Binary Byte: Shading Your Online PR; Managing Black and White Imperatives

Binary-Byte-Shading-Your-Online-PR-Managing-Black-and-White-Imperatives-V3 copy

A binary system is any system that allows only two choices, such as a switch in an electronic system [i.e., on or off] or a simple true or false test. –Wikipedia

Evolving into a social business holds so much promise and opportunity from an integrated communications and public relations perspective. The innovative, two-phase (digital and integrated advertising) campaign I share at the end of this column is one such example.

That’s why overall, from my standpoint, it’s rather unfortunate that things are becoming a bit askew and devolving. As the public relations lead—ideally with the full support of your CEO and other C-suite members—it’s time to reclaim your role as the primary custodian of the reputation, value and relationship building of your social business, including the strategic why and what in its manifestation and hues.

Regarding organizational public relations, it’s mystifying as to when and from where did the amorphous online “general” public get the idea it was in charge in a black-and-white (or binary) imperative sense? I mean of everything related to a business, social or bricks-and-mortar. This is regardless of whether people have an existing relationship, formal or informal, whether they have purchased a product or service, whether the organization is even based in their community or on the other side of the world.

Filter bubbles exist in the online world with people believing they are judge and jury of the business world, regardless of whether they have any senior-level corporate training, skills and experience. It’s a self-appointed role, often officious in tone and heavily weighted to fast opinionating over researched facts and thoughtfulness. What comes across are imperatives of this is the way you must do things in order for us to Like and champion you, rather than disparage you online.

In this Binary Byte I’m recommending a judicious approach to all of this sought-out-or-not “engagement” or inputs regarding the online manifestation of your brand. Monitor yes, but also manage expectations as to the weight and influence opinions—especially of the binary variety—will be given. Businesses are not all alike; it’s the shadings that sometimes differentiate perceptions between stellar and inferior ones. Social business is no different.

After all, your communication team and you are the one paid to do the reputation, value and relationship-building work. Your employer or client has invested in your management and judgment skills to determine and shade online organizational public relations.

First wave binary imperatives 

In the first wave of binary social business imperatives, words like “transparency” and “authenticity” were thrown around a lot.

Having worked in the financial and not-for-profits sectors for many years, I’m always a bit amused at what online pundits consider need-to-have transparency. Basically it comes down to black-and-white injunctions to show and tell anything and everything asked.

Necessary financial transparency is clearly articulated in the jurisdictions in which an organization operates. The same goes for labour laws, environmental protection, community relations and so on.

From an online perspective, transparency has evolved in areas like advertising and blogger relations, whereby it’s being mandated to make evident when payment or freebies are part of the equation, in order to protect consumers from being unduly influenced by what could be seen as a subjective viewpoint, rather than an independent review.

But transparency does not relate to things of a competitive intelligence nature, the need to detail every aspect of (legal and ethical) business relationships or even why decisions were made (think Susan G. Komen, a private cancer research foundation, announcing it would be discontinuing funding to an NGO), etc.

Knowing and authenticity

Wanting to know things is not the same thing as needing to know things, i.e., an imperative to be 100 per cent transparent on demand.

Yes, public opinion can have an impact, but who the person is and what past, existing or future relationship the individual has with an organization impacts the weight and influence in this equation regarding influence. That’s why when the media comes calling with queries, smart public relations reps don’t say, “No comment.”

The valued public relations lead, through online monitoring and research, can provide counsel to leadership as to who and which opinions are worthy of further examination. After all, critics can sometimes expose flaws of which you were unaware or demonstrate a groundswell of change in thought, which is deserving of business-decision accommodation.

Authenticity is a trickier proposition, especially in a social environment where it’s somewhat dependent upon the experience and calibre of employees participating on the platforms.

From an organic perspective, I point you to a post by Stephen Abbott (whom I met through business-related Twitter chats like #innochat, #usguyschat, #brandchat, #hbrchat and #kaizenbiz), Authenticity is. He sums up the concept of shading your organization’s authenticity from a brand perspective in this paragraph and later sentence:

“Each time people experience your organization (through product experiences, advertising, word-of-mouth…everything) a consistent story is communicated, a little bit at a time. The more experiences, the richer your story becomes. With each experience, your story—what people believe about your organization—continues to evolve into a concise promise. This is where people discover authenticity. This is your brand.

Authenticity is a result, not an intent.”

This beautifully written post by Abbott gently disabuses binary, conventional wisdom, which declares that, “Companies no longer own their brands.” Brands are definitely the result of multiple stakeholder inputs and touch points with a product or service—the interactions, the impressions formed, the organic championing, the expectations and even informal social engagement—but the primary custodian about how the brand is shaded and manifested, including long-term decision making from a public relations perspective, remains the organization in question.

His next sentence about authenticity’s resultreads, “Consider the implications of this when recruiting employees, communicating with stakeholders, selecting vendors and engaging in the community.The opportunity in online is making evident the right choices, through acknowledgment or participation.

Second wave binary imperatives

It’s in the second wave that I believe things have become a bit askew and are devolving. Its movement appears to be from the general transparency and authenticity injunctions to specific, binary imperatives. Often it’s the online “experts” declaring you should dump traditional tactics and move to online only—that is, an either/or perspective. Black and white imperatives, such as:

  • Don’t bother with traditional, mainstream media relations—go online only, or go home.
  • You must issue a Social Media News Release.
  • Throw out news releases in favour of tweets.
  • If you screw up in social media, your business is going to suffer.
  • Hire Gen Y because they live, breathe and understand social better than Gen X and Boomers.
  • One stupid tweet will be remembered forever.
  • Google+ is boring and a waste of your time.
  • Did you do something on Facebook to which the online world objects? Apologize immediately. Promise you’ll never do it again. Identify, out and fire the culprit(s) in question.
  • Your CEO must tweet if you want your social business to be taken seriously.

Will your business stop operating or lose shareholder value and mind share if you don’t pay attention to these binary imperatives? Do you want to throw out your social PR decisions to virtual strangers who don’t really understand or care that much about your business? This isn’t a black and white framework, there’s plenty of room for smart evaluation and thoughtful shadings.

Remember, the more important word is business in a “social business”

As enthusiastic as we might be about all of the exciting things that comprise social, it would be misguided to put more weight on the social than on the business part of the equation.

Recently I came across a great post, Social Media Crises Aren’t Crises, by Augie Ray (director of social media at Prudential). It complements my November 2011 Crisis Byte column quite well. Not only does Ray hold a similar viewpoint about online “crises” mainly being hyperbole (i.e., blogging fodder and a bid for attention by pundits), but he’s suggested a more reasonable, alternative word: event.

We should stop using the term “Social Media Crisis”: Merriam-Webster defines crisis as a crucial time with “the distinct possibility of a highly undesirable outcome.” Social media “crises” are simply not resulting in “highly undesirable outcomes,” at least as measured by important financial measures. Our use of the term “crisis” does not reflect well on our profession; it connotes panic when what we need to convey is assurance and capability. I have begun to change my language, using the word “event” instead of “crisis” or “disaster.” An event is something we handle; a crisis is something we suffer. An event is something that can be planned for and prevented; a disaster is something we are powerless to foresee or affect.”

The other great aspect to Ray’s post is that he dissects the long-term financial impact of these so-called crises, using several case studies. I wasn’t surprised to discover the financial impact was not negative…but what was startling was how in some of the organizations he tracked, shareholder value actually went up post “social media event.”

Generally it’s not because of the way the crisis was handled. Rather it’s because the social “event” was a single, relatively small component of the way the business operates in general, including its management and how much its ongoing services are needed or desired, regarding convenience and price point. Alternatively, the overall reputation and value of the business remained strong.

Regarding my “shading” hypothesis, I’m recruiting Ray to play quarterback–handing over the argument to him for the goal:

“…our social media PR events are serious–they take us off message, weaken relationships, increase costs, distract leaders and may result in short-term loss of sales–but our attitude should be similar to how doctors react to broken bones: Professional, capable, experienced and calm. That is the approach our bosses want and expect of us–not calling a “code” and pulling out a crash cart every time we receive a couple of angry tweets.”

A “shading” case study in the making

I’m pleased to be registered to hear Joel Yashinsky, chief marketing officer and SVP of marketing and consumer business insights, McDonald’s of Canada, speak in November 2012 at the Rotman School of Management. The exact topic is TBA, but my hope is that it will be about the fast food restaurant chain’s innovative campaign that began in June. Phase one was a digital-only project asking people to pose their questions to the company through Facebook and Twitter, as well as a new website. It is now in phase two, completing a four-week integrated advertising campaign, Our Food, Your Questions.

The premise is simple:

“Ever wanted to ask us about the food in our Canadian restaurants? Now’s your chance! We’ll answer any questions about our food.”

The Globe and Mail’s marketing reporter, Susan Krashinsky wrote a great column about it, From Twitter to TV, McDonald’s offers answers (she researched beyond the information contained in the conventional media releases). I also found the FAQs pages McDonald’s Canada developed quite interesting.

This five-month program appears to be a Canada-specific one. And I’m pretty certain McDonald’s of Canada’s marketing PR initiative was self-orchestrated, as opposed to reacting to external, binary injunctions. (Unlike the USA, the “pink slime” accusation has not been levelled in Canada. Nor can I recall there ever being a similar food inspection “event,” beyond the usual concerns about the “nutritional” value of fast food.)

It’s a wonderful example of voluntarily “opening-the-transparency” kimono to whatever questions are asked by anyone. And because it was self-determined in conception—rather than a government, media or societal imperative—this means McDonald’s is shading its own authentic story, with the help of engagement on social media.

If I get a chance, I’m going to ask Joel Yashinsky what were the primary reasons or inspirations for this transparency initiative and hands-on engagement. Maybe about how much social media assisted in enhancing and expanding the initiative when it moved to the integrated advertising phase–i.e., the TV ads and subway stations papered with posters, highlighting questions asked by consumers through social media.

Your turn

I’d appreciate receiving your feedback on any of the following–or a comment of your own devising.

1.  If you had the opportunity, what would you ask Joel Yashinsky?
2.  Have you felt the pressure of binary imperatives in your social PR, either from your leadership team or more outspoken online colleagues?
3.  Do you push back? If yes, what persuasive arguments do you use?
4.  Can you relate to the concept of being the primary caretaker and determining the “shading” of your online organizational public relations efforts?

Judy Gombita
This monthly Social Media and Public Relations column is contributed by Judy Gombita. Judy is a Toronto-based public relations and communication management specialist, with more than 20 years of employment and executive-level volunteer board experience, primarily in the financial and lifelong learning nonprofit sectors. She is the co-editor and Canadian contributor (since 2007) to the international, collaborative blog, PR Conversations. +Judy Gombita
Judy Gombita

@jgombita

Sr/hybrid (social) public relations & communication management strategist. Mindful curation @PRConversations. Heart: travel, film, theatre, opera, books & food.
Nicely said. By @chuckgose for @CorporateTD: The Future of Corporate Communication: What’s Next for the Employee? http://t.co/o6r4wbG2jG - 43 mins ago
Judy Gombita
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Comments

  1. Bob Geller says

    Nice post Judy, I would ask Joel if he had a challenge selling the idea in, and dealing with concerns about risks (also, does sound like a bold and cool campaign, was it a success?).  I echo your comments about “social media crises” isn’t this the same concern we have when any negative occurrence that becomes public is labeled “PR crisis” or “PR disaster”?

    • says

      Thanks, Bob. It would seem that the campaign was inspired by the mixed success of the USA #McDStories Twitter-based one. (Wasn’t that the one where the “pink slime” kerfuffle first arose?)

      Anyhow, when searching to find the name of the American one, I came across this Marketing Magazine (Canada) article that you (and Joe and Steve and Neal and any other readers) might find of interest:

      McDonald’s U.S. benefiting from Canadian social media campaign
      http://www.marketingmag.ca/news/marketer-news/mcdonalds-u-s-benefiting-from-canadian-social-media-campaign-59687

      I do get so tired of people bringing up the Kenneth Cole (one) tweet as a “crisis.” What business world are these black and white imperative (social media) people living in?

      All three of you (commenters) have mentioned risk assessment, so if Joel Yashinsky does not address directly (that is, if this campaign is the presentation), I’ll see if I can work that in.

  2. says

    Thought provoking post Judy. I love the terminology update “event” excellent distinction. I would ask Joel if he has any plans for dealing with negative comments or questions. I do think it’s a bold move and more appropriately fits the authentic model you were describing. Risk is always a part of business I’ll bet they gain more than lose if it comes to that. Well done.

    • says

      Thanks for weighing in, Joe. The timing of Augie Ray’s post was perfect, as I was nailing down specific areas to cover in the overall “binary” topic. I am so, so glad he researched the long-term (or rather not) financial impact on some of the recent-and-famous “social media events,” such as your Bank of America one. (Too bad Netflix wasn’t in the mix, but he didn’t consult me in advance!)

      In the Marketing Magazine article I pointed to in the comment to Bob (http://www.marketingmag.ca/news/marketer-news/mcdonalds-u-s-benefiting-from-canadian-social-media-campaign-59687 ) it reads:

      “Campbell said that McDonald’s typically tries to respond on its website within two days, but in the cases of the videos, there’s a longer response time. Seven videos have been created so far.”

      I found a Toronto Star article about the videos yesterday. Take a look at the comments underneath–a LOT of them are quite negative. But this is one of my frustrations, people expecting fastfood preparation and choices to magically have better nutritional value as a result of this campaign.

      New video reveals the secrets of McDonald’s French fries including the salt count
      http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1275879–new-video-reveals-the-secrets-of-mcdonald-s-french-fries-including-the-salt-count

      I’ve never felt McDonald’s has ever pretended to be anything other than a fastfood restaurant that catered to families, especially with two working parents. It’s a fun place to go, the pricing is economical, it does great community outreach (e.g., Ronald McDonald’s Houses in Canada) AND for a lot of young people it provides their first job….with some moving up in the career track.

      You can put ketchup on french fries, but it still won’t make them a healthier steamed potato. :-)

  3. says

    Nice Post! I really like the quote  “Authenticity is a result, not an intent.”  It is build up over time through a variety of interactions and many stakeholders.  I do see a lot of binary statements out there.  I would like to asks Joel about the upfront consideration of risks given the vocal nature of McDonald’s naysayers 

    • says

      Wasn’t that post by Steve Abbott great? I remember he shared it with a couple of us during a Twitter chat (quite possibly #brandchat). We were probably debating that (silly) conventional wisdom of “companies no longer own their brands,” as well as what touch points did or did not lead a company to “feel” authentic. Anyhow, I Favorited it, because I knew I was going to be making use of it at some point.

      I hadn’t connected binary social media pundits with McDonald’s naysayers….but you are right! Those two filter bubbles share a lot in comment. :-)

      Thanks for the post props, Steve….fingers crossed it made it into one of your Scoop.its.

  4. says

    Great post, Judy.

    For what it’s worth, I know first hand some of the people in the social change community look at the McDonald’s example as a positive benchmark for organizations. They still abhor the food and the culture of unhealthy consumption, but the effort to be transparent and the tool McDonald’s implemented are genuinely appreciated as a strong step forward.

    A good test for the value of the tool will be if there is a suggestion made and then implemented as a result of good dialogue about issues. We’ll see.

  5. says

    Hi Judy,

    1. I would ask Joel what he considers a “Return” on this noble social media idea.
    2. I’ve experienced a number of all or none binary imperatives in media.  When I was in traditional media, they set up one camp saying traditional media is the all powerful emperor.  As I migrated to social business I passed through a number of social media camps sharing stories of the emperor had no clothes and laying claim that social is the real king.  The truth is that customers don’t care where the good content comes from, they just want to skip the crap no matter if it’s traditional or social.  
    3. I push back with a Malcolm X attitude – “By Any Means Necessary”.  I prefer to think of media channels as tools.  Each tool has it’s own purpose and isn’t great for everything.  I think marketers and PR folks would be better served by learning the benefits of each and reframing themselves media agnostic.  
    4. I agree that we are all brand custodians or to use my preferred term, guardians.  I believe its up to us to defend our brand (personal or corporate). Ultimately customers have the right to say what the brand means to them but a falsehood or lie left unchallenged becomes truth.  It’s up to us a guardians have to set these straight.  

    • says

      Thank you for your comprehensive comment, Marc. I will number my responses to replicate yours.

      1. What type of Return would you be interested in hearing—a marketing/financial response or a more public relations-oriented one? In the first category I’d put KPIs and growth in sales. In the second one I’d make it more outcomes oriented, related to how perceptions about McDonald’s have changed regarding its honesty about its food production and, by extension, overall reputation.

      2. Your observations resonate with me. The opportunity in social or “owned” media is a direct pipeline to stakeholders. The challenge is ensuring that it isn’t hyperbole that is being shared. Not to say that traditional media relations isn’t rife with exaggeration, but that’s how and why “earned” media gets its name—the organization is actually doing work or has created something worthy of third-party validation and the person building the relationship with journalists is good enough at his or her job to shade and promote the information that it is persuasive enough to earn real estate space in media. There are good and bad practitioners in both traditional and social media. My CanWest Fellow friend, Ira Basen, has chosen brand journalism/content marketing as one of his areas of study this year (I hope you read my interview with him); I’m eagerly awaiting the outcomes of his research, such as a CBC Radio documentary.

      3. I really like your characterization of having a Malcolm X attitude. As controversial an historical character as he was, by pushing back and questioning he made significant changes to how laws were framed and societal norms changed. Integrated communications—which I favour—is also a media agnostic approach. Use whichever platforms, channels and methods make the most sense to reach the most stakeholders.

      4. “Guardians” is an interesting alternative word to custodian or caretaker. The only thing I would muse about was whether guardian implies someone continually on a watch to negative things happening. After all, if the brand is strong and does more good than harm, the organic champions will assist in unmasking the misconceptions or lies. But, yes, monitoring and evaluating the negative perceptions is important in order to set straight the untruths…or work to undo through counsel and communications the business decisions that brought the organization to that turn in the brand road.

      I really appreciate your contributions to this discussion.

  6. says

    Judy, as a self-taught Internet marketing guy, your post has definitely opened my eyes on online PR. The returns or ROI of PR strategies are often hard to track on a micro level as compared to other online marketing channels and I agree with you that PR professionals should manage expectations of their clients or bosses. Also, I like how Augie’s list of case studies that link bad events to overall financial impact of a business.

    Another interesting case study that would be interesting to add to Augie’s blog post will be the GoDaddy series of negative events (SOPA, Bob Parsons killing elephants, and more…). As far as I know, they are still the one of the largest players in the domain name and web hosting industry.

    • says

      I appreciate you weighing in with your point of view, Wayne. If you are indeed a self-taught Internet marketing guy, I think it’s great that you remain open to a hypothesis you hadn’t come across or considered before.

      ROI for public relations happens on both a micro and macro level. Micro would be the individual actions and relationships formed, macro would be the overall and ongoing reputation and value perceptions—good or bad. And, yes, the financial impact is of the utmost importance, especially those of the long-term variety. The other day I read a newspaper article pointing to a post where Dave Carroll claimed his songs have had a multi-million dollar impact on United Airlines’ brand. I was surprised that the journalist, a lawyer, hadn’t researched and verified whether indeed that was true. Certainly Carroll had a public relations impact on UA’s reputation for the short term—but how much business did it really lose? If anything, I suspect it made the baggage claims process better and/or made other passengers more aggressive about pursuing claims, NOT a loss in actual bookings.

      GoDaddy is an interesting suggestion. Not so much your SOPA suggestion, but rather the killing elephants misjudgment. After all, wasn’t that really a conscious “advertising” choice for both owned and earned media? Totally misguided, obviously, as the supposed humour did not come across at all. But that’s part of GoDaddy’s DNA—edgy humour in advertising. A certain type of person is attracted to that method, which is why it remains a large player in the competitive domain name and web-hosting industry. The question would be how many potential customers are lost as a result of them not connecting with the company manifests its value in these choices.

  7. says

    My apologies, Steve, for the delayed response. I didn’t get a Disqus notification you had commented.

    When we are talking McDonald’s and the nutritional value of its food, isn’t it really a matter of “original” menu items and later additions?

    In the original, I still remember when McDonald’s changed the type of oil its fries were made in. For awhile there was grumbling that the “healthier” oil didn’t produce as tasty a fry….but that disappeared pretty quickly. Introducing a grilled chicken sandwich option (albeit more expensive) was also from years ago.

    In the second wave McDonald’s introduced salads. More recently there were the wraps. Now it’s the panini grilled sandwiches. All are healthier options, giving people more choice.

    McDonald’s has always allowed countries to innovate in their own menus. I remember seeing a  three-bean salad on the menu in Rome (not that I ate there–it was ITALY, after all). When I was in Australia (four years ago) I learned from my dear friend and personal tour guide extraordinaire, Rodney Gray, about how the McCafe concept originated in Oz, years ago. Now it’s being implemented in huge swaths of North America.  Bags of coffee beans are going to be sold in select Canadian locations–another innovation.

    And of course it was McDonald’s of Canada that brought the Golden Arches to Russia….

    http://www.businesstoday-eg.com/case-studies/case-studies/mcdonalds-in-russia-defeated-communism-with-a-happy-meal.html

    What I’m saying is that in many ways McDonald’s has always been an innovative fast food restaurant chain, which allowed “shading” within countries and communities. Ergo, the corporate culture encourages experimentation and taking some risks, so perhaps the “Our Food, You’re Questions” program is not that surprising–it’s simply a social manifestation of the  corporate culture (and branding).

    Thanks for writing Authenticity is, as I think it was an enormous addition in shading my hypothesis.

  8. says

    Excellent post, Judy! It really resonated with me, as I was a deconstructionist scholar in another life (with a couple philosophy minors). So much meaning lies in “gray” areas. As communicators, it’s important to reflect upon/unravel our language, as it often presents us with new lenses through which to look. Stephen Abbott gets the ball rolling by turning a truism on its head: “Authenticity isn’t walking your talk. It’s talking your walk. Semantics? Maybe. But know this; it’s far easier to speak to your natural, instinctual actions than it is to act with integrity upon the things you’ve said.” (Oct. 30, 2012 blog: http://ow.ly/eTxuU  – “The Authenticity Myths”)

  9. Danim Kelly says

    Hi Judy, 
    Thanks for writing such a thought provoking and insightful article.  I especially like the McDonalds case stud to illustrate your point. I am looking forward to seeing Joel speak in a few weeks and learning more! I don’t have experience with social PR in my current government role, but I can very much relate to the concept of being a primary caretaker of the reputation of my organization. I am excited to watch the development of a social media presence in the public service in general. 

  10. says

    Hello Judy,

    I loved the way you titled this byte, Binary, it really brings out the essence of your post so well. Had missed reading this and am glad that I did now – could learn from the post as well as the great comments. 

    As @f0c05fd275aef75624ad8e4f523181cf:disqus  says, whether we are in PR or not, we are all the caretakers of reputation at some level (our work, our personal brand, our teams, etc) and there is a lot to take away from your post for everyone.

    Thanks.
    Suchitra Mishra 

    • says

      What I adore about you, Suchitra, is that you are not at all a stereotypical engineer–as a group, your colleagues have a tendency towards a binary mindset! In my comment to Danielle, I mention the two books I read that referenced binary.. (My father studied engineering science at university, and although he taught far longer than he practised, to a certain extent his parenting followed scientific principles, with equal mixtures of the arts!) 

      Anyhow, given that you are not at all typical, I think the social environment provides such a wonderful opportunity for you to brand yourself as the smart, sensitive and articulate professional and human that you are–despite being an introvert, you can demonstrate your multi-hues. And the rest of us can be awed and amazed.

      Of course only pay attention to what I’m saying if you want to–this is not a binary imperative.

      • says

        I ALWAYS pay attention to what you say, Judy – an important binary imperative for me :)
        Thank you for all the kind words and even more for the wisdom that you share.
        Regards,
        Suchitra

  11. says

    Shelly, I think you just provided me with an important clue as to why you are so successful in your social media role at D&B: your deconstructionist scholar past!

    I suggest this allows you to strip out all of the imperatives that overly “decorate” so many organizational social media efforts and find and lay bare the bones of the great architecture that is your company’s brand. You know, like a great historic house that had some later, inferior structures fused on to it—the third story that didn’t quite work or the oversized garage that wreck the sight lines. And you are looking at it not so much through YOUR eyes and preferences, but rather on how your core stakeholders will best perceive and appreciate the efforts. I’ve worked with financial people for years—some things I adored about them, other things made me slightly crazy about what was deemed important. But that’s the point: it wasn’t what I thought should be said or shown, it’s what they would find useful and interesting that mattered, the subject experts that would be appreciated, the offers to participate in various endeavours. As an employee you gain respect when you figure out the DNA and language of your core audiences.

    I didn’t really get into that in Binary Byte, but another reason so many of the second wave binary imperatives don’t work is because it tends to be a pundit from one area (i.e., from the various communication disciplines) giving specific injunctions to a broad range of industries and areas. That’s why if you take the social strategies and tactics recommended for a B2C company, you will have less success grafting them on to B2B, and vice versa. Or in the case of Danielle, imposing them on to a public service, funded by taxpayers.

    Thanks for pointing out Stephen Abbott’s recent post, The Authenticity Myths—I hope featuring him in this column perhaps inspired him to elaborate further on authenticity. “Talk the walk” is a great sound bite. So intuitive, yet I don’t recall anyone else doing that semantic shuffle. Here are a couple more sentences that spoke to me, particularly in regards to my Binary Byte “shading” hypothesis:

    “Authenticity is only one factor in brand success, and it does not create brand equity by itself.”

    “Don’t pick popular words and try to make them fit.”

    And thank you for being the first female to weigh in on Binary Byte….

  12. says

    Thanks, Danielle. It’s wonderful when an event happens around the same time as I’m playing with an idea for this column or for PR Conversations.

    I was reading the Steve Jobs biography earlier this year, and Walter Isaacson kept using his binary touch points to illustrate or explain why Jobs was the kind of person he was, what motivated his actions, etc. And recently I read Douglas Edwards’ I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59. One of Edwards central themes was the binary pull between the expectations and desires of the huge engineering component to Google, versus his own efforts to create a consistent—authentic!—brand and voice for Google in the early years. Because his department was so small and the founders were themselves engineers, he lost more battles than he won…but he still managed to make significant inroads in shading the company to its external stakeholders, who aren’t all engineers.

    The timing of the event at Rotman’s and the McDonald’s Canada campaign were fortuitous. I’m glad you’ve also registered to attend, so we can compare notes on our impressions.

    It doesn’t matter if you work in the Canadian federal, provincial or Toronto civil service—all of these areas have specific and unique challenges right now, to a large extent because of the top elected officials. But take heart that access to information through social media likely is even more appreciated these days…because other channels have become non-existent, convoluted and filled with corporatese and largely one-way communication. Take up the challenge and mine the opportunities!

  13. says

    I was pleased to receive confirmation about Monday’s session with Joel Yashinsky, as it outlined that he will indeed be talking about Our Food, Your Questions.

    TOPIC: Our Food. Your Questions.

    SYNOPSIS:
    McDonald’s Canada has been a driving success over the last four years due to multiple initiatives focused on what our customers were looking for. They included a complete re-imaging of our restaurant experience with re-imaged restaurants, free Wi-Fi, great coffee and new products. While our business momentum was strong there was one area we were not making inroads on and that was Brand Trust. We needed to change the way we approached the brand message to customers and realized we needed to make it a conversation. A conversation that as a restaurant company had to start about the products we served; food. We realized we couldn’t tell our customers the story we had to engage them in a conversation. We also wanted to reach individuals who had stopped visiting us and were being influenced by narrative about our brand that we were not engaged in. We had to be transparent, show some vulnerability and ensure our
    effort was done in a ‘real’ fashion. With our partners at Tribal DDB we created ‘Our Food. Your Questions.’ a digital platform that has revolutionized the way brands approach their customers in a unique, engaging and transparent manner.

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