problems only to later reluctantly fix them and then try to claim you saved us from ourselves. Come on, Comcast. I thought you cared?

Did you still want me, Comcast? I asked you to prove it. I asked you to show me the last nine and a half years weren’t a waste; that we still had a little high speed Internet between us to go the distance.

And what did you say to me Comcast? What did you say?

“Sorry, but there is nothing I can do for you.”

I’m sorry too, Comcast.

I’m sorry I didn’t leave you sooner. I’m sorry I showered you with so much money over the years. I’m sorry I didn’t shout from the roof tops that you were screwing me over at every opportunity and daring me to spend my time and energy catching you in the act. I’m sorry I ever let you into my computer, my flat screen TV and into my home. I’m sorry we ever shared On Demand together, and that I didn’t save myself for some cable and Internet provider who would appreciate me.

I’m leaving you, Comcast. Not because I didn’t like what you had to offer. I did.

I’m leaving because the price I had to pay for your fiber-optic charms was too high, with too many gross errors and with too little appreciation for what I brought to the relationship.

Go ahead and call yourself Xfinity now. Try to reinvent yourself. Others can have you, because despite what I learned to love about you, I love myself more.

We’re done.

– The Customer Who Finally Got Away

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It’s Not Business; It’s Personal

Working in public relations, I frequently find myself advocating on behalf of clients and their causes.

This year, I find myself advocating for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). But this time it isn’t about business; it’s personal. My 2-year-old niece, Kylie, is a Type 1 Diabetic.

Celebrating her second birthday recently, my niece, Kylie, is a Type 1 Diabetic. Please make a donation in whatever amount you can to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) to help little kids like Kylie live healthy and safe lives.

Shortly after her first birthday, Kylie was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, or T1D for short. According to JDRF, T1D occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys certain cells in the pancreas. When these cells are destroyed, no insulin can be produced, and the glucose stays in the blood where it can cause serious damage to all the organ systems of the body.

While I had done some work with clients on behalf of JDRF in the past, I don’t think I had a genuine appreciation for what it meant to be a diabetic.

T1D means multiple injections daily, or having insulin delivered through an insulin pump. It means testing the person’s blood sugar by pricking their fingers for blood six or more times a day. It means carefully balancing food intake and exercise to regulate blood sugar levels in an attempt to avoid hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemic (high blood sugar) reactions, which can be life threatening. It means everything you eat or don’t eat can make you either very sick or put you at serious risk for injury, and even death.

All of this is a considerable challenge for an adult. Managing such a disease on a daily basis for an active 2-year-old is beyond comprehension.

My brother and his wife must monitor when and what Kylie eats and drinks at all times. They need to understand a raft of medical terms and side effects that seem baffling to the outside world. They must be ever vigilant for the slightest non-verbal cues from my niece to gauge whether she is too high or too low. And they must wake up in the middle of the night to prick the finger of a little sleeping princess to ensure while she sleeps, she is not in any immediate danger from her own body.

As I said, I had no real appreciation for what it meant to be a diabetic before all of this became a reality for my family. But I’m beginning to understand it a little more every day.

I also know medical research – and the dollars supporting such research – are critical to keeping millions of kids safe and healthy. With the advances being made each day, we can’t afford to miss a single opportunity to further the cause of a more manageable treatment or, better yet, a cure.

So I ask you to consider making a donation to JDRF either through my family’s JRDF page for the 2012 Bucks County Walk for the Cure  on Oct. 28 or through the JDRF home page.

Please give because it’s not about business. It’s most definitely personal.

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