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A former Marine who served in the reserves, Connecticut Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, admitted to “misstating” details about his service record, regretted doing so and openly accepted responsibility at this afternoon’s press conference.  The two points I would like to explore are:

1)   Is “misstating” information the same as a lying?

2)   Is “regretting doing so” different from apologizing?

Is “misstating” information the same as a lie?

Let’s start by defining a lie.  Especially in the myopic world of politics, what constitutes as a lie?  For this I will look to the four characteristics of a lie defined by Harvard philosopher, Sissela Bok.  A lie must possess the following four prerequisites to, in fact, be a lie:

1)   An affirmative statement

2)   The affirmative statement must be false

3)   The statement must be known to be false by the speaker or author

4)   The speaker or author issues the statement with the intent of deceiving the audience

According to Sissela Bok mistruths, omissions and true statements intended to deceive are not actual lies.

The current issue

Attorney General Blumenthal said earlier that he served in Vietnam.  In reality, he was serving during Vietnam, but not within the proximity of the conflict.  Much of the fuss is circumventing the issue of AG Blumenthal not correcting this immediately after to set the record straight.  Blumenthal’s defense today was that he speaks at many events and venues and never caught the wrong verbiage.  Blumenthal said today that the issue was recently brought to his attention and the purpose of this press convergence is to address the issue and to nullify an attack on him, which attempts to fault him over the phrase “In Vietnam” rather than “During Vietnam.”  I don’t think we aren’t going to see this situation resolved anytime soon.

Is “regretting doing so” different from apologizing?

Yes.  “I regret” does not in any way mean or add up to “I apologize,” just as “I’m sorry if XYZ offended you” does not mean “I’m sorry I offended you and I apologize.”

During this afternoon’s press conference, AG Blumenthal said, “I regret misspeaking and I take full responsibility.”  A journalist commented later by saying, “That’s not the same as apologizing.  Do you apologize?”  The marines behind Blumenthal then jumped in by repeatedly shouting “No,” not even letting Blumenthal respond.  Blumenthal proceeded to smile and take the next question.

In this situation AG Blumenthal is not saying, “I apologize” because it will hurt his case.  He is not saying the phrase because by doing so he will admit fault.  From what Blumenthal said this afternoon, I can gather that he does not believe he did anything wrong.  Speculating further from what I gathered, AG Blumenthal thinks this situation is blown up, twisted out of context and he is striking back at those who are attempting to spin this out-of-context phrase to their political advantage.  As a caveat, AG Blumenthal added, “Sometimes journalists make mistakes.”

WTNH streamed the press conference and is covering the Blumenthal story updates.

What are your opinions of AG Blumenthal’s situation?  Do you have any further feedback on the issues of misstating vs. lying and regretting vs. apologizing?

Give. Advocate. Volunteer... Save Sharks?

In June of 2009 Jessica Alba went on a vandalism frenzy to promote shark awareness in the state of Oklahoma, while documenting the process and posting it online.  She plastered posters of her buddy Jaws all over Oklahoma City property, which included a United Way billboard.  There were so many random acts of spontaneity that it’s hard to analyze why it even happened.

Full disclosure

I was employed by the Valley United Way chapter when this hit the news.  I wrote a post on our chapter’s blog in addition to the nonprofit organization’s intranet.  There really wasn’t much communication by the Oklahoma chapter or United Way of America, so I attempted to break down the situation and suggest possible outcomes.  You can read my blog post here.

What I recommended

1) Publically drop the shark support.

2) Clean up the fishy festivities by helping to repair the vandalized, damaged property, which donors paid for.  If Jessica took pictures while destroying the billboard, it is my impression that seeing her clean up the damages in a United Way “Live United” t-shirt would make the community and stakeholders very happy.

3) Empathize with United Way.  If Jessica damaged the property of one of the world’s largest philanthropic nonprofit organizations, she could take a few minutes of her time to learn about the company structure and initiatives.  Who knows, perhaps some reciprocity could have been reached.

Attempting to analyze

While I wondered why she chose to vandalize a United Way billboard, I found it more confusing why Jessica decided to raise shark awareness in a state that does not touch any ocean and is therefore in no direct threat of sharks.  The whole situation just screamed, “Why did you do that?”  Other than Jessica’s apology statement, we never really understood what she was trying to accomplish.

The end result

Ultimately Jessica Alba provided the Oklahoma City United Way chapter with an undisclosed donation greater than $500, according to a TMZ post.  A reader poll TMZ conducted, showed just under 85% of more than 62,000 respondents believe her contribution was forced rather than heartfelt.  TMZ, who was all over this story, also had an interview with the gentleman who was featured on the defaced poster.  He is still waiting for Alba to buy him an apology lunch.

Did you think celebrities receive preferential treatment in legal penance?  What would you recommend in terms of reputation management in this situation?

Ubisoft becomes first gaming company to go paperless

The Going Green cliché became outdated in the 80’s and 90’s.  Greenwashing became a bandwagon and companies began throwing elbows to be among those who could profess that they were environmentally friendly, even if it was nothing more than spin.  Some companies had no logical reason other than everybody else was doing it.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is more 21st century.  I would argue that there is a hybrid of both in today’s corporate world, and the terms continue to evolve.  Advocating against “going green,” (oh how I hate that phrase) or CSR is similar to proposing a cut in veteran’s benefits.  Nobody would ever advocate against it, however, companies must approach CSR and greenability in a new way.

Take for example Ubisoft, a video game company.  They announced that their video game cases would no longer contain paper pamphlet manuals.  Instead the game manuals will be accessible through in a digital format.  Ubisoft is the first company to do this in the video gaming industry and the new process with start with Shaun White Skateboarding this fall.  You might remember Shaun White from his decorated X Games and Olympic performances.

According to Charles Austin’s blog post, “Ubisoft internal data shows that producing one ton of paper used in Ubisoft’s game manuals consumes an average of two tons of wood from 13 trees, with a net energy of 28 million BTU’s (equivalent to average heating and energy for one home/year), greenhouse gases equivalent of over 6,000 lbs of CO2, and wastewater of almost 15,000 gallons.”

Ubisoft gets it right and is not falling into the cliché of greenwashing.  The company justifies their efforts in cost cutting by fulfilling both a CSR and green role.  Ubisoft is not going green just for the sake of going green.  Their efforts will also provide a more comprehensive digital gaming manual.  I would imagine that this will be a coming trend in the gaming industry and Ubisoft will be standing at the helm.

A few key points to remember:

CSR, philanthropy, and community development are strategic functions and should not be marginalized by viewing them as tactics to win over favorability.

Beware the bandwagon effect.

If your company decides to go green by being more environmentally friendly or practice CSR methodologies, clearly justify the reasoning and show how your company benefits.

CSR and green movements, while the terms and phrases may develop over time, their core principles are here to stay.

Wondering how to write a good blog post?

Blogging can be a great way to build and interact with your community.  These are the guidelines I came up with that help me structure my posts.  I hope this list can be useful, especially to those who are just starting out.

1.) Write in an easy to read format

Write short, to the point and in briefly structured paragraphs.  Please note that blogs are not tweets.  You don’t have to eclectically form haikus that have to be interpreted due to space constraints.  Conversely, novellas are not blog posts.

2.) Know your audience

Write within the scope of your blog.  If you run a blog based on cooking don’t randomly write a post on something like scuba diving.  The change in gears will confuse your readers and some may even think you have changed the direction of your blog.  If you plan on writing something slightly off-topic, let your readers know in advance or create a separate domain, blog or Tumblr account dedicated to the new topic.

3.) Link often and appropriately

Claiming something as your own when it is someone else’s is plagiarism and can often result in copyright infringement.  Do their intellectual property a favor and attribute your sources.  You are more likely to be found by search engines navigating the web in return.  This does not mean you should turn every word in your post hyperlink text.

4.) Convey your point of view

Your blog is bias because it is based on your opinions, education, experience and perspective.  That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, especially if you can share a perspective that is outside the norm.  Take the road less traveled but have a point of view, express it and stick to it, but remember to be open to different opinions.

5.) Tag your content

Tagging content in your post helps organize the material so it can be more easily categorized and further feed the appetite of search engine optimization (SEO) programs, essentially making your post more visible.  Adding a tag cloud widget can also help your reader view what topics you cover most often.  More than five tags per post is often too much.

6.) Include a relevant picture

Simply put, do not include a picture of Guy Kawasaki, one of the social media industry’s many well-respected thought leaders, if your post is on motorcycles, particularly the Kawasaki make.  That is, of course, unless you may happen to be blogging about Kawasaki’s social media use and linking to an article of relevance posted by Guy Kawasaki.

7.) Attribute your pictures

If the picture you post is not yours, attribute the source.  Flickr Creative Commons is an excellent resource for sharable pictures.  Those who posted pictures under this category specifically did so for the level of sharability.  These users posted pictures in this domain and were kind enough to make it possible for you to use them, so cite appropriately by making the picture URL track back to the original Flickr picture, not your blog.

8.) Ask your readers questions

Feedback helps steer the direction of a blog.  Don’t expect your readers to consume your content without having an opinion of their own.  Providing an opportunity or call to action where readers are encouraged to supply their feedback is not only polite, but also is a nice way to show that what they have to say is considered to be valuable.  Social media is about information sharing not dissemination.

9.) Remember The Golden Rule

Blogging, much like rest of the social sphere, is about sharing.  Treat other people with the same respect you would like in return.  Differences of opinion will always arise.  Accept from the beginning that you will not always be right.  If you decide to form a conversation around the issue of which you cannot agree, do so respectfully and professionally.  This is especially hard to do when confronted by a troll whose sole purpose is to instigate arguments and disseminate degrading information.

10.) Understand how content is shared

Understand how blogs are searched and be sure to make yours visible.  Blogs can be searched by engines like Technorati or by tag surfing, collected in RSS feeds, bookmarked by Delicious, deemed important by readers via Digg, posted to Facebook, shared on Twitter and so on.  Believing that a blog is a one-dimensional approach is a mistake.

11.) Proofread your copy

It’s very hard to find errors when you have been reading your work repeatedly.  You know what you are trying to say but sometimes your mind outthinks your capacity to type.  But that’s ok.  Reread your post several times before you click publish.  If it helps, take a break after writing but before you publish the post or have a friend read your material.  While you can go back and edit a post after it’s made public, it’s often ill advised unless you make the changes known.  Treat a post like you would an assignment for work or school.  Would you submit a paper to a teacher or a communications plan to your boss or client that was riddled with errors?

12.) Your post isn’t complete once you click publish

Understand that information lives on the web long after it is produced.  A post you wrote eight months ago might have only been viewed a handful of times until recently, when someone discovered it, shared it and helped it grow wildly popular.  Pay attention to your analytics to understand where your readership is coming from, who is referring them and how they navigated your blog.

13.) Understand comments and how they reflect upon you

If a reader is kind enough to leave a comment after reading your post, show some gratitude and thank them.  Your response to comments will be reflective upon you so reply accordingly.  If another blogger writes a post about you and even is considerate enough to link back, show respect by thanking them and providing feedback on their post.  This may test your patience when addressing a troll but remember The Golden Rule.

14.) Pay it forward

To develop a readership you must essentially put your self out there.  Few people will stumble upon your blog if they do not even know it’s there.  Pay it forward by reading and commenting on other blogs.  This must be genuine and selfless because people will know if you are just trying to drive traffic to your blog by excessively commenting or spamming your blog posts in other bloggers’ comments.  Look at it as an investment in building and fostering your readership community.

Are there any rules you follow when writing your blog?  What are some other useful guidelines to add to this list?

The 5 W's ... But I'm just going to stick with 'what'

I began blogging earlier in January as part of a NYU graduate-level social media class.  This post will serve as a recap of my experience and will explain why I will continue to blog.  Regular posts will continue next week.

What I learned

Blogging with purpose and perspective is fun.  I’ve been able to share my voice on how I believe social media is affecting the larger scope of public relations.  In doing so I received valuable feedback of readers.

I am not an industry leader but through this process I felt like I can better contribute to the conversation.  I hope I challenged the conventional thought process and provide you with information you found useful.  I will continue to try to do just that in future posts.

What I enjoyed

I really enjoyed making use of my four-hour train commute to thinking of ways I can advance the conversation – whether it’s through humor, industry speculation or trying to illustrate another prospective of a concept.  I also had a lot of fun compiling somewhat cynically slanted lists of social media abusers because, quite frankly, we all run into some of them sooner or later.  Two of those posts in particular included 5 Facebook Fans that Drive you Crazy and 4 Twitter Users you Love to Hate.

What I found challenging

Dedicating the appropriate amount of time to each post was often difficult.  While I do have idle time on my commute I am without Internet access.  Most of my train time is spent brainstorming and trying to circumvent some popular issues and current events.  It was sometimes difficult to budget time around three additional classes, a writing seminar and an internship in Manhattan.

What’s next?

I will continue this blog.  I appreciate you reading my posts and I am particularly thankful for those of you who were kind enough to comment by expressing your points of view.  Your insights have helped and will continue to help steer the direction of this blog.  But I still have to ask…

What do you want to see?

Now that this class has all but ended, I will be looking for more topics to cover in the realm of social media and public relations.  Please know that you are welcomed and encouraged to contact me with your feedback or to provide your suggestions.  In an earlier post I talked about a potential future YouTube project I am considering.  If this is something you want to see or if you have any other suggestions, please send them my way.

So much for the traditional concept of 5 W’s.  More to come next week as the posts go back on schedule.  Those of you who blog or are relatively new to blogging, how do you find your topic ideas and what do you do to generate more information?

Sometimes even birds don't know how to tweet

Let me start by saying that I believe Twitter is an excellent tool for public relations and generic communications, when used properly.  I must however gripe about some users who misuse and abuse some of Twitter’s valuable purposes.  Here is a short list of some of the ones I’ve encountered.  Maybe you’ve seen them around.

Trending Topics Trolls

Unless breaking news is a pertinent, purposeful part of you want to say, don’t use trending topics to boost your tweets.  By boosting I am referring to posting a tweet and adding a trending topic hashtag at the end of it so it has the potential to be more visible.  However some of the most arbitrary, nonsensical trending topics find their way onto the rankings from mid morning until late afternoon.  Unless you can contribute to the topic and/or provide a link of reference to your tweet, you won’t be taken seriously.

Twitter Chat Addicts and Spammers

Twitter chats can be useful in building communities who share a common interest.  They are easily abused by the same people who do not understand the concept of having two ears and one mouth.  Participants should also be mindful (and by mindful I also mean respectful of the fact) that everyone following can and will see what is said in the Twitter chat.  This particularly includes the people in chats on arbitrarily random topics, which are irrelevant to their field.

The most common Twitter chat spammers do the following:

Hog the conversation space – Remember The Golden Rule and be respectful of others

Hash-attach or hashtag jack – Most often used as a cheap marketing ploy by others who are not in the Twitter chat but desperately want to attract the attention of the participants

Participate in several Twitter chats each day of the week – Stop being a chatterati or create separate accounts for professional and social engagement

Bullhorn Bureaucrats

Spewing forth one-way information with no engagement, replies or hashtags relevant to the conversation is self-defeating.  If you are famous or a company that is continuously promoting yourself, you are not doing it right and are not benefitting from the value of conversation.  Additionally, it is disrespectful to your fans, followers and people who thought you were interesting until they saw your Twitter feed.  Do your reputation a favor and practice humility or your fans and followers will humiliate you…If they haven’t already unfollowed you.

Pontificating Producers

If you find a way to continuously pass along information specific to an industry or field for almost 24-hours straight, there are social media sights like Delicious that make the viewing process easier for all of your followers.  If we know you in person, follow you on Twitter and otherwise respect you, we will visit your social bookmarking site to see what you find interesting.  Alternatively if you only share self-authored information consistently and do nothing other than promote it, try writing a book or something that you can commoditize.  If you have already done that, stop plugging your book on Twitter.

Feeling creative?  List some Twitter types that you love to hate and tell me why.

A citizen journalist documenting the Moscow subway bombing aftermath

Modern day terrorists, operating in clandestine cells under the veil of anonymity, aim to inflict mass causalities among scores of bystanders.  They orchestrate these attacks in highly trafficked public places by detonating their bombs during rush hour or at events with high attendance.  Typically using self-detonated explosive devices similar to the London bombings of ‘05 and, more recently, the Moscow subway bombings, these extremists suddenly and unexpectedly emerge from the crowds to carry out their suicidal mission.  More grotesque than this ideology however, is the aftermath.

It is a horrible sight to behold.  The victims are not willfully enlisted soldiers patriotically marching into the meat grinder of war.  More often than not they are citizens, civilians who are going about their day-to-day business, trying to provide for their families and carry out their lives.  And now scores lie dead, mutilated or critically wounded.

Typically we would receive video footage and pictures of the aftermath or possibly the event itself from the mainstream media.  In recently years, due to the advent of the citizen journalist, we can witness multiple angles of the tragedy captured by someone who experienced the malicious attack first-hand.  We often find ourselves shaking our heads in disbelief and ask ourselves, “How could somebody do something like that?”

The concept of the citizen journalist boiled to a head with the elections in Tehran, Iran in the summer of 2009.  Footage from massive riots was being disseminated from thousands of people on the streets witnessing, experiencing and capturing the violence.  The multimedia came in the form of pictures and video links, often delivered through Twitter.  Mainstream media actually picked up and further covered the footage coming through social media site.  The world was able to see past Iran’s curtain of censorship and experience what was really taking place.  Although citizen journalism earned credibility through the events covered in Tehran, they were fueled by political motivation, not based on terrorist activity.

Terrorist acts today use social media to capitalize on the citizen journalist and the virility of shareable media content.  With today’s technology, just about everyone has a cell phone capable of taking pictures and capturing video.  Many can even immediately post the imagery and footage to social media platforms.  “Raw and uncut” footage emerges and many people share it, contributing to its virility and snowballing its potency.  If it is not uncommon for terrorists to videotape their own work, why would we give them attribution and reach by carrying that footage to a broader audience?

In an attack people should at least be making an effort to rescue the wounded and attempt to save those who are dying.  Standing idly by to record people bleeding out and screaming in agony as they lie dying, only to tweet about it later and post the footage on video hosting sites, is wrong.  Is that journalism?  In my opinion, no.  I believe the person capturing footage is merely a citizen observer who happened to be in close proximity to the event.  Documenting “raw and uncut” footage, in these scenarios, through the use of cell phones or any other means is appalling and extremely advantageous to the terrorist cells committing these horrible acts.

Do you think citizen journalists capturing and disseminating footage compounds the effects of terrorism?  Is that justifiable journalism or is it adding potency and reach to terroristic messages.  Could it be both?  What do you think and why?