Archive for January, 2010

Should we warn them? What to tell your children about Social Media.

January 19, 2010

“Everything is a 9 days.” So is the ‘ole time’ Caribbean (Trini?) saying that even the most sensational story (aka Gossip) will be “top of mind” for a short time. I think its safe to use another ‘Caribbeanism’ to respond to that – THOSE DAYS DONE! Social media has not only changed the media cycle, it IS the media – so much so “media” is in its name. Guess what, just like the dessert cereals target kids during Saturday AM TV, they are finding innovative ways to target this up and coming audience where they live – on social media.

Think about it. If you have/ know a child over the age of 14, chances are they are more likely to have a cell phone and laptop than a bike and i GUARANTEE they have a Facebook account. Yep – moms and dad, even if you block it at home, they have one under a pseudonym (which they can’t spell either) and they access their FB at school, at the library or at that friend’s house where they go to “study”.

But they learn the dependence on the media from you and then tweak it to be more, well, you know…like cool! Not sure you’re to blame? Where did you CONFIRM Michael Jackson’s death? In the Caribbean, did you read the paper to hear about Beyonce’s concert in Trinidad or did you post a question on good old “FB” ? Where do you look at video clips about Rasta Phill from Synergy TV? Or, to scantily NOT address a story that proved the ills of “new media” where did you find out about infamous T&T beauty queen and fabulous fashion designer and overall damn nice person Anya Ayoung-Chee? The same internet sites you find cool, they find even more cool and develop new ones or find MUCH more effective ways of using them. Those kids GOOGLE EVERYTHING and, guess what?  Google, Facebook, Twitter,YouTube,  Stumbled Upon, Blogger and WordPress (my fav) have forever changed not only how we access information, but how and what we view as credible.


Well – the “9 days” of information being discussed, that’s over. Forever. Want to find a media clip from 2004 – check out YouTube. To my shock and awe, complete footage of my Miss Universe question travesty of an answer exists, is searchable and has been viewed over 65,000 times by an audience…an audience that gives COMMENTS! Urgh! President Obama’s “furtive” alleged glance at a female behind lives to be forever searched and viewed on YouTube (136,000 times to date)! Pero, imaginate (but imagine!) this is something not so bad…what if there were nude pics or pics of Caribbean Prime Ministers with ex flames or old friends that may be criminals…or what about that time, in band camp…(kidding). Seriously, our generation is barely seeing the “tip” of the iceberg when it comes to the indelible impact of social media and its impact on society AND WHAT GETS RECORDED AS HISTORY…well, will e-based history be considered an accruate record of what was? – that’s another discussion.

SO, what do you tell your children? Should you warn them? HELLS YES! Here are 5 basic tips for Caribbean (and any) child under 7 when it comes to social media:

  1. Watch Your Content: You teach them to talk. You teach them manners. Make sure that is reflected in their social media comments and updates. Remind your children that anything they would not want you, their teacher or religious leader to know about them should probably NOT be on their FB page.
  2. Picture Perfect: If your grandfather, grandmother or sister Sylvia from the religious Convent up the street (ok, they are up the street in many Caribbean countries…maybe not in T&T in in JA…) would not like the picture or place it up on the school bulletin board, don’t put it up. They live forever – especially the bad ones.
    Hate Em? They Live on the Net Forever

    Hate Em? They Live on the Net Forever

    3. Friends Should be Friends: If you don’t know them, don’t add them as your friends.


Is Honesty Always the Best Policy?

January 19, 2010

“Teacher Millie say if Yuh Tell Ah Lie Yah Going to Hell as Soon as Ya Die” – The Mighty Sparrow

Never have the lyrics to this Calyspo been more true. In today’s world of fast paced communication and information sharing at the click of a button – Caribbean Communicators now face what PR professionals in the US and UK have faced for the past 3-4 years – if you hide or WORSE, if you lie – it WILL come back to haunt you.

But we all know it, we live in a world or work in industries rife with those who tout the need to ensure “THAT” does not get out – particularly to competitors. What if RIM knew what APPLE was working on for the next IPHONE? What if KFC learned the secret recipee for Royal Castle Chicken? Well guess what? Its the smaller stuff you need to worry about. LIke how you treat your employees, what your sports day budget was and whether the boss man really cares about employees that can and will ALSO get out. SO… is honestly always the best policy?

Yes. Here are some tips on how to help your bosses deal with any ticklish situation: ASK

  1. What CAN we say? Evaluate the legal issues and competitive issues first. Always know that once you use a service provider, send an email, ask an assistant for a copy – ANYTHING you do can and will leak SO you may as well say SOMETHING to your staff to at least be ahead of the gossip. For Example: Pending merger? Trapped by legal issues and unable to confirm anything? Say “We at Airline GGG are always seeking opportunities to increase our customer service delivery and to enhance our value proposition to customers. We continue to remain committed to providing accurate and timely information to our staff and stakeholders and thus encourage staff and the public to access our formal news distribution networks to access updates on matters which affect our airline.”

Know what that says? It says :1. We care about employees and customers and seek their interest. 2. We have a formal communication channel for accurate information 3. We will communicate again – when there is something to say on this and other matters. Gee? Gossipers! Take DAT in ya pfeum! (as we Trinis say!)

         2. ASK Why SHOULDN”T We Say Anything? Note, this is a different queston to what CAN’T we say. Asking what we “SHOULD NOT” say means you examine you policies and proceedures, your core values and your mission/ vission to ensure the language, approach and actual content of your message is consistent with what your organization stands for, OR, in the case of a personal crisis (people PR is HARD!!)  – what YOU stand for!

3. ASK Who NEEDS to Know. In the Caribbean, we lack Crisis Communication training. Please email me if you need help developing your crisis plan or on dealing with a pending/ actual crisis (internal/ external) at your organization What qualifies me? Not my Master of Arts in Communication….nope! It was definitely my experience dealing with a) Enterobacter Outbreaks and the consequent deaths of 6 babies at hospitals in Trinidad and Tobago in 2004 when I was Communications Officer at the NWRHA b) Handling the Media Relations for Trinidad and Tobago’s largest construction accident. But ENOUGH about me.

THE KEY IS – Who NEEDS to know NOW? In both instances, the answer was my boss and the ministrial offices of my line Ministries. That was on a Crisis Comm systems chart I created in both instances. Create One for yourself with your CEO asking, “in the event of a major situation/ crisis, who would we HAVE to contact immediately – and have their contact numbers.

4. Be Honest. Be Timely. Be Careful. Everything you say can and will be documented and live FOREVER on U-tube.

Tune in next week for more.


Donating to Haiti?

January 14, 2010

Our thoughts and prayers are all with the people of Haiti and their relatives around the world who continue to attempt to make contact with friends and relatives at home. Now, as Caribbean people, we unite to assist our island neighbour. Question is – how?

Unfortunately at these times many companies quickly plan “aide drives” that collect the WRONG items for those in need. Here are some quick tips when planning your donation drives:

1. Check with INTERNATIONAL AID ORGANIZATIONS FIRST: Call/ Visit local UN or RED CROSS Offices to identify the NEEDS of the challenged country (For Haiti its food, water, financial assistance and medical assistance in addition to telecommunications)

2. CLEAR & CONSISTENT COMMUNICATION WITH CALLS TO ACTION: When telling your friends and family about the assistance efforts, follow the 5W’s and the H principle (who, what, where, when, why and how) except, start with WHY so they know the reason for the fundrasier.

3. SET DEADLINES THAT ARE REASONABLE AND CONSISTENT WITH AIDE EFFORTS: If the planes/ boats leave every Thursday with relief efforts, have deadlines each week on a TUESDAY to allow enough time and effort to get your items to the main donation centre. In other words, don’t wait until you have a large amount to donate – every small amount helps but it can ONLY Help if it gets to the area in need. Be timely and be regular.

4. CREATE A “SAFE SPACE” FOR COMMUNICATION: Everyone handles tragedy differently, but for some, talking about it helps. Have an office prayer group? Suggest they have a meeting JUST to pray on that issue? Consider a moment of silence for your company. Somethings are beyond words.

Haiti, I’m sorry. As a people, know your Caribbean Neighbours will not fail you.

Can we survive without Communication Technology?

January 12, 2010

Happy New Year. How was your first new year’s greeting delivered this year? Chances are, it was facilitated by a social media or text based platform that you PROBABLY had no clue about when the decade past first began. My first greeting was on my Facebook page from a friend in Australia who, boldly said: “Happy New Year WORLD” – in one phrase he summed up the power OUR communication tools will have to shape the social mores of the next decade.

Confused? Look back.

At the beginning of the last decade, mobile phones were creeping their way into the Caribbean. Nokia was a soon to be crowned king in 2000 – we heard about mobile phones but questioned “Would I REALLY need one?”. Yesterday, there was near panic by one of my friends who, for a minute, thought their mobile phone had been forgotten at home. In general, it is challenging for MOST people to consider facing their commute, work day and hell even WORKOUT without their mobile phone.

Still not sure? Vacation redefined.

In December, i was amongst a small group who were fortunate enough to journey to Europe for the holidays. The week before my trip, I had a crippling realisation…it was unlikely my job would pay for my data roaming in Europe as I would be on vacation. GASP! 18 days without my mobile phone? No internet at my finger tips? No facebook? No instant uploads of pics – how woul ANYONE know I’m ok? An investment was made near immediately – in my own blackberry and soon thereafter, my IPOD touch. I am not alone in my insanity.

Every hotel, trainstation and cafe we visited, a look around revealed countless communication tools being used by patrons of all ages. On Christmas Eve, people young and old harassed waiters for the “WIFI” code to ensure their various communication tools worked to allow for e-based Christmas greetings at the stroke of midnight. At the risk of sounding blasphemous, should mary and Joseph have visited a manger in today’s world, chances are the three wise men would have sent initial greetings via BBM.

So I ask – can we survive without Communication Technology? Can we picture having a question and having to get to a library or (gasp) encyclopedia to seek an answer that has not been updated 7 seconds ago? Will our children know a morning without email/ web updates or shout outs via Twitter and lastly, can we plan a vacation/ day trip or lime anymore without web based aides and searching for information from the palm of our hands?

In reality, some, likely those of a generation (or two) above mine with say – absolutely and undoubtedly tout the “idiocy” of the “reliance” on telecommunication tools in today’s world. “They” will question the relevance of Twitter and Facebook and say we are “bombarded” with “nonsense” like the exploits of Tiger Woods, how Avatar was made and reviews of the soon to be launched but not even officially acknowledged I Tablet. Sigh…not everyone is aware of how intertwined our lives are with communication technology – whether we acknowledge same or not…

So…Next time you hear these questions or statements, once your in my camp that a failure of the powergrid and underlying mechanisms of the internet would lead to depression and frustration among a significant percentage of your social circle,  push “them” into the new decade. Challenge them to give up your communication tools for a week if they PROMISE to walk everywhere as “they did” about 40 years ago….when they say no, teach them to blog about their views – Web 2.0 needs all voices, even those that are grossly discordant in with my own.

No sure where you stand on this? Map out your day and communication mechanisms. Send me a note – would love to share the results with others.