Dibs on the *mybrand*sucks.com,

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OR HOW TO COMBAT UNHAPPY CUSTOMERS

It has already become a post-modernist cliché, appealing to the never-ending power of the Internet. While the passive online minority resisting Obama spies can still try to be in denial, for those on the frontline of PR ‘Internet connecting people’ has become a legitimate axiom: “I believe in God, and the Internet is my religion,” as Jim Gilliam has said.

Why would people get engaged? What makes us “share”, “tweet”, “post”? As Brian Solis noted, positive experience is likely to remain within a friends circle. A “pissedconsumer” however will tell everybody.

He referrs to a study conducted by FairWinds, which uncovered over 20,000 “sucks.com” domains with 2,000 ending in the phrase “stinks.com.” Some of the major consumer-facing companies surveyed “put dibs” on potential threat by buying domains with the name for their brand followed by the word “sucks.” However a brand dedicated website is only one platform to make unsatisfied opinion public. Imagine there are thousands – and this is not science fiction.

One shouldn’t be a prophet to master the Internet religion, or at least to learn playing along. ‘Listen and follow meaningful conversations’, could be indeed an efficient solution.

Earning a crowd-sourced brand you deserve is obviously costly. With the abundance of platforms popping up on almost daily basis, certain skepticism could indeed be justified. Where to get resources to monitor the entire Conversation Prism? How to keep track of the new channels? Filter and prioritize? When to get involved and when to stay silent?

Apparently, those questions should remain rhetorical. In digital political communication there is nothing to be afraid of as the fear itself.

‘Just do it’.

A Foreign Student in Vienna: Survival Kit

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  1. If you are a foreign student in Vienna, get a calendar. Then spend half of a day planning your social life for the next week. Three days after, spend few more hours rearranging everything that has been arranged, highlight, cross out, cancel, be flexible and imaginative, and in the last minute come up with a whole new scenario. Tear out the page, chew it, throw away the calendar, find it, start over. This is the only way one can squeeze into other calendars.
  2. If you are a foreign student in Vienna, keep it interdisciplinary. Take a politics class in Neues Instituts Gebäude, economics on Oscar-Morgenstern Platz, human rights in Juridicum, religion on Sensengasse, PR in Publizistik and something on history in the main university building. After that all you do is migrate through the route that all your existing and potential friends will be using. No more ‘big-city-long-time-no-see’. Although if you didn’t have luck to do European Studies, and have to stick to one building instead, explore the libraries. In this case, please consult paragraph #3.
  3. If you are a foreign student in Vienna, start being an early library bird. Get a spot before lunch or don’t even try to get one till afternoon. Party on Saturday and don’t study on Sunday. If you can’t keep yourself from studying late on weekends, drop a course. If you decide to work in the old library of the main university building, don’t forget to use the following pattern: be lucky and get a key, put everything in the locker, take a sip of water, go studying, study, go back to the locker, take a sip of water, go back to study. Thus under the excuse of ‘monument protection’ intellectual process is efficiently combined with the physical exercise. Therefore, the age of the library prompts thinking and keeps you fit.
  4. If you are a foreign student in Vienna, avoid the ‘three F’ and don’t study home. These are: Facebook, Fridge and Flatmates that will keep you away from submitting a paper. Don’t get confused by most of Viennese students, who over generations have developed a strong immune system against these phenomena. Consult paragraph #3 and paragraph #1, and with the help of a calendar establish a library route.
  5. If you are a foreign student in Vienna, drink tea for the breakfast. During the intense day of migrating (paragraph #3 and paragraph #4) you will not only get to regularly consume coffees from the university machines, but also use it as a mean of socialization. Since coffee is an accepted social protocol, to reduce its consumption one can (a) start having breakfast tea, or (b) go into exile.
  6. If you are a foreign student in Vienna, go cultural. Get a museum’s pass, multiple standing and normal opera tickets, attend a ball (how to get company, see paragraph #1), enroll into dancing, music and language courses, enter debating-negotiating-and-further-sophisticated-means-to-hang-out clubs – and become a Habsburg princess/prince.

Last but not least, if you are a foreign student in Vienna, don’t be ashamed of cracking down the Erasmus stereotype. After all, it’s your only semester in a great city of waltz, schnitzel, strudel, dirndl and Mozart Kügeln. Yes, it is only you in Austria, dear foreign student, who knows that those are a few of Julie Andrews’ favorite things. But believe me, nothing is better than a Viennese telling you how ‘uhr’-ridiculous it is =)

‘Face’ of Online Advocacy

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When thinking of online advocacy there are some rules that come to mind (or pop out of an interesting reading): testing the content, presence and transparency, authentic communication,  personalization, integrity of the online-offline strategy, emotional interaction, impact, shareability, storytelling and many more.

Bearing those in mind, I was wondering what it feels like to be on the other side of the laptop screen. Recently I subscribed for newsletters from a very prominent European organization, which I would refer to as IO (international organization). What keeps on coming to my email account, are statements made during formal meetings/conferences/official visits. Which is legitimate – we all expect international community to be very ‘blah’. However what I think is not legitimate – the IO’s PR office confirming this image.

Leaving academic discussion aside, I would like to focus on the very essence of online advocacy – how does organization ‘talk’ with its ‘followers’. As a user, who agreed to become part of conversation with IO, I:

–         don’t want to hear that ‘freedom of mass media is limited in X’. I want to know how you came to X and what you did there to combat violations of media freedom.  Action.

–         am less interested in a huge blurry IO making a faceless statement. I want to see its protagonists speaking to me. Personification.

–         don’t want to watch black and white stories – I want this story to have colors. Emotions.

To be fair, although I am about to unsubscribe from newsletters, I very much support tweeting style of this IO. For every 3-4 faceless tweets from organization as such, there are regular retweets from a few of its active employees. The boundary is obviously clear: ‘So persönlich wie möglich, so privat wie nötig’, however this is what can give a post emotional color and create this missing face of conversational partner. I can indeed assume that American online communication in this sense must be more colorful than European one, but one has to know its audience and speak the same language.

Clear personalized emotional message which demonstrates action, can also provoke it – mobilize audience for support, engagement, and in the end make a change: the result, which IO as any other international community activist is trying to achieve. Or at least, is saying so.

Is It Really How Google promotes Itself?

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Few days ago The Guardian published an article with a very direct title “Google Plus is the Best Social Media Platform” on the Internet”. In case that the message was not entirely clear, author added a subtitle “Why Google Plus is the best social media network on the Internet today”. The text that follows is aimed to provide the reasons.

Simple quantative analysis: 573 words, 17 mentions of “Google Plus”, 20 of just “Google”, angry comments in the total amount of 7. I made an effort to go through the entire text, but failed. As probably most of the readers would.

My question is, since it’s obviously no journalism, is it PR? Do articles like this one have right to online life? I wonder, to which extent Google PR service was responsible for this piece of promotion. Reaction of the readers is obviously negative. Audience of The Guardian is definitely not the best recipient of cheap uncovered advertisement presented as journalism.

However in the end, the article did prompt a discussion – and this blog post became part of it. What Google gained is feedback and more mentions online. What it lost – are image points. Whether this strategy is efficient in a long run remains doubtful.

 

What I gained from having ‘friends’

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And what I paid for it.

What is crucial for me when it comes to mass media? I want information to be preselected for me, analyzed, transmitted fast and in an easily accessible way. In this case the key criteria would be Filter, Expertise, Speed and Accessibility.

To satisfy this not too picky demand of mine, I installed on my smart phone apps for BBC, CNN, Deutsche Welle and RIA Novosti – successful broadcasting agencies from different world regions. With permanent internet connection I can have all the criteria fulfilled while being on a tram, train, bus – on my way to the ‘real’ life. What happens (and please throw a stone at me if it has never happened to you), I end up checking news feed on Facebook, Foresquare, Twitter and reading What’sApp/Viber messages.

News consumption became social (Yussi Pick: “Das Echo-Prinzip”). It’s not enough for me to Know – I want to know what concerns my friends. And I want to Chat about it. Why?

As a journalist, I would argue from the perspective of communications. It doesn’t matter what A says about itself. It matters what B says about A – fundamental rule of PR. Google ranking works in the same way. Exactly as our ‘personal information ranking system’ does. I pick my own leaders of opinion. I am one myself. Thus with Speed and Accessibility on the part of technology, Filter and Expertise to a large extent are fulfilled by the Users.

What I gain? Free info service provided by my ‘friends’. What I pay for it is selling my own ‘friendship’ with a good deal on a ‘get plus one for free’ personal data sharing included in the package. For what it’s worth, majority defines what’s normal. And I definitely am, as 1.73 billion of other social network [L]Users.